Routine maintenance is a necessary and important part of any commercial or industrial business. Whether you think in terms of building maintenance, machinery HVAC or any other system, most companies have some sort of maintenance schedule and system. Many of these systems have been around for a long time and have not changed very much. However, there is new research and new thinking with respect to maintenance needs. Here are some examples of the change in thinking as it relates to the hows and whys of routine maintenance.

Old Thinking:

Routine maintenance (RM) is simply related to delaying failures

New Thinking:

RM is also about reducing or eliminating the costs and consequences of failures, and in many cases avoiding them altogether.

Routine maintenance has become as much about what you do as it has what you measure and observe. Because of this, you are able to sense impending failure before it happens. This allows the maintenance department to effect repairs before catastrophic failure, in ways that allow for minor impact on the facility.

Old Thinking:

Maintenance procedures are intended to make sure equipment functions at a minimum costs and maximum up time.

New Thinking:

It is now recognized that proper maintenance also enhances safety, environmental issues, customer retention (no down time means delivery on time) and product quality. For example, machinery painting is not simply cosmetic. It protects from rust which maintains efficiency and product contamination. It also enhances safety since it helps with cleanup and grease removal.

It used to be that failures were viewed strictly with respect to the actual impact – what it cost to effect repairs, and how quickly the plant came back online. We now understand that maintenance is indirectly tied to much more than simple costs. Customer retention is affected when you don’t deliver on time. The environment (both locally within your facility, as well as globally) is impacted by poorly maintained equipment. Efficiency is affected which drives up costs.

Old Thinking:

Equipment failure is inevitable and becomes more probable with age.

New Thinking:

Most failures are not more likely to occur as equipment gets older

The old way of thinking said that a machine or facility had to be overhauled at a given number of hours or other measured time interval. Being proactive would avoid failures. In fact, this is not true. Data suggests that a well functioning, well maintained machine is better left alone. Simply overhauling it per a schedule may, in fact, upset the equilibrium of the machine and lead to early failure in the next cycle. The adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is truer than we previously realized.

Old Thinking:

There are three basic types of maintenance

  • Predictive
  • Preventive
  • Corrective

New Thinking:

There is a new, fourth type to consider

  • Predictive
  • Preventive
  • Corrective
  • Detective

The fourth type of maintenance relates to discovering problems before they might otherwise be noted. Predictive maintenance measures the effectiveness of a system, and as the effectiveness goes down it alerts the user to the potential need for repair before failure. Preventive are those tasks that help prolong the life of the system. Corrective takes place when there is a failure or evident problem. Detective has to do with discovering problems through other means. For example, consider a fire alarm system. If you have pull handles for fire alarms, how do you know if they are functioning? Under the old paradigm, you don’t. There is no predictive measure; you don’t routinely do anything to them, and the only way you would know they needed corrective maintenance is if they failed (which you would only discover in the event of a fire when you pulled it, and it didn’t work – too late). Detective maintenance means you set up a schedule in which you did pull them to see if they work; thus ensuring they are working when you need them.

Every company understands that maintenance is necessary. Whether that means warehouse painting or boiler cleaning or changing the oil, it has to be done routinely. What cutting edge companies are realizing is that there are solid profitability reasons to do routine maintenance.

When is the last time you conducted a comprehensive review of your maintenance procedures?


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