When Tidelands Oil Production Company took over operation of portions of the Wilmington Field, they found field maintenance being performed in a reactive, "firefighting" mode. Eighty percent of work was unplanned and unscheduled. Preventive maintenance occupied less than 5% of mechanical and electrical/instrument man-hours worked. Maintenance work force productivity was low.

This paper describes how this company remedied this situation through supervisory training and implementation of a manual, and later computerized, maintenance management system. Operating in a more effective "planning/scheduling" mode, unscheduled work is Dow well below 20% and preventive maintenance occupies as much as 40% of mechanical and electrical/instrument man-hours. These improvements were accomplished while operating with manpower well below historical levels.


With the drop in oil prices in the mid 1980's, the managers of petroleum production companies were compelled to scrutinize all expenditures, including labor costs. This brought to the forefront the question of worker productivity, and the management and staffing of the maintenance function.

Prior to this, little attention was paid to the maintenance function (mechanics, electricians, instrument specialists and gangs) except when equipment breakdowns affected production. A "good" maintenance department was one which was ready to get a well back on or a plant back up at a moment's notice, regardless of the number of workers it had or what else they accomplished.

In 1989, when new management took over operation of portions of the Wilmington Field owned by the City of Long Beach, State of California and other Working Interest Owners, they commissioned outside consultants to conduct an extensive organization study. This study showed, among other things, a maintenance function characterized by:

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    high levels of "emergency' work (estimated at 80% of all jobs done),

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    low levels of preventive maintenance (estimated at lessthan 5% of mechanical and electrical man-hours worked),

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    under-reporting of work needing to be done (only more serious problems were reported; minor problems were overlooked),

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    lack of planning and scheduling of jobs (evidenced by delays and interruptions in jobs underway), and underutilization of the maintenance work force (due to the factors named above, and the lack of communication of expectations).

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