Fostering a Culture of Maintenance
The sinews of war are five – men, money, materials, maintenance (food), and morale.Ernest Hemingway, American novelist and short story writer, 1899 -1961
Looking around Nigeria today, it is apparent that maintenance ranks low on the list of priorities for several business enterprises. To be sure, any business owner must have a healthy and adaptable appreciation for the hectic, irregular, and sometimes unpredictable nature of conducting business in Nigeria.
It would be unrealistic to assume that other needs do not take precedence over routine maintenance especially, on a business level. However it is imperative that routine maintenance becomes not only a part of the cost of doing business; but most importantly part of our way of life.
As a matter of good management, business owners must factor in the cost of maintenance into their operational budgets, for the simple fact that by doing so, a business owner demonstrates the understanding that the growth of their enterprise hinges partially on how the operations of the business are maintained. Thus, planning and accounting for maintenance requirements become a crucial component of the overall success of the company.
Consider this – on average, 30% of businesses that fold up as a result of poor management cite negligence of physical plant and equipment as a major factor in the collapse of the enterprise.
When applied to a Nigerian small business, this statistic is sure to be more decisive in the demise of many defunct companies. How often have we seen disabled company vehicles parked by the road side with caution triangles all because the “check engine” warning lights on the dashboard were ignored for months? Or manufacturing machinery decaying and gathering dust after prolonged disregard for the equipments irregular operation?
Now if the vehicle is repairable, in addition to the repair bill, the exhorbitant cost of getting the vehicle towed off the expressway must also be absorbed, and in the case of machinery, lost productivity leads to lost orders, lost revenue, and ultimately an insolvent business.
The cost, obviously far exceeds the incremental cost of having vehicles or machinery serviced on say, a quaterly or semi-annual basis.
In theory this principle of maintenance is applicable to all the resources of a business, from the monumental – maintaining employees morale, to the mundane – maintaining copier supplies. It is also important to note that as part of the overall attitude towards maintenance, careful selection of business resources is also crucial. For example, when selecting vehicles, machinery, or office equipment, it would be prudent to select products that are known to be reliable and for which parts and servicing are readily available. After all, purchasing more state-of-the-art equipment may be glamorous, but the opportunity cost of such glamour would prove very expensive and detrimental to the overall bottom-line of a business in the event that deterioration takes its toll.
These simple considerations have a profound effect on a business.