World-class maintenance: barriers to success

People, process and technology can either hinder or help your success.


People, process and technology can either hinder or help your success. Courtesy: ATSMaintenance used to be reactive, only done after a failure occurred. This run-to-failure approach used to suffice because the cost of maintenance exceeded the cost of failure. As failure costs increased, preventive maintenance was adopted. But today, there is yet another promising approach.

Focus on predictive maintenance

We are in the early stages of graduating from preventive-maintenance protocols to a world-class method of maintenance: predictive maintenance (PdM). It can deliver great rewards: the elimination of downtime, increased efficiency, a minimization of intrusive maintenance. What's more, PdM can positively impact costs. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates it could have a $240 billion to $627 billion annual impact on factories by 2025, reducing annual costs by 10 to 40%.

Despite its advantages, PdM is very slowly being adopted because there are a number of significant barriers to adoption. Exactly what are those barriers and how can they be resolved to help manufacturers revolutionize their maintenance to world-class status, with all the rewards that status brings? The three main barriers can be broken down into the familiar categories of people, processes and technology.


The right people, or more importantly, the lack thereof, figures prominently as a barrier to achieving world-class maintenance through PdM. While manufacturing will need to fill 3.4 million jobs over the next decade, research indicates that 60% of these jobs may go unfilled due to the manufacturing "skills gap."

This skills gap is driven by the retirement of baby boomers, an increased demand for products and services and the lack of attractiveness manufacturing holds when viewed as a career option by young people. What's more, the manufacturing industry is not the only one trying to attract technical talent, so there is stiff competition for a very limited resource.

How can manufacturers overcome the skills gap to find and keep maintenance workers? To find them, they can avoid the outdated "post and pray" methods of filling positions and employ innovative sourcing through social media outlets, military channels, technical-school relationships and even cold-calling techniques.

To retain these workers, manufacturers can offer third-party training programs that ensure the performance, productivity and job satisfaction of workers in the present and as time goes on.


The reliance on old processes also can be a barrier to achieving world-class maintenance. These process barriers take two forms: physical and intangible. The physical barrier takes the form of factories that still run processes on industrial equipment designed before the computer era. Others run processes on newer machinery with the capability to generate maintenance-monitoring data, but not necessarily data that will work with today's PdM software. The solution to these barriers comes in the form of new equipment investment, with an eye to PdM compatibility.

The intangible process barrier comes in the form of how workers (and not just maintenance workers) interact within the context of the manufacturing process. Traditionally, maintenance workers/operational technology and information technology staffs have been fairly separate entities. To achieve world-class maintenance, these two disciplines must cooperate to fully realize the benefits of PdM, especially as it relates to the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT.

It's about getting the right data to the right worker at the right time. To do this, two rarely paired, disparate entities must work very closely together. That's a big change that requires skilled management and even third-party resources to establish smooth new, acceptable interpersonal processes. Other considerations that are imperative to a successful transition are related to work order control, maintenance scheduling, inventory control and the need for accurate equipment data.


The reluctance to adopt and use technology fully can be the final barrier to achieving a world-class maintenance operation. The adoption of new technology and the understanding of how to use it effectively is at the core of achieving success in today's industrial arena, and will continue to be for some time.

However, in an age when most maintenance–related data is collected, stored and only used locally—with a significant amount of this data still being maintained on paper, if at all—manufacturing obviously has a long way to go. Working with a third-party maintenance vendor can help significantly with the introduction, adoption and success of new-technology implementation, whether a manufacturer has one facility or many.


In the end, it all comes down to flexibility: in the way one looks at people, processes and today's valuable new technologies. Most importantly, achieving world-class maintenance through the adoption of PdM and the technologies that drive it requires a shift in thinking about maintenance itself. In the past, maintenance was viewed as simply a cost center. But with enough flexibility, maintenance can become a truly value-driven aspect of the overall business. One that can put a manufacturer at the top of their industry if one acts sooner rather than later.

Mark Cox is director of technical training and advanced systems for Advanced Technology Services.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Safety for 18 years, warehouse maintenance tips, Ethernet and the IIoT, GAMS 2016 recap
2016 Engineering Leaders Under 40; Future vision: Where is manufacturing headed?; Electrical distribution, redefined
Strategic outsourcing delivers efficiency; Sleeve bearing clearance; Causes of water hammer; Improve air quality; Maintenance safety; GAMS preview
SCADA at the junction, Managing risk through maintenance, Moving at the speed of data
Safety at every angle, Big Data's impact on operations, bridging the skills gap
The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Applying network redundancy; Overcoming loop tuning challenges; PID control and networks
Driving motor efficiency; Preventing arc flash in mission critical facilities; Integrating alternative power and existing electrical systems
Package boilers; Natural gas infrared heating; Thermal treasure; Standby generation; Natural gas supports green efforts

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role of plant safety and offers advice on best practices.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me