Condition-based Maintenance Maintenance Predictive Maintenance Preventive Maintenance

Don’t Displace Precision Maintenance

Klaus M. Blache | March 1, 2022

Your success with Industry 4.0 implementation will rely heavily on a culture that is focused on precision maintenance.

Industry 4.0 is the digitalization of manufacturing processes and associated companies, suppliers, IT, and supply chains to enable smart manufacturing (autonomous decision making), Internet of Things (IoT), and smart industry.

It also includes items such as technology data exchange, autonomous robots, smart cobots, additive manufacturing, cloud computing/big data, edge, fog, augmented reality, virtual reality, machine learning, digital twins (for product/equipment performance) or service twins (for maintenance), cyber-security (more data connectivity equals more risk), more simulations and, overall, more autonomous decision making. Industry 4.0 is a vision that is evolving, but not without difficulty. 

At the same time, 75% of North America is still doing too much reactive maintenance and not enough planning and scheduling.

All will agree to wanting:

• assets to run as designed with minimal downtime
• precise standards, steps, and sequences to be followed when maintaining assets
• proper torque applied to all fasteners on all equipment
• repeatedly being able to sustain high reliability
• lower labor and spare-parts costs
• less maintenance fixing and more root-cause analysis and permanent fixes
• issue-free start-ups after large and complex shutdowns.

To achieve such results requires precision maintenance. Maintenance professionals need SOPs (standard operating procedures) to assure common practices are performed consistently by the same person and across the entire maintenance team. Our training partner in this category, Reliability Solutions (Reliability Solutions|Workforce Skills Training, Walnut Hill, FL,, defines precision maintenance as “the application of essential craft skills in a known, precise, disciplined, and documented manner.”

The work is not only about the assembly, installation, and repair of machinery. It’s also about how potential machine failures can be better understood and eliminated before entering the P-F (Potential Failure to Functional Failure) curve used to determine the frequency of predictive or condition-based maintenance. This is part of designing for reliability and maintainability.

Regarding Industry 4.0, the question is how much and how fast? There is still too little accountability on the plant floor in terms of following SOPs. This contributes to poor data integrity (accuracy and completeness). All of the digitalization technology, maintenance, and reliability isn’t going to help you much if you don’t trust your data enough to make the operational decisions that achieve best practices. My favorite W. Edwards Deming quote is, “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.”

The Industry 4.0 journey will continue to accelerate. However, it needs a robust plan for implementation and sustainability. If you are not performing at less than 10% reactive maintenance and following reliability and maintainability best practices, then getting there will require a significant change. It’s not more lean processes and new technologies that we need. It’s stable and reliable processes. Will you be ready to implement Industry 4.0 with a disciplined workforce culture that follows best practices and standard operating procedures? EP

Based in Knoxville, Dr. Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at



Klaus M. Blache

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