“The best we can do is size up our chances, calculate the risks involved, estimate our ability to deal with them, and then make up our plans with confidence.”
— Henry Ford
Manufacturers must consider many factors — including personnel, technology, and practicality — to determine whether to outsource machine maintenance or perform it in-house. Ultimately, though, the decision comes down to cost with time, equipment, and training all factored into the final equation.
The more things change, the more they stay the same
Some issues change over time; others simply change in appearance. In 2002, company leaders could develop in-house equipment maintenance personnel, but they saw lack of interest in the tech industry from young people beginning their careers. They also ran into problems with ever-changing technology and the training that goes with it as well as misunderstandings surrounding manufacturing overall.
What workforce workarounds did manufacturing leaders have 15 years ago? They could search for candidates with appropriate National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) certifications or investigate apprenticeships as viable options. Today, NIMS literature still discusses ways company leaders can fill the manufacturing skills gap, including attracting students as well as changing technologies and training requirements.
In-house machinery maintenance
Whether you train your employees through apprenticeships or sponsored training programs, in-house machinery maintenance technicians develop greater familiarity with your company-specific equipment. These employees also understand your company culture and are more invested in ensuring its success. Furthermore, you retain greater control over proprietary information by utilizing an in-house team.
However, cost weighs heavily on the decision to train in-house personnel. Not only will you have higher training costs upfront with this option but you will also need to account for salaries — including annual cost of living increases — and benefits for each maintenance employee. Over time, it may be more cost-effective to outsource machinery maintenance once you’ve amortized all cost factors over the equipment life span.
Outsourced machinery maintenance
Core business functionality is key to deciding to outsource machinery maintenance. Lean operations are more cost-effective. Outsourcing enables you to focus your time and money on your core products — rather than on machinery maintenance. It also frees your office staff from tracking additional personnel, grievances, and quality issues.
Control issues lead the decision against outsourcing machinery maintenance. Response times to your issues may vary widely depending on your contractor’s schedule. As contracted employees don’t work for you, they may not implement suggestions to most benefit your company. Also, due to high turnover rates, institutional knowledge regarding proprietary equipment may be lost due to different contracted employees working on your machinery each time it requires service.
Choose the right option for you
An outsourcing decision matrix can provide an excellent starting point for you as you debate which machinery maintenance functions to keep in-house or outsource. This simple tool breaks the decision into four possible outcomes: form a strategic alliance, retain, outsource, or eliminate. Determine each machine’s impact on your overall organization performance and effectiveness, then mark it in the appropriate quadrant in the matrix for a clearer picture of what to do with each repair.