30 Aug 2017
Peter Rowand
Marketing and Business Development


Giving your crew the proper checklists is the first step to managing maintenance.

At Helm we make maintenance and compliance management software for commercial and passenger vessels, but the core of our work and the secret to our success really boils down to a simple idea: making it easy to show crew and shore staff exactly what they need to do each day to keep vessels operating safely and efficiently.

Commercial vessels are expensive and complex assets that need regular maintenance and repair. In our development work with owners and operators we’ve seen a tremendous variety of different systems for managing all the paperwork, maintenance routines, and parts requests that need to get tracked from both ship and shore. Everything from off the shelf maintenance systems, to whiteboards in engine rooms and hardbound binders that get exchanged by ship and shore each month, to home-made systems tying Google Docs and Access databases together. But what all of these systems come down to at their heart is simple checklist management – a process that we’ve tried to make as simple as possible in Helm CONNECT.

While often overlooked, checklists are some of the most important and life-saving tools available. But the power of the checklist ultimately lies in a simple truth – what you see is what you do. The research and our own experience tell us that’s true. Let’s face it, if something doesn’t make it into your checklist – your list of to-dos for example – It’s simply not going to get done. If you look at the vast majority of task management and productivity systems like GTD and Kanban, you’ll see that they’re just really tools for visualizing what needs to be done.

We learned that in the field from one of the very first customers we did a validation study with. In a story that we’ve since been enshrined in our first t-shirt, they told us how critical but reliable piece of equipment had been covered with tarp, and quickly was forgotten on their standard engine room round. As we all know, out of sight out of mind, and that reliable piece of machinery quickly failed when it wasn’t given the proper maintenance. A simple checklist listing all of the machinery, it’s location, and all of the specific work that needed to be done on each piece of equipment was all it took to fix the problem.

So you if want your staff to do proper maintenance give them a proper checklist. One that shows them exactly what they need to do. If you’re just starting out, research shows that paper-based systems are certainly better than nothing, but paper doesn’t generate data, and do you want to be entering all that data into an excel every month just so you can stay on top of your crew’s checklists?  After all, the best systems don’t just show your staff exactly what to do, they give us visual tools – or to-do’s to analyze and action that data as well.