Some organizations don’t really have a maintenance strategy. They wait for something to break and they fix it. That’s generally known as reactive maintenance, or unplanned maintenance, or breakdown maintenance. And while this type of maintenance can be a part of a well-conceived, well-executed organizational maintenance strategy, if that's all your organization is doing to maintain equipment and machines, it’s not accurate to call it a maintenance strategy. And you’re probably losing lots of money on maintenance, too.
But other organizations have learned they can benefit from maintenance strategies that rely much less on reactive maintenance and much more on a variety of different proactive solutions. By using these more proactive approaches to maintenance, these organizations reduce costly machine downtime; make better use of the organization’s time, money, and other resources; allow for better planning of maintenance activity that’s less likely to stop or slow production; make it easier to plan ahead and ensure proper tools and parts are in stock before maintenance happens; improve worker safety and health and product quality; and help change the perception of the maintenance department from a cost to a revenue center.
In this article, we’ll introduce you to some common maintenance strategies (used in both industrial maintenance and facilities maintenance), briefly explain each to you, and introduce you to online tools for facilities maintenance training and industrial maintenance training to help your organization implement your chosen maintenance strategies, develop a more skilled maintenance workforce, and improve maintenance at your organization.
Commonly used maintenance strategies include:
Let’s introduce you a little more to each in the sections below.
The five strategies listed below begin with reactive strategies and then move into more proactive strategies. Additionally, the strategies later in the list tend to require more technology and/or upfront time, effort, and cost to implement, although they also generate greater cost savings and contribute to greater operational efficiency over time, making the initial increases worth it.
Reactive maintenance means simply waiting for things to break and then reacting to fix them. It’s generally understood that relying exclusively on reactive maintenance leads to higher overall maintenance costs. It also contributes to lower productivity (measured through OEE, for example) and quality and increased safety and health risks.
Here are some convincing reasons to reduce the amount of reactive maintenance your organization performs.
When we move from reactive maintenance to preventive maintenance, we make our first step into proactive maintenance activities (preventive maintenance and all maintenance strategies listed below are proactive instead of reactive in nature).
Preventive maintenance is maintenance that’s done on a schedule, before the assets break down.
That schedule can be based on performing maintenance tasks after a specific amount of time, such as every month, or based on machine usage, such as after a specific number of operation hours.
Read more here about how preventive maintenance can improve efficiency, quality, and safety.
One problem with the simple preventive maintenance strategies detailed in the section above (performing maintenance routinely after a given amount of time or machine usage) is the risk that this can lead to performing too much maintenance or not performing maintenance frequently enough, and perhaps contributing to machine wear and tear or even increasing the changes of machine breakage and downtime.
Conditions-based maintenance can help reduce these risks by focusing on conducting maintenance in reaction to actual conditions within the machinery (instead of just days on a calendar or run hours). Various technologies, such as oil analysis, vibration analysis, and infrared and/or ultrasonic testing are used to get a sense of the real conditions within a machine. That information is then used to schedule maintenance at the correct time, reducing the risks of both conducting too much maintenance and the risk of a machine breaking down.
Predictive maintenance is similar to conditions-based maintenance only you’re evaluating more sources of information to determine the current sense of the machine, including your maintenance logs, OEE data, environment and weather data, and a range of information from sensors on your machines (thanks to the Industrial Internet of Things, or IIoT).
Predictive maintenance is considered to be more accurate than conditions-based maintenance because it’s making use of more data, but it also brings with it higher levels of costs, at least initially.
Read more here about predictive maintenance and listen to this short interview with Dr. Klaus Blach of the University of Tennessee’s Reliability & Maintainability Center (UTRMC) discussing conditions-based maintenance and predictive maintenance.
Finally, the last maintenance strategy we’ll explain is prescriptive maintenance. Prescriptive maintenance involves using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to not only proactively predict when maintenance will be needed, but to also suggest potential maintenance solutions.
There’s no single correct answer to this that applies to all organizations. In fact, even one organization may choose to rely on different maintenance strategies for different reasons.
For example, while it’s generally recommended that reduce the amount of reactive maintenance you conduct, that also doesn’t apply in every context. For example, think about the light bulbs in your organization. Could you apply a bunch of sensors and analyze data from those sensors using artificial intelligence and machine learning to know exactly when and how to maintain your light bulbs? Sure. Would it be worth the expense? No. Because when a lightbulb goes out, it’s easy, quick, and inexpensive to replace it, and it most likely won’t lead to operational downtime.
Cost of implementation is something to consider as well. While the latest-and-greatest prescriptive maintenance strategy sounds pretty cool, it does come with high costs that may be beneficial for only certain machines or maybe won’t be worth implementing at all in your organization.
So the best way to create your organization’s overall maintenance approach is to understand these different maintenance strategies, understand your own needs, and make the best decisions for your operating context.
At Vector Solutions, we’d be happy to assist your organization in training your maintenance workers, implementing your chosen maintenance strategies, and creating an overall culture of maintainability and reliability excellence.
For training, we offer two primary tools to help your organization help maintenance techs acquire knowledge, develop skills, and perform their job roles in a way that helps your organization reach its primary business goals. These include multimedia online maintenance training courses (featuring 3D animations) and a learning management system, or LMS.
Our 3-D animated online maintenance training courses were created in combination with maintenance subject matter experts (SMEs) and industrial designers to maximize training effectiveness and on-the-job performance. These online courses will help your workers develop critical maintenance job skills related to:
Additionally, we offer an entire series of facilities maintenance online training courses as well.
Our learning management system, or LMS, is a cloud-based software application that allows your organization to manager and administer your maintenance training—and in fact, all training—in an efficient, comprehensive, scalable manner. This includes training that occurs online but also offline (in the real world). You can read more about learning management systems (LMS) here.
We’ll partner with you in every step of your maintenance tech training program, including providing you best practices for maintenance training grounded in evidence-based practices.
Finally, we believe that individual learning and development, organizational learning, a positive organizational culture, and continuous improvement are at the roots of any organization’s successes, including organizations or departments focused on maintenance. To learn more about this, please check out our recorded, on-demand webinar, Creating a Learning Culture to Improve Organizational Learning, Reliability & Maintainability.
Please contact us if you have some questions or would like to set up a preview or demo.