BEST PRACTICES: Proactive Maintenance

Now more than ever, plant owners are looking for ways to maintain their facilities with tighter budgets and higher uptime demands. Consequently, managers must pursue strategies that ensure plant uptime and reliability.


Now more than ever, plant owners are looking for ways to maintain their facilities with tighter budgets and higher uptime demands. Consequently, managers must pursue strategies that ensure plant uptime and reliability.

One such strategy is the implementation of a proactive maintenance program. Successfully implementing a proactive maintenance program requires managers to transform their maintenance mind-sets from cost-center-based maintenance to profit-center-based maintenance.

A profit center approach

Many companies view maintenance as a cost: an unavoidable burden that must be minimized. However, those that hold this view are not looking at their organization holistically. An integrated view includes plant output and the impact maintenance has on uptime. Money that’s lost because plant output is reduced may exceed money that could have been spent on proactive maintenance efforts. Prevented downtime translates directly to the bottom line.

Maintenance is also a significant factor in an organization’s ability to attain profit. While profit centers encourage efficiency and optimization, cost centers contain structural deterrents that work against optimization. A profit-centered maintenance mind-set demands innovation and value creation.

Those managers restricted to managing cost-center budgets typically don’t have the authority to spend money on improvements, even though such improvements could have a large impact on profitability. However, profit-center managers that spend judiciously and reallocate resources can obtain positive and profitable results. These managers typically have corresponding accountability.

Statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Federal Energy Management Program provide valuable insight into the need for proactive maintenance programs that are often a combination of these industry recognized methods.

  • More than 55% of maintenance resources and activities at an average facility are still reactive.
  • Preventive Maintenance performed at time-based intervals could save a facility between 12% and 18% over a purely reactive maintenance approach.
  • Predictive Maintenance (PdM) considers the condition of the machine or equipment using monitoring data.
  • A PdM program can provide savings of between 8% to 12% over a program using Preventive Maintenance alone.
  • Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) uses equipment criticality to prioritize and optimize areas of focus.

Moving forward

Moving from reactive to proactive or from cost-centered to profit-centered maintenance is not easy, nor is it cheap. Regardless of the maintenance mode, the best way to move toward proactive maintenance is to recognize the need for change.

Starting a proactive maintenance program typically follows established PM, PdM, and RCM methods. However, without buy-in from every level in the organization, any proactive maintenance strategy is destined to fail. Visibility is the key. If there are situations that could turn into preventable problems, proactive organizations must be able to see them to solve them.

Benchmarking is one way for a maintenance organization to know where it is and where it is going. However, benchmarking is frequently misunderstood. Some companies define benchmarking as how they compare to other companies with respect to selected criteria. An effective use of benchmarking, though, involves a company comparing its own performance over time toward a goal of continuous improvement in maintenance effectiveness and profitability of the organization.

PdM and RCM methods necessarily depend on equipment and systems that detect and report equipment condition and health. Equipment condition monitoring enables proactive organizations to respond before deterioration becomes an emergency failure. This doesn’t mean a plant won’t ever have any outages. But it does mean that they can be in control of when those outages will occur.

Proactive maintenance enables plants to perform maintenance only when there are indicators to do so based on intelligence provided by preventive and predictive maintenance data. The result is the most cost effective use of resources and time.

Successful proactive maintenance execution requires a change in mind-set from cost to profit-center management. While it’s much easier to perform tasks on a business-as-usual basis, it requires a culture change to make decisions based on value. Managing maintenance as a profit center requires managers to focus on activities that add value, long-term stability, and profitability to an organization – the essence of proactive maintenance.

- David Chiesa is the North Region service director for GE Industrial Services, responsible for business operations in a 22-state territory that includes the north and central U.S. Chiesa has been with GE for nearly nine years.

Maintenance myths and truths

The following myths about proactive maintenance can impede the success of organizations that wish to move forward. The truth about these proactive maintenance myths sets the record straight.

Myth: Proactive maintenance is not a profit center; it is really a cost center.

Truth: Although all maintenance methods have costs, proactive maintenance takes downtime – or the cost of not producing – into consideration.

Myth: Proactive maintenance saves you money.

Truth: Proactive maintenance will likely cost more money in the short-term. It will likely help save money in the long-term.

Myth: If you do proactive maintenance, you won't have any outages.

Truth: Nothing will completely prevent you from experiencing outages. However, proactive maintenance will allow your organization to plan these events. The amount of unplanned outages and costs may dramatically decrease.

Myth: If you participate in proactive maintenance, you won't have to do maintenance.

Truth: The foundation of a successful proactive maintenance program is good data from periodic and preventive maintenance.

Myth: The key to a proactive maintenance program is contained in a single solution.

Truth: There are no silver bullets. Proactive maintenance requires a customized top-to-bottom approach, full organizational buy-in, investment, training, and resolve.

Return to BEST PRACTICES: Finding the way forward

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