Maintenance and Reliability Practices Study

EP Editorial Staff | October 1, 2002

What MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY readers are saying about how they measure success, barriers to better maintenance, and outsourcing strategies.

What are the most important issues facing maintenance and reliability management?

What are the perceived barriers to success?

What functions are most likely to be outsourced?

To find the answers to these and other questions about the practice of equipment reliability, maintenance, and asset management, MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY and Rockwell Automation surveyed a sample of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY readers.


We found that equipment reliability issues have been gaining importance, that maintenance and reliability improvement is most constrained by limited resources (manpower and budget), and that equipment maintenance is the least likely activity to be outsourced. It was found that uptime is the most often used measure of performance of maintenance and reliability activities, and that maintenance cost reduction was the least used measure. Other often used performance measures are equipment availability and overall equipment effectiveness.

Survey findings are outlined in the section “Current Maintenance Practice.” Information on survey methodology is reviewed in the secations “How the Survey was Conducted” and “Who Responded to the Survey?”.

Here is a point-by-point discussion of survey results covering maintenance responsibility, performance indicators, major issues affecting maintenance performance, and outsourcing strategies.

Uptime responsibility

In addition to maintenance and reliability, which function is most responsible for production equipment uptime? That was the first question on our survey. Operations was the top pick, by almost three to one—60 percent of respondents cited operations, followed by engineering at 22 percent and plant management at 14 percent.

Project involvement

Maintenance and reliability leadership plays a prominent role in decision-making for plant strategies and projects. According to respondents, department leaders are usually involved or always involved in plant improvement decisions 79 percent of the time; capital projects, 73 percent; equipment asset management, 73 percent; productivity improvements, 67 percent; and outsourcing, 64 percent, as noted in Fig. 1.

Team effort, mostly
Production equipment management and reliability is a team effort in most plants. As can be seen in Fig. 2, when it comes to production equipment management and reliability issues, maintenance/reliability, engineering, operations, and plant management groups are involved frequently or all the time in more than two-thirds of the cases. Finance, purchasing, and corporate management are involved significantly less.

As expected, the maintenance and reliability function is more involved—two-thirds of the respondents saying this group is involved all the time. Similarly, about one-third of engineering, operations, and plant management groups are involved all of the time.

Uptime is king
Success is most often measured by one metric: Uptime. Of the performance measures offered, more than two-thirds of the respondents indicate that the primary measure of success is related to equipment performance: Uptime at 36 percent, availability at 18 percent, and overall equipment effectiveness at 15 percent. As can be seen from Fig. 3, the financial and work process metrics of preventive maintenance schedule compliance, budget compliance, work backlog, maintenance cost reductions, and storeroom inventory levels are less often used.

Most important issues
Of the important issues facing plants, health and safety takes its rightful place as the most important. It is followed closely by equipment reliability and improving uptime.

Respondents were asked to rate the importance to their company of 10 issues on a five-point scale: not important, marginally important, important, somewhat important, and very important. The tallies for somewhat important and very important ratings are displayed in Fig. 4.

The six top-ranked issues, all with somewhat-very important scores of more than 80 percent are: health and safety (92 percent), equipment reliability (88 percent), improving plant/facility uptime (88 percent), improving quality (85 percent), environmental compliance (83 percent), and cutting manufacturing costs (82 percent). Lesser ratings were given to optimizing machine performance, maximizing utilization of plant equipment, integrating MRO into the supply chain, and continuity planning/disaster recovery.

More intensity now
Three years ago, respondents say, the six most important issues were the same. Equipment reliability was the 5th most important issue then. It is the 2nd most important issue today.

Although the top issues remained the same during the past three years, their importance has grown. The six top issues, ranked in order of their relative increase in “very important” responses from three years ago and now, are equpment reliability (105 percent), improving quality (86 percent), improving plant/facility uptime (82 percent), cutting costs (78 percent), environmental compliance (71 percent), and health and safety (58 percent). The relatively small increse in health and safety is explained by its importance three years ago when it lead all other categories by 10 points.

Room for improvement
Survey respondents spend more than three times as much effort on reactive maintenance as they believe they should. That was the result of a survey question asking participants to indicate the amount of time their company currently spends in reactive maintenance, routine/preventive maintenance, condition-based/predictive maintenance, and shutdown/turnaround work and how much time should ideally be spent in those categories.

The breakout for current work was 40 percent reactive, 32 percent routine/preventive, 15 percent condition-based/predictive, and 13 percent shutdown/turnaround. Ideally, respondents felt that only 12 percent of work should be reactive, and that routine/preventive should be boosted to 44 percent and condition-based/predictive to 33 percent. These figures are shown graphically in plot in Fig. 5.

Barriers to improvement
Lack of resources is the major barrier to implementing a more comprehensive asset management program. Over half of respondents identified lack of manpower (53 percent) as a major or insurmountable barrier followed by budgetary restraints (47 percent). Lesser barriers were: too busy reacting to machine problems to be proactive/strategic, lack of management understanding of maintenance strategies, level of maintenance employee training, and not sure how to justify improved best maintenance practices. The relative importance is shown in Fig. 6.

Justifying new equipment
To justify new equipment or process expenditures, most respondents rely on anticipated productivity improvements or return on investment. The survey asked respondents to select one or two of the following justification approaches: productivity improvement (54 percent), cost savings (38 percent), return on investment (50 percent), return on net assets (9 percent), and payback (24 percent).

Outsourcing strategies
Operations such as boiler/HVACR maintenance and facility management are commonly outsourced, while equipment maintenance is the least likely to be outsourced. Respondents were asked to rate their outsourcing of various functions by frequency: never, rarely, sometimes, frequently, and all the time. Functions outsourced frequently or all the time, in decreasing order, are boilers/HVACR maintenance (42 percent), facilities management, including building and grounds (42 percent), instrument maintenance (23 percent), equipment repair (18 percent), reliability analysis (15 percent), condition monitoring analysis (13 percent), storeroom and inventory management (11 percent), operations labor (10 percent), and equipment maintenance (7 percent).

The most common reasons cited for outsourcing equipment maintenance and reliability or repair activity are manpower (74 percent) and limited skills or experience (58 percent). Other reasons checked: not a core competency of the organization (33 percent), cost reduction (25 percent), regulatory compliance (25 percent), liability issues (22 percent), experience with outsourcing activities (19 percent), and greater accountability (7 percent).

When selecting an outsourcing vendor, respondents put knowledge at the top of the list of considerations. They rated considerations on a five-point scale: not important, marginally important, important, somewhat important, and very important. The ranking, in descending order by the proportion of respondents selecting somewhat important or very important are: knowledge (86 percent), experience (82 percent), performance (78 percent), business relationship (70 percent), reputation (69 percent), cost (55 percent), other available products and services (43 percent), and recommendation/referral (34 percent).

Measuring outsourcing success
Although cost issues are well down the list of reasons for outsourcing and vendor selection considerations, cost saving is the most popular method companies measure the success of outsourced equipment maintenance and repair activities. When asked to check the ways they measure outsourcing success, 62 percent checked cost saving, followed closely by overall equipment effectiveness at 57 percent and improved uptime also at 57 percent. Other success measures were return on investment at 32 percent, ability to apply predictive and preventive maintenance measures at 31 percent, and return on net assets at 9 percent.

We hope the survey results reported here can be used to help maintenance and reliability professionals and their peers in industrial plants and major facilities identify opportunities for improvement.

Overall, it is a call for action. It is the author’s opinion, after reviewing detailed survey data, that many maintenance and reliability organizations are caught in a bind. On the one hand, they recognize that the barrier to a more comprehensive maintenance process is lack of manpower and money. On the other hand, the only way to get more done with fewer people and less money is to install a comprehensive maintenance process with robust planning and scheduling capabilities.

The answer seems obvious—without positive change, the situation will continue to deteriorate. And positive change will probably not be possible without the commitment of additional time, money, and manpower. If done intelligently, there should be an attractive return on the investment.

As one maintenance sage once said: “Good maintenance costs money, but poor maintenance costs more.” MT

For further information about the survey, contact Robert C. Baldwin, MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY; (847) 382-8100; or Howard Mars, Rockwell Automation, Milwaukee, WI; (414) 382-0153

Current Maintenance Practice

Here are highlights from our survey:

  • Besides maintenance and reliability, 60 percent of respondents cited operations as the department next most responsible for ensuring production equipment uptime.
  • In more than two-thirds of plants, maintenance and reliability leadership is significantly involved in plant improvements, capital projects, and productivity improvements.
  • Production equipment management is a team effort. In many plants, engineering and operations are always involved (33 and 32 percent, respectively), but that is half the rate of maintenance and reliability.
  • Uptime is most often used by 36 percent of respondents to measure performance of maintenance and reliability activities. Other measures are equipment availability at 18 percent and overall equipment effectiveness at 15 percent.
  • Maintenance cost reduction is the most often used performance measure in only 5 percent of plants.
  • Health and safety is the most important issue in most plants—92 percent rank it somewhat or very important.
  • Equipment reliability is the second most important issue, up from fifth place three years ago. It is ranked somewhat or very important by 88 percent.
  • Limited manpower is cited as the number one barrier to the implementation of a more comprehensive asset management program—53 percent rank it as a major or insurmountable barrier.
  • Plants spend 40 percent of maintenance effort on reactive tasks, but see 12 percent as the ideal amount.
  • Boilers/HVACR and facilities management are the most likely functions to be outsourced—42 percent of plants do it frequently or all the time.
  • Equipment maintenance is the least likely function to be outsourced—7 percent of plants do it frequently or all the time. However, the figure for equipment repair is 18 percent.
  • The major reasons for outsourcing maintenance and repair activity are limited manpower and skills—74 percent of plants checked manpower, 58 percent checked limited skills/experience.

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How The Survey Was Conducted

Survey objectives

The survey was conducted to identify key issues facing maintenance and reliability management and assess needs and expectations with respect to asset management, as well as to determine opinions about outsourcing of maintenance functions.

Survey methodology
Potential participants, drawn on an nth name basis from a target list of MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY subscribers, were invited via e-mail to complete a 19-item online survey. Five items were directed at determining the demographics of the respondents, ten items to drawing out practices and opinions of maintenance and reliability personnel, and four items to learning about respondents’ opinions regarding outsourcing. A copy of the questionnaire can be viewed at www.mt-online.com/special/survey0205.

Because the survey was aimed at maintenance and reliability management, the target list was limited to subscribers in job responsibilities described as corporate/multiplant, plant/facility managers, and maintenance/reliability managers. The list was further segmented by business classifications: Raw materials processing industries, OEMs of manufacturing systems, transportation and communications (including aircraft, automotive, and shipping), instrumentation and control equipment manufacturers, fabricated metal and miscellaneous manufacturers, and utility services (electric, gas, water works, and sewage plants).

Survey response
E-mail invitations to participate in an online survey were sent May 6, 2002 to approximately 960 MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY subscribers. A reminder was sent on May 13 to those who had not yet responded. A second reminder was sent on May 15.

When the survey was closed on May 17, slightly more than 23 percent (229) of the 978 people invited (including pretest participants) had responded.

Survey sponsors
The survey was sponsored by MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine and Global Manufacturing Solutions Group, Rockwell Automation, a global industrial automation company with headquarters in Milwaukee, WI.

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Who Responded To The Survey?

More than 80 percent of the respondents worked in maintenance and reliability (67 and 14 percent, respectively) followed by plant management (6 percent), production or operations (6 percent), engineering (3 percent), and information technology (1 percent). All the respondents, regardless of department, are involved in maintenance and reliability because that is one of the qualifications for receiving MAINTENANCE TECHNOLOGY magazine at no charge.

Respondents’ function roles were varied: 40 percent were in management (corporate, plant, maintenance, or engineering), 20 percent were in supervision, and 31 percent were engineers and technicians.

Large and small companies were represented. Nearly half the companies (47 percent) had annual revenue exceeding $1 billion.

Maintenance budgets ranged from less than $500,000 (22 percent) to more than $8 million (19 percent).

Respondents represented a variety of industries including petrochemical, food and beverage, electric utilities, and automotive.

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To what degree is your department leadership involved in decision-making for the following activities?


Fig. 1. Maintenance and reliability leadership plays an important role in decision-making for a variety of plant initiatives.

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Within your facility, to what degree are the following groups involved in production equipment management and reliabiliy issues?


Fig. 2. Production equipment management and reliability is a team effort, with maintenance playing the key role.


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At your plant, which of these is most often used to measure performance of maintenance and reliability activities?


Fig. 3. Uptime or the associated performance metrics of availability and OEE are used by more than two-thirds of the respondents.

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How important are each of the following to your company today?


Fig. 4. Health and safety leads the list of important issues facing maintenance and reliability personnel.

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How would you allocate the percentage of time your company spends on each equipment maintenance activity?


Fig. 5. Respondents spend 40 percent of their time with reactive work, but believe it should be only 12 percent.


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How much of a barrier are each of the following in preventing your company from implementing a more comprehensive asset management program.


Fig. 6. Lack of resources (manpower and budget) poses the strongest barrier to maintenance and reliability improvement.

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