Maintenance Predictive Maintenance Preventive Maintenance Reliability

Streamline Your Maintenance

EP Editorial Staff | September 1, 2022

The foundation of streamlined maintenance is waste elimination, which can involve doing too little or too much work.

Eliminating waste is the first step toward efficient maintenance systems that drive reliability.

By Eric Whitley, L2L

Maintenance costs can range from 20% to 60% of a company’s total operating expenses. Depending on the type of industry, a facility could easily spend half its daily budget just on maintenance tasks and supplies. While this may seem like an overwhelming amount, the alternative of having inoperable machines is simply out of the question. The only sustainable way to reduce costs is to manage the allocation of resources, i.e., streamline your maintenance operations.

Eliminate waste

Before discussing streamlining maintenance, it helps to understand what causes waste. Lean manufacturing is famous for the concept of identifying and eliminating sources of waste. Unsurprisingly, the same concepts apply to pinpointing inefficiencies in the maintenance process. 

The first two types of waste are overproduction and overprocessing. From a maintenance point of view, these types of waste come from unnecessary servicing. Without a clear and sound basis that initiates a maintenance requirement, teams are prone to either do too little or too much. Not performing enough maintenance increases the risk of breakdowns. Overdoing maintenance results in waste.

While performing maintenance work, three other types of waste tend to appear: travel time, inventory, and motion. The requirement to transport spares and materials to perform maintenance work results in productivity losses. It may be tempting for teams to store excess inventory to reduce travel-time waste, but any interim and unnecessary or repetitive actions are considered waste from motion.

The last two types of waste are associated with rework and unnecessary waiting times. Both of these arise from poor maintenance scheduling and planning. 

Identify the correct strategy

The next step toward streamlining maintenance is choosing the most appropriate maintenance strategy. While reactive maintenance is not entirely avoidable, it is good practice to keep it to a minimum. Proactive maintenance is a broad term that describes any maintenance strategy that aims to service equipment before any significant deterioration. Preventive maintenance (PM) is a commonly interchangeable term describing a maintenance approach aiming to avert equipment breakdowns. Many other categories exist under these broad terms, with the key variations having to do with the way they trigger a maintenance requirement. The most conventionally used PM strategies follow a schedule- or usage-based approach. 

Predictive maintenance (PdM) is one of the more advanced strategies available today. It capitalizes on gathering and analyzing real-time data to detect the most subtle indicators of suboptimal equipment performance. PdM has provided real-life maintenance cost reductions by 30%, while improving unplanned downtime by 25%.

Streamlined maintenance

Whichever maintenance strategy you eventually choose to trend your reliability the right way, you will need an expansive view of your assets. While this sounds like a daunting task, the good news is that numerous tools are available to make things easier and more accurate.

For example, CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management Software) has been around for decades. It is a tool that incorporates the maintenance activities of all assets within a facility. Typical automation opportunities with a CMMS include work-order generation, condition monitoring, and execution progress.

EAM (Enterprise Asset Management) software (learn more here) takes it a notch higher by looking after assets throughout their entire life cycles. Modern EAM programs focus more on the plant floor rather than just feeding data into another system, such as an ERP. The capabilities of a modern EAM software broaden the view to consider maintenance and performance analytics and process improvements to enhance asset efficiencies.

Optimize maintenance activity

Any available tool or application used to streamline maintenance is only as good as the data it receives. While CMMS and EAM software have the brainpower to analyze an entire operational facility, providing incomplete or inaccurate data can throw off what would have been a proper analysis. These types of software rely on accurate and comprehensive material master data.

For instance, a Bill of Materials (BOM) is a standard functionality of most modern CMMS or EAM. An equipment BOM lists all the bits and pieces of a component or machine. While it can take time to perform that initial step of building BOMs for assets, the payoff is tremendous in terms of maintenance efficiency and automation. An accurate BOM enables teams to identify a spare instantly instead of sifting through all the drawings, manuals, and endless catalogs.

Having accurate data in the system allows teams to efficiently execute planned work schedules. Using CMMS or EAM to generate work orders, for example, ensures that all activities go through a documentation system. This process allows maintenance managers to track and reflect the actual cost of maintenance work. More importantly, such a system paints a realistic picture of the resources required for maintenance. Modern apps make it easier for maintenance technicians by providing mobile functionality and user-friendly interfaces.

Resource efficiency

Efficiency and improvements go beyond the maintenance work themselves and dive into the activities that surround servicing equipment. Think about streamlining maintenance as a snowball effect that ensures benefits in stores, inventory, and the supply chain. 

A good example of expanding resource efficiency is using EAM to set up the MRO spare-parts stores to optimize inventory. With an enterprise-wide view of maintenance strategies and applicable assets, the system can highlight opportunities and eliminate redundancies. A practical example is to keep track of compatible spares with a pooled reserve so that the facility will not need to hold as many units. A data-driven analysis of spares consumption is your best bet to assess which parts to stock, in what quantities, and to determine corresponding replenishment cycles. 

The domino effect continues when the time comes to issue an order. Modern EAM platforms allow integration into procurement systems that then automatically generate purchase orders. Periodic reports, with access to a thorough usage history, and dependable forecasts give companies leverage when negotiating with suppliers.

Reducing maintenance costs can easily be misunderstood as simply slashing the budget to achieve a target. However, streamlining maintenance is actually about identifying and eliminating the sources of waste and maximizing available tools to find better uses for resources. A streamlined maintenance approach paves the way for increased reliability while achieving resource efficiency. EP

Eric Whitley is Director of Smart Manufacturing at L2L, Salt Lake City (L2L.com), where he helps clients learn and implement a pragmatic and simple approach to corporate digital transformation. In addition to many publications and articles, he played a leading role in the Total Productive Maintenance effort at Autoliv ASP and in the Management Certification programs at The Ohio State Univ., where he served as an adjunct faculty member.

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