By Charlie Green
Every enterprise, regardless of industry — and in particular manufacturing — depends on a diverse array of tangible assets to deliver on its customer promises. Certain assets are critical to the output of a business and form the foundation of a product or service a customer procures, underscoring their indispensable role in business operations. Interestingly, these critical assets aren’t always the most expensive items within an organization, yet any interruption to their functioning can trigger a domino effect, disrupting the entire value chain and possibly grinding operations to a halt. This underscores the vital importance of formulating an effective maintenance management strategy for these pivotal assets across all business arenas.
The Need To Focus On The Right Maintenance Strategy
Ensuring that critical assets consistently operate at peak efficiency calls for the implementation of a maintenance management plan that is not only efficient but also highly reliable. This meticulously planned strategy is instrumental in guaranteeing the sustained performance of such assets, leading to a decline in operational breakdowns, mitigating errors or quality lapses, and significantly reducing the necessity for constant supervision or monitoring.
A thorough maintenance management plan forms an indispensable part of a business’s success strategy. It encapsulates the following benefits:
- Minimal Interruptions To Operations
- Reduced Downtime Of Assets
- Lowered Repair Costs
- Enhanced Customer Satisfaction
- Consistent Timeliness
These assertions are not just theoretical. A comprehensive study conducted by the ARC Advisory Group bolsters these claims, revealing that strategic maintenance management can decrease downtime by 30-50%, elevate labor productivity by 20-50%, curtail equipment breakdowns by a staggering 70-75%, and slice maintenance costs by 5-10%. The overwhelming evidence reinforces the vital need for businesses to implement a comprehensive maintenance management plan for their critical assets, ensuring longevity, reliability, and sustained productivity.
Five Maintenance Management Strategies For Manufacturing Businesses To Consider
1. Reactive Maintenance Management: Increased Costs, Decreased Productivity
Reactive maintenance requires the maintenance team to spring into action only when a machine or piece of equipment breaks down.
Reactive maintenance, often utilized by smaller operations, requires the maintenance team to spring into action only when a machine or piece of equipment breaks down. While there are benefits to using reactive maintenance such as less standby manpower, planning and initial costs, this approach is very short-sighted and the pitfalls of this approach often outweigh these benefits. For example, a comprehensive study by Plant Engineering estimates that reactive maintenance, in the long run, costs 2-5 times more than proactive maintenance due to the increased costs of unplanned downtime, rush orders for parts, and overtime labor. The same study indicates that teams spend 35-45% of their time on reactive maintenance, despite the industry benchmark suggesting a more optimal level around 20%.
2. Preventative Maintenance Management: An Active Defense
Preventative maintenance involves devising a schedule for each asset, which can be monthly, weekly, or daily, based on the asset’s usage and required uptime.
Preventative maintenance management is essentially the antithesis of reactive maintenance. Here, maintenance teams proactively inspect assets on a regular basis to detect and rectify any emerging problems before they escalate and cause the equipment to break down.
This strategy involves devising a maintenance schedule for each asset, which can be monthly, weekly, or daily, based on the asset’s usage and required uptime. Despite requiring more frequent inspections by the maintenance staff and regular downtime costs, the potential to avoid costly disruptions makes it a valuable approach. For instance, an IBM study in 2016 reported that 30% of preventive maintenance efforts are performed unnecessarily. However, the increased costs were counterbalanced by the ability to circumvent the expensive disruptions associated with reactive maintenance.
In this context, Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) software emerges as a critical tool for businesses to optimally implement their preventive maintenance strategy. The software allows for scheduling of maintenance tasks based on preset intervals, which could be time-based or usage-based. This feature ensures regular upkeep and minimizes the risk of overlooking critical maintenance tasks. Additionally, CMMS software sends notifications and reminders about upcoming maintenance tasks to appropriate personnel, ensuring that tasks are completed on time.
CMMS software not only documents all maintenance activities but also provides an organized system to track the lifecycle of each piece of equipment, from installation to decommissioning. This tracking helps in predicting potential issues before they become major problems, leading to effective preventive maintenance. Thus, through improved scheduling, efficient resource allocation, better compliance tracking, and predictive maintenance capabilities, CMMS software greatly assists in enhancing a business’s preventive maintenance strategy.
3. Condition-Based Maintenance Management: Threshold-Based Monitoring
Conditional maintenance is a strategy where a company deploys monitoring devices to track, monitor, and report the performance of the asset to the maintenance team.
Conditional maintenance is a strategy where a company deploys monitoring devices to track, monitor, and report the performance of the asset to the maintenance team. Normal performance thresholds are established for each asset, and any deviation from these parameters triggers the monitoring system to alert the maintenance team, who can then investigate and rectify the issue.
Establishing standard performance thresholds for each asset is critical to the successful implementation of condition-based maintenance. These benchmarks serve as indicators of normal functioning for each piece of equipment, encompassing metrics such as noise levels, vibrations, and temperature.
A notable example of condition-based maintenance is non-destructive testing (NDT). Non-destructive testing employs a range of techniques that allow for the inspection of equipment without causing any damage or obstructing regular operations. Some common NDT methods include ultrasonic testing, which uses high-frequency sound waves to detect abnormalities, and thermal imaging, which identifies heat anomalies indicative of potential faults. By applying NDT, businesses can pinpoint early signs of deterioration or malfunction, significantly reducing the risks associated with unexpected equipment failure.
4. Predictive Maintenance Management: Implementing AI And Data Science
Predictive maintenance leverages AI tools and data science to predict when an asset might develop a performance issue and require maintenance.
Predictive maintenance, a relatively novel approach to maintenance management, leverages AI tools and data science to predict when an asset might develop a performance issue and require maintenance.
This approach leans heavily on historical data gathered from the asset’s lifecycle, stored in CMMS platforms, including its past performance, maintenance records, and any anomalies or disruptions. The data is then processed through AI-powered analytics tools that employ machine learning algorithms to analyze patterns and trends. The AI tools can then detect subtle changes in these patterns that may signify an upcoming problem, well before a human observer could notice such variations.
Predictive maintenance doesn’t merely give a “yes” or “no” about a potential breakdown; it often gives an estimated time frame, allowing maintenance teams to schedule interventions proactively and avoid sudden downtime. With a more precise understanding of when a piece of equipment is likely to fail, companies can prepare for the maintenance activity, order necessary parts, and schedule the work at the most convenient time, all without the need for constant system monitoring or frantic resource allocation when an issue arises suddenly.
5. Prescriptive Maintenance Management: Predict, Prescribe, Prevent
Prescriptive maintenance not only predicts potential issues but also prescribes the steps that should be taken to address them.
Prescriptive maintenance is a step beyond predictive maintenance. This approach not only predicts potential issues but also prescribes the steps that should be taken to address them. It involves feeding the system data about a machine’s specifications, performance history, potential issues, and the recommended solution for each possible problem. Prescriptive maintenance has been adopted in various industries, including aerospace, oil, chemical, and mining, as it can offer a competitive advantage in asset-intensive industries where equipment uptime and efficiency is paramount.
However, it’s important to note that implementing prescriptive maintenance can be costly due to the requirement of retrofitting equipment with sensors and implementing necessary AI and machine learning capabilities meaning it may only be viable for larger organizations with bigger margins. It’s also not immediately effective and may need some time to generate confidence, especially in its unsupervised management of safety-critical systems. Thus, it’s currently viable only for the most critical pieces of equipment that have substantial repair or replacement costs.
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The maintenance strategy of a business is not a static concept — it should evolve with the changing business landscape, technological advancements, and learnings from past experiences. A business’s maintenance strategy should be a balanced mix of various approaches, tailored to its unique needs and shaped by factors such as industry type, asset complexity, and budget. However, no maintenance strategy can guarantee zero asset breakdowns.
The role of a well-planned, multi-pronged maintenance strategy is to minimize the likelihood of unexpected failures and the consequent operational disruptions. But when breakdowns do occur, having a reactive maintenance plan in place ensures that the impact on the business is as minimal as possible. While preventive and predictive maintenance strategies are often at the core of effective maintenance management, the realities of operating in a dynamic environment mean that a degree of reactive maintenance is often unavoidable.
Charlie Green is a Senior Research Analyst at Comparesoft