Depending on the nature of the equipment and the complexity of the operating environment, asset maintenance can involve a wide range of different activities.
This article covers the key factors that should be considered when shaping the optimal maintenance regime for your equipment.
The general importance of asset maintenance
In an office environment, maintenance could range from simple visual checks to the service and repair of computer workstations, building systems, and other stationary facility infrastructure. Basically, anything you could classify under facility maintenance.
In an industrial setting with more complex and sensitive equipment, maintenance could involve diagnosis, testing, troubleshooting, repairing, and even overhauling of high voltage and high power rotary as well as stationary equipment. Such is the nature of industrial maintenance.
Performing extensive maintenance on every piece of equipment can be time and resource extensive. This is why you need a sound maintenance strategy.
The purpose of the strategy is to optimize maintenance by considering a range of factors such as:
- Cost and resource constraints
- Available tools, inventory, and spares
- Equipment condition
- Equipment criticality
- Workforce and training requirements
- Health and safety concerns
Getting everything right on your first try is unlikely. However, when you understand the factors we discuss below, establishing optimal asset maintenance will never be out of reach.
Factors to consider in optimizing asset maintenance
Optimal asset maintenance is the one that performs a good balance of counteracting factors associated with any equipment.
For instance, while proactive maintenance is beneficial, excessive maintenance is not. You can avoid preventive maintenance to reduce short-term operational costs, but under-maintained assets will bite you in the ass sooner or later. Neither scenario is something you could call “optimal” asset management.
In essence, an optimal asset maintenance strategy includes three key factors:
Below are some factors that should be considered when optimizing maintenance for any asset.
1. The importance of asset performance data
Availability of quality data is the single most important item to have while devising an optimal maintenance strategy.
The data on maintenance and warranty information from original equipment manufacturers (OEM) is often used as a starting point to shape initial maintenance intervals. As equipment enters its useful life period, maintenance and planning engineers often analyze historical health and failure data to understand emerging equipment performance trends and shape routine maintenance intervals accordingly.
Ideally, you should have a slew of internal and external data points you can pull from for each of your critical assets. The internal data points include equipment failure history, previous maintenance data, and real-time data as received from installed sensors and analyzers. The external data point includes operational requirements, environmental changes, human factors, market inflation factors, shortage of tools and resources, and organizational policy changes.
2. What is the optimal way to use your maintenance resources?
For example, let’s look at a series DC electrical motor that operates a conveyor belt. Due to its strong impact on operational revenue, maintenance engineers may still like to invest resources in performing regular NDT tests on the motor, irrespective of the fact that no significant failure has previously occurred.
On the other hand, less critical and/or redundant equipment, due to its minimal impact on the whole operation, may continue to have less frequent maintenance to save manpower time and resources.
Those that want to optimize the usage of their maintenance resources need to look at technology for help. Combining CMMS and predictive maintenance is the most straightforward solution. It is the only way to have enough data to avoid excessive maintenance and efficiently organize maintenance work.
3. Balancing needs against costs
One of the key activities while optimizing maintenance is to perform a life cycle cost (LCC) assessment of the equipment. The LCC or total cost of ownership (TCO) accounts for all the costs that could be encountered by assets.
This includes the cost of acquisition to its operation, maintenance, administration as well as disposal costs. As soon as the equipment approaches the end of its life, maintenance cost rises due to its increasing failure rates, while the capital costs of acquisition are decreased.
When the maintenance costs of the existing asset completely balance against the acquisition cost, it is no longer feasible to continue maintaining the asset. At this point, the optimal decision is to purchase new equipment – as opposed to maintaining the existing asset.
4. Understanding your organizational capabilities
Another factor that is often ignored while strategizing maintenance is to understand the capabilities of the organization’s management system to sustain the maintenance regime.
The maintenance engineer can design an optimal maintenance strategy based on the available data and analysis. However, if the maintenance team is lacking manpower and resources, you will not get the desired outcome.
A good maintenance planning exercise is to perform a gap analysis on select areas such as technology, training, human factor, organizational culture, and bridge gap accordingly.
Following are different aspects of maintenance optimization that are influenced by organizational capabilities.
Maintenance policy and procedures
Developing a maintenance policy enables consistency in the implementation of maintenance for all asset classes.
The recommended approach for any organization is to develop a strong maintenance policy that reflects business goals and the management’s commitments in implementing or improving maintenance programs. It also provides strategic guidance to employees. It informs them as to which assets are critical to the business and their maintenance schedules.
The maintenance procedures specific to each asset class should also be developed, and they should outline step-by-step instructions for inspection, service, repair and/or overhaul equipment. Standardized maintenance procedures ensure a consistent quality of performed maintenance work and can reduce downtime significantly.
Training and team building
Humans are prone to making errors. Human errors cannot be avoided. They can only be controlled and/or mitigated.
Smart onboarding processes and maintenance training programs can significantly improve the technical competency of your staff. This can reduce accidents while operating the equipment and performing safety-critical maintenance.
The result? A noticeable improvement in your capability to deliver optimal asset maintenance.
Developing a proactive culture based on continuous improvement
In maintenance, proactiveness is a trait that urges one to keep searching for the potential threats that can cause the equipment to malfunction.
In other words, you do not wait for shit to hit the fan. Implementing any proactive maintenance strategy hinges on buy-in from maintenance techs and operators. Achieving a proactive mindset doesn’t happen overnight, and has to be nurtured and insisted upon.
Maintenance managers and other managerial roles in the maintenance department have to lead by example. They need to show that proactiveness is valued.
5. Using CMMS software to optimize maintenance work
The CMMS is the most robust way to optimize and streamline maintenance programs. It provides a systematic way to collect, sort, analyze, and visually display asset data. Furthermore, CMMS software automates a variety of maintenance tasks that are simply too difficult to manage manually.
Through the use of CMMS software, optimization can be achieved in several ways which we will discuss below.
Automating maintenance workflows
Receiving and reviewing work requests, assigning tasks, scheduling PMs, dealing with emergencies during staff shortages, coordinating capital projects, tracking cost and efficiency of the performed maintenance work… – so much work, so little time.
A modern, mobile CMMS has the capability to automate entire processes, or parts of every process we just mentioned. Instead of explaining how, here is a video that showcases how to manage work with Limble CMMS:
Tracking spare parts inventory
The availability of inventory also plays a crucial role in the success of the maintenance program.
Most CMMS systems include a master inventory of all the equipment as well as their spares. They can proactively set thresholds of minimum and maximum levels of spares and automatically release purchase orders for spares vital to the maintenance of critical equipment. CMMS also helps develop parts kitting, which saves a considerable amount of time to gather tools and resources for maintenance activities on any piece of equipment.
With Limble CMMS, you have an added bonus of automatic tracking of parts usage. After closing their work order, a technician will enter the exact spares or other MRO inventory they’ve “spent”. Limble automatically updates its spare inventory database to keep everything up-to-date and help you make accurate forecasts.
Of course, having an inventory tracking system doesn’t mean all inventory management problems are magically gone. You still have to follow parts management best practices.
Staying on top of your maintenance KPIs
How do you know when a process is optimized? What are the signs that you’re are in fact running a lean maintenance department? The only surefire way to tell is to look at carefully selected KPIs and performance metrics.
Maintenance KPIs are often established by reliability and maintainability (R&M) engineers to track emerging trends in asset performance. Whatever the purpose of defining performance metrics, managers and engineers need to have reliable data.
If the CMMS database is up-to-date, they can generate custom maintenance reports and track how efficient and effective their maintenance activities are. Most importantly, they will be able to make informed decisions.
Maintenance optimization is a complex exercise…
…that involves a thorough investigation of a range of factors that are above and beyond simply maintaining and repairing the equipment.
The true essence of optimization is achieved when the amount of maintenance just balances the maintenance needs. This will be the time when the equipment is neither under-maintained nor over-maintained.
This balance can only be obtained when maintenance needs are analyzed in the context of organizational capabilities and equipment condition data, facilitated by predictive algorithms and computerized maintenance management software.