Here’s how Takeoff Technologies built a world-class maintenance team and helped its customers achieve 99.8% availability in under a year
The global leader in micro fulfillment
Selling groceries online is a uniquely challenging task. Food spoils quickly. It gets bruised and damaged easily. It needs to be stored at specific temperatures to ensure it stays fresh. All of this, plus the high cost of fulfilling and delivering orders in an industry with low-profit margins, means selling groceries online has been extremely difficult for grocers — until now.
Takeoff Technologies is a Boston-based startup founded in 2016. We partner with grocery retailers to fulfill online grocery orders without compromising on price or speed. Our 23 (and counting) micro fulfillment centers (MFCs) are small, automated warehouses stocked full of groceries. When a shopper creates an online order, Takeoff’s MFCs automatically begin the order fulfillment process.
Our strategic retail partners include global, blue-chip grocery companies like Albertsons, Majid Al Futtaim (Carrefour), Woolworths, and Loblaws, to name a few. Our partners depend on our technology to work 24/7, 365 days a year. In other words, system downtime is extremely detrimental. System failures are disruptive not only to our processes, but to our clients, and their customers — the grocery shopper — as well. That’s why our maintenance team needs to be available with dedicated technicians for each site and ready to stop asset failure before it happens.
This is the story of how our team met those challenges and expectations head-on, built a world-class maintenance team, tripled our mean time between failures, and achieved 99.8% availability for our customers in just one year.
Taking control of maintenance from the start
We launched our global Field Service and Maintenance team on June 1, 2021 to help our clients operate and maintain the systems at each Takeoff site. Our ultimate goal was to help our customers keep their promise of just-in-time fulfillment (meaning orders filled less than 30 minutes after they are placed). A major breakdown in our system would mean a broken promise which would jeopardize the shopper’s experience.
To ensure this didn’t happen, our team decided we needed to take full ownership of maintenance at our facilities. We aimed to improve each site’s reliability and availability, and for this, we laid out three main objectives:
- To reduce hardware failures by doing more preventive maintenance and synchronizing it worldwide.
- To improve reaction time by doing more planned work orders (both preventive and corrective maintenance) and develop a set of standard processes, schedules, data, tools, spare parts, and other resources for our technicians to perform their work.
- To increase customer satisfaction for the team and retail client
Similar work orders, different time zones
When we started our plan to build world-class maintenance, we had 15 micro fulfillment centers worldwide with plans to expand over the next several months. With technicians spread across the globe, each site was managed differently. Maintaining various sites on different continents, in different time zones, became difficult. On top of that, when technicians appeared on site, there was no guarantee that they would have access to the right tools, information, and processes to complete their work.
We had to ensure our team had access to the same resources, processes, and shared culture — no matter where they were. To do this we needed the right technology to support us.
Choosing a system that worked with us, not against us
When searching for the right technology, we knew we were looking for something very specific. Something to help our team react quickly, with little waste. It had to offer enough customization to support our growing business and yet be simple enough to be picked up in a few days without extensive training. And lastly, it had to offer the flexibility to match the team’s workflow we were implementing.
As some of our maintenance technicians used to say: “The system should work for me and not the other way around.”
Fiix was the answer to that.
With the help of Jeremey Bernardet, Fiix Implementation Consultant, and Carlos Lopez, Takeoff’s experienced maintenance technician champion, we got started immediately. To make sure the implementation was a success we came up with three guidelines:
- Maximize value delivered every four weeks.
- Try and fail early (perfect is the enemy of good).
- After each delivery, use and improve.
Within a month and a half, we were able to implement Fiix at 10 of our 15 sites built. By August 2022 we have 18 sites in Fiix out of the 22 built and we will reach 25 out of 26 built by the end of October 2022.
The power of one
Adopting new technology creates change and sometimes change can create resistance if you aren’t prepared. If we had any chance at making the change stick across our global sites, we needed to create a culture where changes, like new technology and processes, were welcomed. That’s when we established “THE POWER OF ONE.”
This is a strategy that focuses on ONE TEAM, sharing ONE FRAMEWORK, working together in ONE RHYTHM across all our sites worldwide.
A big part of the ONE FRAMEWORK approach was using technology to create standardization in our work order process, asset coding, spare parts, and tools. Every week, several work orders are generated at each site that are similar for every MFC. Each facility begins its 12+2 week maintenance cycle at the same time. We call this ONE RHYTHM. By having the same assets, tools, and processes in the Fiix CMMS, each technician has access to the same resources.
Having all our resources in the CMMS gives us the flexibility to adapt to changing business conditions. This helps minimize downtime and deliver the exceptional service that our clients expect.
Our ONE TEAM model is all about building a culture of knowledge-sharing by learning and teaching each other in real-time situations. Each Wednesday, we host a company-wide maintenance meeting to review the KPIs for the week using the data from the CMMS. You would be surprised to know that the quorum and team’s enthusiasm is very high after almost one year of these meetings.
This is a time for the team to ask questions, share insights, and discuss maintenance and other topics that may interest the team. Our technicians feel empowered each week to see the real impact they are making and their overall performance improvements.
Building a future of intelligent maintenance
Looking ahead, our next goal is to use the maintenance data we collect in Fiix to optimize the timing of our preventive maintenance work at each site and on each asset. We have already started to do that by putting the runtime of critical parts, like critical motors, into the CMMS. We can use the data from these assets to adjust our PM frequency before they show signs of wear and tear. Our super cycle covers the range of heavy to low-use sites very well, but there will always be room for improvement.
At the same time, we learn how to improve continuously to serve equipment, sites, and customers best. Our maintenance program is continually evolving. We use a five-step roadmap to become the best run maintenance team in not just the industry, but the world. Here’s how we’re doing that.
Using a Maintenance Maturity Reference Model we took into account the maturity of our maintenance processes, metrics, team, data and tools. We started at Maturity Level 1 a year ago and are reaching Maturity Level 3 with defined processes, metrics, teams, and tools.
"It's like a car race. To win it, you must make a pit stop from time to time to fill up on gas, replace the tires, and check the engine. If not, your car may not finish the race. The same thing applies to our MFC equipment: keeping it at top performance will help our clients achieve their business goals, therefore winning the race."
Achieving 99.8% availability
Since adopting Fiix, we have tripled our mean time between failure from 364 hours in 2021 to 1168 hours in 2022. Our reliability is up from 63% in 2021 to 83% today, and overall availability is 99.8%. Not to mention that our clients now have the capability to fulfill orders in under 30 minutes.
You can picture it like a car race. To win it, you need to make a pit stop from time to time to fill up on gas, replace the tires, and check the engine. If not, your car may not finish the race. The same thing applies to our MFC equipment— keeping it at top performance will help our clients achieve their business goals, therefore winning the race. We can use the information in our CMMS to keep each client updated on their progress and show them how our maintenance team is impacting their business, while keeping their data separate to preserve privacy. It also gives us a chance to combine the data from all our sites together so we can learn as a team and improve maintenance and business results across all facilities.
This outcome could not have been achieved without putting real effort and focus into rethinking how we approach support and maintenance, the work done by our support team, and of course, the technology we used to get where we are today.