Five strategies to consider when building a maintenance management plan

Developing a maintenance management plan requires careful attention and knowledge to a company’s specific needs and requirements for improving overall productivity and safety.

By Ryan Condon July 19, 2022
Courtesy: Dude Solutions, CFE Media New Products for Engineers Database

Every business depends on material assets to deliver on its promise to customers. These assets include machinery, equipment, tools and other physical devices that may be simple or complex. Of these assets, a few are critical to a business as they provide the core product or service that a customer purchases. It could be a production machine, a printer, or even a simple scanning device. Keep in mind that a critical asset may not be the most expensive asset in an organization. However, any disruption can impact the entire value chain and bring operations to a halt, which is why maintenance management is so important.

Compared to France, more companies in the U.K. suffer from machine downtime due to maintenance issues. This has implications not only for U.K. companies, but also the U.K. economy’s overall competitiveness compared to other countries in the region. All businesses should take steps to build an effective maintenance management plan for their critical assets.

Why it’s important having a maintenance management plan

The best way to ensure critical assets remain in optimum working condition is to implement a maintenance management plan that works. This can help ensure the critical assets continue to perform according to standards so they break down less frequently, produce fewer errors or quality issues and require minimal supervision or monitoring.
The right maintenance plan ensures that assets continue to work as they are supposed to. When organizations have a maintenance plan in place, they benefit from it in many ways. A good plan leads to:

  1. Minimal disruptions to normal productivity
  2. Fewer lost operating hours and idle staff time
  3. Lower repair costs, e.g., cost of ordering and replacing parts, tools and supplies, and labor costs
  4. Higher client satisfaction
  5. Regular order completion and timely deliveries.

Five Maintenance Management Plans to Consider

Asset maintenance involves several activities like monitoring, reporting, repairing, and cleaning. These activities require dedicated staff, time, and capital. Most importantly, when an asset is in maintenance mode, it cannot be used for operational work during that period. Businesses usually follow five different types of maintenance plans based on their specific needs.

1. Reactive maintenance management

A reactive maintenance plan is quite commonly used by smaller operations. The maintenance team jumps into action only when there is a machine or equipment failure or breakdown. There might not be any costs involved if the machine is running smoothly, but in case of a breakdown, the cost of lost production can be quite high.
To make sure a reactive maintenance plan works, companies must have detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs), tools, and well-trained staff ready for action so minimal time is spent in resolving the maintenance issue and normal operations can resume.
One study estimates that in the long-term, reactive maintenance costs 2 to 5 times more than proactive maintenance. Another shows teams spend 35 to 45% of their time on reactive maintenance, compared to the industry rule-of-thumb of 20%.

2. Preventive maintenance management

Preventive maintenance management can be considered the opposite of reactive maintenance. Instead of waiting for an incident to occur, maintenance teams take a proactive approach and regularly check assets so any emerging problems can be detected and resolved before they get out of hand and cause the equipment to break down.

Preventive maintenance involves drawing up a maintenance schedule for each asset. The schedule can be monthly, weekly or daily, depending on the usage and required uptime for the machine. This requires more frequent inspections by the maintenance staff, regardless of whether any complaints or issues about the asset have been reported, and regular downtime costs.

For example, a 2016 study by IBM reported 30% of preventive maintenance efforts are performed when they are not required. However, these costs are offset by the ability to avoid expensive disruptions that are common in reactive maintenance.

3. Conditional maintenance management

Conditional maintenance is an approach in which a company installs monitoring devices to monitor, track, and report the performance of the asset to the maintenance team.

Thresholds for normal performance are defined for each asset and at any time when the performance deviates from the normal range, the monitoring system alerts the maintenance team to investigate and resolve the issue.

Normal metrics monitored include noise levels, vibrations, temperature and everything that indicates a machine is not operating normally. This strategy entails the costs of purchasing and installing monitoring tools, training staff to use them and interpret the reports and the costs of constant monitoring.

For many businesses that implement a conditional maintenance management plan, the benefits of avoiding costly disruptions and not having to perform maintenance when the machine is performing normally, are enough to invest in performance monitoring systems.

4. Predictive maintenance management

Predictive maintenance is a relatively recent approach to maintenance management as it involves the use of artificial intelligence (AI) tools and data science. The principle behind predictive maintenance is installing a system that uses all the specifications of the asset as well as historical data about the maintenance issues and performance of the asset to predict when the asset might develop a performance issue and require maintenance.

The basic idea is to forecast based on historical data when the next asset failure is likely to occur. This system gives maintenance teams more time to prepare for an issue without having to constantly monitor the system or start gather the tools and personnel right when the incident takes place.

5. Prescriptive maintenance management

Lastly, prescriptive maintenance management is like a decision support system or an executive system which not only predicts when an issue might occur but also prescribes the steps to be taken by the maintenance team to address the issue.

Such a system is fed with data about a machine’s specifications, its performance history, the possible issues and problem areas, and the recommended solution for each possibility. One study suggests prescriptive maintenance management helps to support a dynamic production system with minimal disruptions.

A prescriptive maintenance system is the most advanced type of maintenance management system as it takes off a lot of the tasks relating to asset maintenance. However, it can be costly and take a lot of time to enter the data and set it up in working conditions.

Selecting the best maintenance plan

Nothing mentioned above suggests one plan is better than the other. Each organization has its own budget, risk profile, and operational requirements that might make one of these approaches more suitable than the others.

It all boils down to whether the performance risks can be predicted and the costs of any complications or disruptions in the asset. Some organizations can absorb the costs of disruption more than others. For them, a reactive maintenance management plan can be quite effective. Other organizations already have the infrastructure in place to support a predictive or prescriptive maintenance plan might opt for that without spending a lot of extra money.

Benefits of using CMMS software to build a maintenance plan

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) consists of a central repository of all maintenance data. That includes information about each critical asset, machine, equipment and device within the organization.

Apart from this, a CMMS allows maintenance managers to monitor the data in real-time while using historical data to analyze and improve their maintenance effort. Optimizing inventory and procurement systems are additional benefits from using CMMS software. It also includes features that managers can use to schedule maintenance activities, order supplies, issue requests and prepare reports.

Author Bio: Condon is the Head of Content at Comparesoft, a B2B software comparison site. He is responsible for the production of all front-end content development and driving continued audience growth. Condon joined Comparesoft in September 2019.