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First, I should admit that the idea for this article resulted from a discussion this morning about my upcoming root canal (ouch time). Whether the root canal could have been avoided is a non-issue, the pain exists, the reactive maintenance solution is a root canal.

However, is a root canal also a proactive maintenance solution since it will stop further tooth decay as well as address the pain? Without a root canal, a person could potentially lose their teeth in addition to developing serious health risks. In this regard, a root canal can be considered proactive maintenance.

Shades of Maintenance Grey

If reactive maintenance can be considered proactive in certain situations how important is it to know the reason why the work was needed in the first place? This is not as simple a question as it seems. In fact, there are shades of grey in many work management issues.

Some examples where reactive maintenance work can be considered proactive include:

Reactive/Proactive Maintenance Examples

  • Fixing a leak – the leak could be caused by any number of problems but fixing it can stop major water damage from occurring.
  • Corrosion control – addressing corrosion issues can lengthen the time before piping/valves need replacement perhaps stop a major repair from an unexpected failure.
  • Opening Mississippi River spillgates – certainly a reactive solution to the rising flood waters but it also (pro-actively) prevented unwanted damage downriver in metropolitan areas.
  • Road Repair – classic case of potholes that can only be fixed after they occur. However, fixing them prevents accidents, lawsuits and unwanted constituent anger.
  • Common area maintenance – Fixing a broken door or cleaning up storm debris is reactive in nature but also prevents potential injury as well as reducing liability exposure.

The list of examples could go indefinitely, the point is almost every maintenance work order is a reaction to circumstances or events. The work performed is a reaction to a problem, expected problem, potential issue or need for preventive maintenance (such as changing an oil filter).

Understanding the Cause of Maintenance

In my root canal example above, I stated that the cause of the root canal was a non-issue. The solution was all that mattered because my mouth hurts and I just want it fixed. This is WRONG! Understanding what caused the problem is just as important as the root canal maintenance solution. A failure to learn from my mistakes will only lead me to repeat the behavior and suffer the same pain over and over.

Sadly, in many organizations the fix-it now reactive method of maintenance dominates the better asset and maintenance management that make proactive maintenance a priority. Moving away from a highly reactive maintenance operation is painful but can be done.

The ability to shift the maintenance focus from reactive to proactive starts with an EAM CMMS system that tracks assets from planning through replacement. The CMMS core engine of these software systems enables asset and maintenance managers to know the reason for each maintenance request.

Why is the Reason/Cause of the Maintenance Work Important?

The goal of any good maintenance management system is to reduce unplanned downtime, maximize uptime, reduce capital expenditures and make sure maintenance dollars are spent wisely. Knowing the reason behind every work request, work order or unplanned repair is the basis of all maintenance methodologies including PMCBMTPM and RCM.

Each methodology relies on acquired knowledge to predict and schedule maintenance. Acquiring knowledge about an assets work management history allows maintenance planners to develop the appropriate maintenance planning mix.

An EAM CMMS will schedule each work request, work order or unplanned maintenance activity. As activities are completed, the results are added to each assets history record. Asset and maintenance management can review these records to:

  • Identify recurring causes.
  • Adjust maintenance planning to focus the majority of maintenance resources on the 20% of assets that cause the most problems.
  • Schedule inspections and preventive maintenance based upon the work management history of assets.
  • Determine the cost/benefit of repair versus refurbishment or replacement.
  • Analyze vendor performance.
  • Ascertain maintenance skills levels and opportunities for EAM CMMS training.
  • Make better capital budget projections.
Unplanned Maintenance is a Fact of Life

Even the best maintenance planning will not be able to avoid unplanned or the occasional emergency repair as there are simply too many variables for 100% accuracy. However using an EAM CMMS system will give maintenance management enough time to conduct inspections and preventive maintenance to minimize unplanned disruptions.