How to Identify and Build the Right Maintenance Organisation Structure for an Operation

A maintenance organization structure needs to be based on the duties that must be done to achieve the organization’s purpose—from which cascade the necessary technical skills, personal behaviors and attitudes, and the engineering knowledge needed to do the associated activities of each jobs



Dear Mike,

Our Maintenance group is currently being set up as follows 1. Deputy Director for facilities Management (Mechanical Engineer) 2. Supervisor for Electrical and Electronic Systems (Electrical Engineer) 3. Supervisor for Mechanical and Buildings Systems (Mechanical Engineer) 4. Maintenance Planner (Architect)

But to my understanding, putting an architect as a maintenance planner isn’t a good fit because he doesn’t know about the machinery in the buildings. This causes a lot of conflict whenever he advises the maintenance supervisors.

That is why I needed your advice on restructuring our department.

Best Regards,




Hello Chris,

It is impossible to provide you anything but general suggestions, as I would need to understand the bank’s physical assets and current maintenance systems/processes myself first-hand to give you specific advice.

Your first requirement is to identify the purpose(s) of your physical asset management strategy – why bother with physical asset management? Once you have purpose(s), then you need to determine the strategies to use to deliver the purpose(s). Somewhere amongst the strategies will be those that cover provision of reliable equipment along with maximizing return from investment in the bank’s physical assets.

Once the strategies are decided you identify the activities that, if performed properly, will achieve the required strategies. The organization must have (or purchase) the capability to deliver the asset management strategies, otherwise the assets will fail to meet the organization’s requirements. I would develop a spreadsheet where each column further expands how the previous column will be achieved – e.g. List Purpose 1, then in the next column, Strategy 1-1, Strategy 1-2, etc. to achieve Purpose 1; in the column beside that you list Activity 1-1-1, Activity 1-1-2, Activity 1-1-3, etc. to achieve Strategy 1-1, etc. You continue building the spreadsheet into the tasks needing to be done to deliver the Purpose(s). You are then able to identify the skills needed to do the tasks very well. Developing the spreadsheet is a manager/supervisor cross-functional team task. Make sure the team has the necessary range of skills and knowledge to identify all the activities and their tasks.

The purpose of maintenance is to sustain the inherent reliability of your physical assets. If inappropriate equipment is installed that does not have the capacity to deliver long, trouble-free service, or the installers or users of the equipment unwittingly destroy it, maintenance can only repair the damage, not magically make the equipment better than its design and materials of construction allow. Of course you can reengineer and redesign the asset, but that is a design change and not maintenance. It requires its own management process separate to maintenance.

The maintenance organizational structure decision must be matched to the activities required to deliver the strategies. Most organizations do this backward – they automatically assume they need a hierarchal structure and then make-up work to keep people busy. It should be the other way around – determine the work that must be done to keep the assets in the condition required to meet the organization’s aims, and then set up the organizational structure containing the right skills, personal attitudes and knowledge to get that work done. If you know exactly what tasks must be done, and the quality they must be done to, you will often find that the necessary services and skills can be subcontracted cheaper, and done better, than having your own people do them.

The process described above, of breaking-down Purpose into the necessary Tasks to achieve it, lets you better decide where in the organization the skills to do the tasks should reside. Often normal maintenance can be done by well-trained operators. You can minimize the size of your maintenance group and use them for specialist activities and technical support to operations. Unfortunately people’s previous experiences have caused them to develop mindsets that stop them seeing alternate, but more practical, solutions to changed situations. This is a natural human characteristic that managers can control through use of logical decision tools like the maintenance strategy spreadsheet.

With regards your concerns of a suitable maintenance planner, the logic to apply is the same as above. Identify what activities/tasks the planner must do to support the organization’s various physical asset management strategies. Then identify the necessary skills, mental attitudes and knowledge that the position requires in order to do those tasks to a very high standard of performance. Finally identify the people with those skills/attitudes who also have the capability to work well in a team environment. Alternately, find a person with good team work abilities and personal attitudes who has the capability to develop the necessary skills with additional training.

I do not see anything wrong with using an architect as a maintenance planner in an organization where there are mostly civil and building structures to maintain. Their prior professional education would be a reasonably good fit. However, if the role requires looking after much mechanical equipment and machinery (say greater than 25% of the workload) then a mechanical engineering background would be more appropriate. This decision would be more clear if the strategy spreadsheet break-down were constructed.

You may have to go back to square-one and develop the spreadsheet to be sure you have set-up the maintenance group structure, and got the right people, that can achieve the organization’s physical asset management purposes.

I hope that the above information has been of use to you.


My best regards to you,

Mike Sondalini
Managing Director
Lifetime Reliability Solutions HQ