Every piece of equipment you use will suffer from wear and tear – ultimately leading to equipment failure. Not only does equipment maintenance postpone that point of failure, but it also prepares you for when it happens.
Let’s take a look at why proper equipment maintenance is so important. We will outline the most popular maintenance strategies and the unique goals and advantages of each, and look at how to set up a cost-effective equipment maintenance program.
What equipment maintenance is and why it matters
The best way to define equipment maintenance is to look at what it is trying to achieve. The main goal of equipment maintenance is to keep equipment in optimal working order. When proper regular maintenance is applied to a piece of equipment it maximizes its production output and increases its useful life.
- Budget problems
- Production delays
- Safety incidents
- Increase in overtime labor
- Inventory issues
- Shorter equipment life cycle
- Dissatisfied employees across the plant floor
When you take into account the above list and add to that the potential hit on your brand reputation, the true cost of equipment downtime can be devastating.
The good news is that implementing an effective maintenance strategy is easier than ever. Before we get to that, let’s first review the most common strategies you can apply to keep your equipment in pristine condition.
Types of equipment maintenance
There are a few different types of maintenance strategies that developed over the years. We wrote extensively about most of them. In this chapter, we’re going to briefly outline each one and give you a link to a resource that explains it in more detail.
- Run-to-failure strategy: Represents a reactive approach to maintenance. Using this strategy, you consciously decide to use a piece of equipment until it breaks down. It is suitable for equipment with low repair costs and when equipment breakdown won’t cause big operational issues (like production delays). Can be used on critical equipment you plan to replace after the next breakdown.
- Preventive maintenance strategy: A good overall strategy for most types of equipment. Easiest and cheapest proactive maintenance strategy to implement and run. It is a great first step for all businesses that look to transition from reactive to proactive maintenance.
- Condition-based maintenance (CBM) strategy: When implementing condition-based maintenance, you have to purchase and install condition monitoring sensors on your equipment. These sensors give you real-time insight into the health of your assets. This helps you optimize your maintenance schedule by having a better idea of when a piece of equipment should be serviced.
- Predictive maintenance (PdM) strategy: Predictive maintenance is like an upgraded version of CBM (does the same thing, but better). It involves using predictive analytics and algorithms (based on data coming from condition monitoring sensors) to predict exactly when a piece of equipment is expected to fail so you can schedule maintenance just before that happens.
- Total productive maintenance (TPM): Total productive maintenance is a strategy predominantly used in the manufacturing sector. TPM expands the equipment maintenance responsibility outside the maintenance team. It represents a philosophy of continuous improvement that requires the commitment and effort of the whole organization. It takes years to fully implement which is why organizations that want to go in this direction often look to implement its stripped-down version called autonomous maintenance.
Which is the best maintenance strategy to use?
In theory, predictive maintenance seems like the best option. However, PdM can be expensive, and running an expensive strategy for a relatively cheap piece of equipment is rarely worth it.
The approach you want to take is the one that takes into account the type/condition of the equipment you are using, your maintenance KPIs, and your available resources.
In practice, the best approach is often a combination of different strategies. Most organizations will first start with preventive maintenance and then slowly incorporate more advanced strategies like CBM and PdM when people successfully adopt that proactive mindset.
Implementing an effective equipment maintenance program
It is no secret that maintenance managers are constantly under pressure to provide adequate results with limited budgets. This sometimes incentivizes them to buy the cheapest assets available, which is a short-sighted move. Cheaper assets tend to break down more often and like to eat up a lot more of your maintenance resources over time.
Why does this matter? We are trying to show how the amount of needed equipment maintenance correlates with the quality of equipment you buy. Balancing between maintenance costs and investments is something that needs to be on a maintenance manager’s mind every day.
Quality of equipment aside, some level of maintenance will always be required. Let’s see how to set up an equipment maintenance program.
The following steps will be based on the assumption that an organization has already implemented a CMMS software. This is because we believe that it is almost impossible to run an effective maintenance program without a centralized maintenance platform and all of the features that come with it. If you don’t know what a CMMS is check out our What is a CMMS System and How Does it Work guide.
1) Create an inventory of equipment
Every piece of equipment that will be on a proactive maintenance plan should be entered into your CMMS system.
The reasons for that are twofold. First, if you want to create a work order for a specific piece of equipment, it is much easier to do that if the equipment is already in your CMMS database. The second thing is the asset history. One of the main advantages computerized maintenance management systems have over paper records is that they automatically save asset history which you can access from anywhere with an internet connection.
2) Select which maintenance strategy will be applied to which piece of equipment
When you have a list of equipment that needs to be maintained regularly, it’s time to create the maintenance schedule. Before you do that, you should spend a little time deciding which maintenance strategies are available to you.
As mentioned earlier, most organizations will start with an all-encompassing preventive maintenance strategy. However, if you have the budget for it, purchasing a few sensors for your most critical pieces of equipment is a welcome bonus.
3) Create the equipment maintenance schedule
The equipment maintenance schedule is the center point of any equipment maintenance program. It controls which maintenance actions should be taken, when, and by whom.
As such, the maintenance calendar should provide a clear overview of all incoming and in-progress maintenance work. On top of that, it should also give an easy way to quickly schedule routine activities, easily reschedule any maintenance task, as well as change task priorities with just a click or two.
When creating the first preventative maintenance plan, you can review OEM manuals and follow the instructions given there. You should also consult with your technicians to check if certain assets have any long-standing issues that need to be taken into account.
If you are using CBM or PdM, part of your maintenance schedule will be based on data coming from sensors and predictive algorithms respectively.
Whichever strategy you apply, there will always be a set of routine maintenance tasks that will need to be scheduled and carried out consistently.
4) Define maintenance checklists and procedures
Maintenance greatly benefits from standardization as it includes a lot of repetitive tasks carried out on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. They can be streamlined by defining:
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Emergency maintenance procedures (EOPs)
- Lockout/tag-out procedures (LOTO)
- Preventive maintenance checklists
- General safety guidelines
All of these should be communicated to the employees that need to use them and can even be attached to specific work orders when deemed necessary.
5) Train your maintenance team
A plan means absolutely nothing if you do not have the ability to execute it. Technicians should be able to read and understand the maintenance plan and have the necessary knowledge to follow the outlined maintenance procedures. They must also know how to use CMMS and any other digital solutions you’ve implemented.
To bring everyone up to the required level, you might need to run a few maintenance skills training programs.
When switching from reactive to proactive maintenance services, the organization should make extra effort to ensure all maintenance personnel is on board with the idea. In the first few months, it is important to check if technicians are following new procedures, logging everything they need in the equipment maintenance log, and use the available CMMS features correctly. This serves to correct bad habits before they become ingrained.
6) Analyze and improve
It would be a bit arrogant to think everything will work perfectly from the first try. Regular review of maintenance performance metrics and other indicators is necessary for eliminating inefficiencies and problems in your current plan.
The maintenance software you’re using should be able to give you enough data to successfully optimize your equipment maintenance program over time.
Be it an HVAC unit in your office, a car you use to get to work, or a machine in your production line, equipment maintenance is here to ensure every asset can do what is supposed to do.
With a little bit of joint effort from your maintenance team and a helping hand from the right CMMS, you can have a valid equipment maintenance program in less than a month.
If you have any questions about Limble CMMS and its ability to support your equipment management efforts, reach out to us today.