Maintenance as a percentage of production costs remains a major expense for manufacturing and production facilities. The expense percentage will vary depending upon the type of industry, age of equipment, the sophistication of maintenance programs as well as general management skills. The commonality is that every organization has an opportunity to improve their processes and the lifecycle of assets. Some people focus on management, others on maintenance and a few believe that technology holds all the answers. The best method of lowering maintenance expenses is a combination of all of these.

The Critical Elements

The critical elements for developing a plan for maintenance improvement in order of importance are

    1. Management comprehension

      Management and maintenance management buy-in are absolutely crucial in order to execute change. Prehistoric mindsets, for example, this is how we have always done thingswe tried that once before and it didn’t work plus an aversion to technology must all be challenged. EAM Change is rarely a simple process and requires planning, knowledge and a willingness to work together for the benefit of a company. Change is a team effort and anyone suggesting differently should be replaced.Lots of consultants will tell you that you need a formal planning group, assignment of accountability, benchmarks etc. and this is all true. However, the bottom line is an organization cannot be afraid to take a financial step backward (invest in new methodologies or tools) in order to remain competitive in a global economy. Buy-in starts at the top and does not stop until the workers go along with the change. To accomplish this task, management needs a complete understanding of the manufacturing workflow BEFORE they think through the changes.
      Thinking through the changes means understanding the who, what, why, where and how the organization currently operates as well the details of how goals will be achieved. This information is knowledge-based and best of the class of manufacturers are sure to engage multiple departments, line managers and employees for feedback in order to ascertain enough information to progress forward.
    2. Knowing Your Assets Historically, the Mean-Time-to-Failure (MTTF) curve has indicated that during the lifecycle of an asset, equipment is most likely to need repair in the first few weeks after installation and again toward the end of its lifecycle. Although very important, the age of your assets is only one component of asset detail that needs to be collected. Other significant data collection includes
        • Location, description, designated use, expected useful lifecycle and initial costs to establish a baseline and distinguish operational environments. Knowing the operational environment is important especially if assets are subject to harsh weather conditions or corrosion.
      The annual cost of corrosion in the production and manufacturing category is $17.6 billion, which is 12.8% of the total cost of the sector categories examined in this study.
      Source: DNV Production and Manufacturing
      • Vendor information, contract data, vendor analysis. Identify all vendor contracts, terms, conditions along with cost structure. How well do your vendors perform in the eyes of the maintenance team?
      • Work order history – how many times, by whom, what work was performed, why, costs. The history of maintenance activity will enable management to determine a cost/benefit analysis and project the expected retirement or replacement date of assets. Accurate forecasting allows cash flows to be better utilized for capital equipment purchases.
      • Inventory needed for operation such as spare parts, lubricants, filters etc. Along with the carrying costs associated with inventory, tracking the movement of inventory may lead to additional signals that maintenance costs are starting to rise. In addition, no one wants to have downtime because the parts aren’t available. Management should know how many times this has occurred and why.
      • Record of work orders separated as a result of failure (unplanned downtime), inspections, preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance. This is necessary to understand the correlation between reactive firefighting which often involves overtime and proactive scheduling which costs much less.

The DUH factor here is if you can not put together all this information, then you have a problem. But do the best you can and proceed. The solution is at the end.

    1. Technology and Existing Knowledge With the information and support collected in the prior steps it is time to take a look around and see what technology is available to ease your pain. Technology comes in various forms which includes everything from software to mobile handheld devices to cutting edge diagnostic tools. Because technology is often industry specific it is not possible to provide an in-depth discussion for all manufacturing in this article. Some technology keys to consider are
      • Is the technology proven or bleeding edge? Bleeding edge technology can be easily defined as technology that cost more than expected to keep operating as a result of unexpected bugs, undeveloped/untested procedures and so on.
      • Combine technologies for best results if necessary. As an example, in manufacturing, there are several schools of thought regarding the value of preventive, predictive and other condition based maintenance solutions. The reality is, any maintenance solution that can decrease your reactive work orders is good. How much preventive vs. predictive maintenance depends on the type of equipment in use, its ability to have issues detected remotely and skill of your reliability engineers. It is ok if the best solution is to use multiple technologies.
      • Which technology will allow you to concentrate your resources on the core business? Bells and whistles are great but only if they improve conditions. Keep it simple, this will improve adoption rates as well as your rate of return.
      • There are many tools and methodologies that may be applied to manufacturing. These include but are not limited to Six Sigma, Kaizen, etc. If using these be sure to incorporate them into new EAM/CMMS tools.
      • Identify technology (and vendors) that can grow with you, that are looking for long term partnerships to become industry standards but most importantly can create a vision of an efficient and productive maintenance management team as well as minimize downtime and extend the useful lifecycle of assets.
    2. Evaluation

The final step is the analysis of all the information. You now know how your operations flow, the biggest issues and the technology available that can help you find a solution. Engage discussions with vendors to identify the optimal EAM/CMMS solution that best suits your needs. Assign project management/resources to develop an implementation schedule. Involve everyone and create the visibility necessary for senior management, shareholders and staff to throw in their support. Never lose sight of the original goal. Make a decision based upon which tool will help you make your maintenance operations more efficient, extend your assets lifecycle and optimize your uptime.

Final note. If in step two you are unable to capture your asset data, do not panic. The remaining steps are still valid and you have identified a major pain. Best of Breed EAM/CMMS vendors will help you collect and organize this data. Share with us how you determined which vendor to use