Asset Intelligence and Management

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Top 5 Maintenance Best Practices in 2024 

Maintenance best practices in 2024

If you are handling maintenance operations and have experienced unexpected equipment breakdowns, then you are not alone! As per a report, 72 major multinational industrial and manufacturing businesses lose around 323 hours of production each year, contributing to a loss of $172 million per plant – and several other types of businesses face similar scenarios. 

When you are not able to produce per schedule, you lose productivity and incur financial losses. These factors combined slow down a business’s growth – impacting its long-term sustainability. It is a vicious cycle. 

Solution: identify inconsistencies in equipment performance, and resolve them before they escalate into major problems – a practice commonly referred to as preventive maintenance. However, this is not the only strategy you can use to build a resilient asset landscape. 

While still in the planning stage of this year, this might be the right time to rethink your maintenance practices and strategies. This article will give you a walkthrough of the ways you can improve your existing practices and/or implement new ones for enhanced operations.  

Types of maintenance strategies 

Every business has a different strategy toward asset maintenance based on its needs and objectives. These strategies are aimed at giving direction to the operational workflows and easing up the process of maintenance management. Here are some key strategies used by businesses to maintain assets:

1. Planned maintenance

Planned maintenance involves scheduling maintenance at a defined period in time to prevent  equipment failures before they occur. The aim is to implement a proactive approach to handling equipment maintenance and avoid unanticipated halts in operations. 

Planned maintenance can be further broken down into two categories:

  • Preventive maintenance: It is carried out at predetermined intervals by following prescribed criteria. Preventive maintenance is time-driven and based on the assumption that the usability of a mechanical component of an asset will decline over its useful life cycle. So, checks are conducted to ensure those components are functioning properly. It includes activities like regular equipment inspection, partial or complete overhauls, oil changes, and lubrication, etc.
  • Predictive maintenance: It is different from preventive maintenance such that it determines when maintenance is needed based on the working condition of the machinery rather than its average life expectancy. It requires monitoring equipment during its normal operations to see if it’s working at its best – and if not, checking it in for maintenance. Some companies use periodic vibration analysis to continuously monitor high-value assets and simply check them in for maintenance when their vibration fluctuates.

2. Corrective maintenance

When implementing this strategy, maintenance is conducted after a breakdown has occurred. It involves restoring any failed pieces of equipment. It is typically performed at irregular intervals since technicians do not know when a certain machine will break down. 

The main aim here is to fix a problem in the shortest possible time using three steps: diagnosis, repair, and verification.

3. Routine maintenance

Not dependent on any broken parts or downtime, it includes some necessary activities such as cleaning, lubricating, and replacing batteries of all kinds of equipment. This is generally performed on a weekly or monthly basis. 

Routine checkups are conducted to determine the usability and functionality of a piece of equipment and keep it in good working condition. This way, you can recognize potential errors in the functioning equipment before they translate into major issues. 

Ways to select a maintenance strategy

Choosing the most accurate and suitable maintenance strategy can help optimize and streamline your workflows. No one strategy works the best – each strategy has its pros and cons. However, the adoption of a suitable strategy majorly depends on asset criticality,  asset lifecycle stage, and the cost of downtime. 

Asset criticality and lifecycle stage determine the costs associated with maintenance, and in turn, help decide the most suitable maintenance strategy for your business. Let’s look at them in detail: 

1. Asset criticality analysis

Asset criticality refers to analyzing the importance level of an asset. It involves inspecting the asset in detail to determine its criticality for daily operations, so it can be categorized accordingly. Asset categories are usually of two types in terms of importance: high-value and low-value. Highly critical assets are likely to have a higher value than others. 

Even though several factors can help assess the criticality of assets, the asset criticality matrix is widely used by several industries as a technically reliable method. It involves creating a grid or a table to categorize assets based on their importance, so the operations team can prioritize them in resource allocation and maintenance routines. 

Using this technique, create a risk matrix to analyze assets and a grid to match the severity level of the impact if an asset breaks down with its probability of occurrence. Equipment with high probability and severity is generally highly critical and requires immediate attention, and vice versa. See the image below for clarity: 

Asset criticality analysis

For highly critical assets, it would be a wise idea to adopt a preventive maintenance strategy to avoid any potential errors in their performance. 

2. Type of assets 

Not all maintenance strategies will suit all kinds of assets. They have to be tailored to meet the asset requirements. Some assets require frequent checks and monitoring because of the intensity of their role in business operations. 

For example, heavy equipment like trucks need to be checked regularly since they are used on construction sites or agricultural fields. So, predictive maintenance will be the most suitable to ensure that the asset is regularly maintained and does not malfunction. The cost of maintenance will automatically be higher. 

Likewise, the age of assets determines the strategy too. Older assets might require more frequent maintenance calling for preventive maintenance. 67% of companies say that aging equipment is a critical factor in downtimes and the biggest challenge in implementing a maintenance strategy. 

Asset criticality and types of maintenance strategies

3. Associated costs 

Every organization has a set budget allocated to conducting maintenance. As a maintenance manager, it is your responsibility to assess how to best utilize that budget while also achieving optimal equipment performance, and accounting for maintenance costs. Each maintenance strategy yields different costs based on its implementation and type of assets. 

Generally, if a strategy involves extensive inspecting and monitoring, it will likely cost more and take longer to implement. For instance, predictive maintenance is the most costly since it involves regular lengthy checks and assessment of assets. The ultimate cost of maintenance is dependent upon factors, such as: 

  • Cost of monitoring
  • Labor costs 
  • Repair urgency
  • Maintenance frequency 

The cost of each strategy is relative. It is also determined by the type of asset under question and the situation. For instance, for heavy assets, regular maintenance might be more apt than reactive maintenance because it is better to find problems before they even occur.

 This proactive approach helps avoid unexpected costs and downtime associated with maintenance. You can easily factor in the cost of monitoring and the cost of failure to determine how they differ with each strategy. For instance, the table below shows each strategy’s different failure and monitoring costs. 

Maintenance strategies and their cost of failure and cost of monitoring

5 Equipment maintenance best practices 

As per a study, 93% of companies deem their maintenance processes inefficient and unable to prevent unexpected equipment failure. But how to make these processes productive and results-oriented? 

The answer to this is simple: set, adjust, and monitor your maintenance processes based on your organizational goals and type of assets. This requires following some basic guidelines to develop coherence in maintenance workflows and manage a wide array of assets. Implementing some equipment maintenance best practices helps do that. These best practices include :

1. Gather baseline data

The first step to ensure quality equipment repairs and maintenance is to collect all the necessary information about the asset. This includes details about the asset history and how frequently the asset has been repaired/maintained. This information helps assess how many assets are damaged and require immediate repairs. 

It is advisable to collect information for machine downtime, average time between failures, replacement cost of parts, technicians’ response time, etc. The aim is to calculate the average cost of one hour of downtime and then use this statistic to design a viable maintenance strategy. 

Several organizations use the sensor approach to collect maintenance data. They install sensors on the equipment that gather data regarding the asset movement, temperature, pressure, and noise – helping analyze an asset’s health. Based on the strategy that you follow, you can collect and measure the data accordingly. 

2. Choose a maintenance management system

Once you have successfully identified the potential reasons for errors in equipment performance, you will require a platform to systematically handle these errors. Choosing the right maintenance management system helps implement and streamline your everyday maintenance workflows. 

These workflows could range from receiving repair requests to scheduling and implementing regular service sessions. All you need to do is add your asset information to the system and maintain a detailed maintenance record. 

A system automates maintenance record keeping – accelerating maintenance management. This level of automation means these systems have a faster response time to requests as compared to manual systems. Also, their ability to consolidate asset information into one place helps make customized and reliable asset records that aid the technicians in performing accurate repairs. 

You can also import large quantities of data into your chosen platform at once, reducing the time needed to gather asset data. With easily accessible records and the ability to schedule maintenance as per your needs, you can stay at the top of your maintenance game! 

The following graph shows a typical workflow for using a maintenance management system. Major steps include: 

  1. Create an asset repository
  2. Create a checklist
  3. Check asset availability 
  4. Reserve asset
  5. Schedule maintenance 
  6. Start service
  7. End service once completed
  8. Maintenance completed
Maintenance workflow

There is a growing global trend toward using maintenance systems to manage maintenance tasks. As per a report, the market for maintenance management systems is likely to grow at a CAGR of 9.1% from 2023 till 2033 with a market rate of US$ 1,636.2 million. So acquiring such a system will help strengthen your internal maintenance processes. 

3. Train the maintenance personnel

Your maintenance staff, including your technicians, should be well-trained to handle daily maintenance operations. Training includes ensuring that the maintenance teams are well-equipped to manage all aspects of maintenance. For instance, they must be able to use the maintenance management system as per their organizational use. 

Maintenance training is an elaborate process involving identifying your maintenance needs, gaps in knowledge regarding those needs, and the challenges faced by the staff in implementing certain practices. Here are a few pointers all maintenance managers must keep in mind to ensure quality and effective maintenance: 

  1. Actionable insights: The training should not only provide a roadmap of the critical tasks to improve the response times but equip the staff with real tools to expedite these processes. Show them new and innovative ways to recognize errors in machinery. 
  1. Maximize tool utilization: Teach them how to leverage the best tools for enhanced productivity. For instance, how to create an effective checklist for maintenance so no steps are missed. They should not only be acquainted with the textbook definitions of processes but shown how to handle the tools. 
  1. Documentation of training: Different maintenance managers/experts will likely be at the forefront of the training process, and trainers could change over time. Therefore, maintain proper documentation so you can refer to the previous training sessions and decide if the processes can be improved or replicated.
  1. Technicians onboarding: Staff and technicians are to be given a detailed walkthrough of your chosen maintenance management system through onboarding. Onboarding typically includes familiarizing your staff with the system. This reduces the time taken by staff to use the system and the chances of errors in the maintenance operations. 
  1. Identify patterns: Sometimes your equipment might be consistently breaking down due to some unnoticed factors. For example, a tractor might experience halts in functioning due to poor brakes. In such scenarios, it is important to give occupational training to technicians so they can run checks and quickly devise solutions to frequent breakdowns on their own. 

Successful training is a combination of precision, smooth onboarding, and quick decision-making so technicians can manage equipment care and maintenance well. 

4. Conduct inspections 

There are multiple types of inspections that your managers can run depending on business needs and type of assets. Inspections can vary from checking an asset’s wear and tear to ensuring there are enough spare parts for repair. Inspections are basically a way to detect and avoid errors in advance. 

Inspections can be scheduled on a regular or seasonal basis – based on the type of inspection required. Here are some basic types of inspections:

  • HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning)
  • Fire protection
  • Lighting
  • Electrical
  • Safety
  • Buildings
  • Fixtures and furniture
  • Plumbing

Almost every plant and piece of equipment has to be inspected before use. Generally, inspections are conducted, and documented with a maintenance management system to streamline the operational workflows better. Regular inspections are also ideal to stay compliant with your industry-wide regulations and ensure equipment repairs and maintenance. 

For instance, you can conduct inspections and identify hazardous factors disrupting workplace safety. This way, you can avoid penalties, fines, and the fear of not meeting the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards. Some common ways to make your inspections more effective include creating a strategy, drafting checklists, arranging the necessary resources, and training the staff. 

Ways to conduct quality inspections

5. Track Progress 

How often are you unable to measure the outcome of your maintenance activities? Most importantly, how many times have you repeated maintenance? Usually, lack of use and absence of quantifiable metrics create a ripple effect contributing to high costs and more frequent equipment failure. For instance, Fortune Global 500 companies suffer from losses of around US$864 billion per year; one of the biggest challenges they face is managing maintenance data. 

Streamlining these data points is one of the stepstones to tracking maintenance progress. One way to do this is using metrics to quantify maintenance data. Every maintenance strategy is backed by measurable metrics that can help assess their financial impact. The following list explains some of these widely used metrics: 

  1. Mean time to repair (MTTR): The average time taken to repair a piece of equipment after it has broken down. A high MTTR suggests a lower response time to errors. 

MTTR = Total repair time / Total number of repairs 

  1. Maintenance backlog: The amount of repair tasks in the queue that still need to be tended to. A high backlog, consisting of pending work orders, suggests a high number of maintenance requests that still need to be resolved. 

Maintenance backlog = Number of pending work orders / Total number of work orders

  1. Planned maintenance percentage (PMP): The percentage of maintenance activities that are planned or scheduled and are forecasted to be held in the future. This helps identify maintenance tasks that need to be completed or improved. Any maintenance with a score above 85% is classified as the best-performing maintenance. 

PMP = (No. of planned maintenance hours / No. of total maintenance hours) x 100 

  1. Mean time between failures (MTBF): The frequency by which a piece of equipment malfunctions in a specific time window or experiences the same kind of malfunctions. A low MTBF means that the equipment needs to be replaced/upgraded or serviced frequently. 

MTBF = No. of operational hours / No. of failures

  1. Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): OEE is a measure of identifying what manufacturing time is productive i.e., it produces a meaningful outcome. If something has an OEE score of 100%, it means that you are producing quality products with 100% performance and no stop time.

OEE = (Good Count × Ideal Cycle Time) / Planned Production Time

After clearly defining each metric, you can identify if you are implementing your maintenance routine correctly. Calculating these numbers from time to time helps assess whether you have been able to achieve certain financial goals and associated KPIs or not. This way, you can compare periods and identify maintenance gaps that can translate into serious problems. 

Ensuring implementation of best practices for equipment care and maintenance

As per Plant Engineering, 53% of organizations spend around 30 hours per week on maintenance. This means increased unavailability of necessary resources for actual operations that can lead to lost production and slow-down everyday operations. Keeping this in mind, simply implementing maintenance strategies is not the answer – practicing ways to better implement these strategies can work. 

1. Set internal quality control standards

Your final goal must be clear i.e., whether you want to increase the equipment uptime, reduce maintenance costs, or improve the quality of maintenance. Establishing standard protocols and internal controls helps identify deviations from the desired benchmarks of quality. 

2. Regularly attain feedback

Get feedback from your maintenance managers regularly. The feedback can be aimed at identifying discrepancies in the performed maintenance and the final result. You can establish feedback mechanisms with maintenance managers, technicians, and other personnel involved in the maintenance processes. These can include conducting surveys, and questionnaires and filling feedback forms after a maintenance activity has occurred. 

3. Generate maintenance logs

Generating an equipment maintenance log enables organizations to keep a detailed record of the maintenance activities conducted on a piece of equipment. This includes entering details, such as the technician’s name, date of repair, maintenance description, resources used, and additional feedback from the technicians. You can have a standardized format for each type of maintenance so the record can be consulted for the next maintenance/inspection. 

4. Send timely reminders

To conduct the scheduled maintenance on time, you must not miss the associated timeline. To do so, you can send timely reminders from time to time so your technicians never miss out on a date. These auto-generated alerts can be sent to the relevant personnel for timely perusal of maintenance requests. 

Implementation of best practices

Improving workflow efficiency with enhanced maintenance routines 

Employing the most relevant and best maintenance practices is the way organizations can achieve higher efficiency. Investing in quality maintenance helps keep your facility working at its best capacity. To achieve this quality, you need to periodically track progress and make necessary amendments. There are two kinds of key performance indicators that organizations can track for monitoring the effectiveness of their equipment maintenance strategy.

  • Estimated versus actual performance and compliance
  • Past events such as mean time to repair, overall equipment effectiveness and mean time between failures.

In a nutshell, robust maintenance best practices can boost your production efficiency by optimizing equipment usage. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the best maintenance practice? 

There is no single best maintenance practice. The practice you adopt depends on the quantity/quality, type of equipment, and organizational goals. 

2. How can maintenance records be documented? 

You can generate detailed records of all your maintenance activities by simply keeping a maintenance log, or filling out checklists when necessary. 

3. What is strategic maintenance planning?

Strategic maintenance planning refers to the process of organizing and maintaining a maintenance plan to conduct all maintenance activities smoothly. This includes assessing what assets need repair, the strategy that needs to be employed, and the quantity of resources needed to conduct the processes. 

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