Swings in the economy have always played a part in the adjustment of operational planning. Traditionally the forecast of lower sales translates into finding ways to cut expenses and keep earnings (the bottom line) stable. Normally cutting expenses for operations means less support staff, hiring freezes, and a repair versus replacement strategy on equipment. But what happens when the forecast for low or declining sales does not improve or is mired in a deep recession?
A recent survey conducted by Facilities Planners and Architects, Inc. of facility managers and business owners revealed intended reactions to the current economic situation. The survey highlights are:
- Limiting capital expenditures to sustainability initiatives such as more efficient lighting systems
- More plans to reduce square footage
- Outsourcing non-core services such as janitorial services
- Assessing the condition of the facilities and better strategic planning of their use
- Initiating predictive maintenance programs
The results indicate a long overdue desire to become more energy efficient, a focus on core responsibilities by outsourcing non-core functions, a strategic look at assets and the initiation of efficiency and savings programs. The survey mentions predictive maintenance as one of the most popular choices for cost saving solutions. It should be noted that predictive maintenance is not the same as preventive maintenance. Successful predictive maintenance starts with preventive maintenance. To better understand let us take a look at both.
Predictive vs. Preventive Maintenance
Preventive maintenance occurs on a pre-determined schedule and is intended to increase efficiencies by reducing the amount of reactive work and increasing the ability of management to manage work. Most importantly, it allows for the early identification of problems and significantly increases the life cycle of equipment, lowers capital expenditure requirements and allows for better planning of capital budgets. In addition, when integrated with handheld technologies and a combination of asset management, work order management and inspections, work flow efficiencies are increased to maximum levels. The data collected through this method becomes the building block for predictive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance does have its benefits in a difficult economy particularly because it can be less labor intensive than preventive maintenance. Predictive maintenance programs are based upon the actual condition of the equipment and a determination of when maintenance should be performed to minimize costs. New technology techniques such as ultrasound, infrared and vibration online testing make predictive maintenance a viable alternative in certain circumstances. However, for most equipment the complex metrics for making educated guesses (predictive) is provided by preventive maintenance programs.
The goal of a facility manager or business owner is to make sure equipment has the highest possible uptime and to extend the life cycle of the equipment as long as possible at the most reasonable economic cost. Some predictive maintenance plans will require a capital investment in higher technology sensing equipment but most will be built upon the foundation and metrics provided by an existing preventive maintenance program. Facility managers should not rely on just a predictive maintenance solution to save expenses, especially if dealing with high-value equipment or if safety is at stake.
Tough times call for tough decisions as both preventive and predictive maintenance programs have their place. The solution may be a combination of the two maintenance programs or it may be dependent on your industry, type of equipment and survival strategy. What is your company going to do?