You’ve probably heard the term benchmark in relation to stock prices, but it’s also a great way to evaluate and improve your business. In this article, we’ll break down what maintenance benchmarks are and how they can help you make your maintenance department more efficient.

What is a benchmark?

A benchmark is a standard of comparison. A benchmark can be used as a reference point for measuring progress and comparing performance with other organizations. Benchmarking is a way to get an objective measure of your organization’s performance so you can see how well it stacks up against other companies in the same industry or sector.

In business, there are many types of benchmarks:

  • Financial measures such as profit margins or return on investment (ROI)
  • Non-financial measures such as customer satisfaction surveys
  • Process benchmarks such as total quality management (TQM)

How do you know what’s suitable as a maintenance benchmark?

In maintenance, a good benchmark should have the following qualities:

  1. Relevant: You’re measuring something that will help you improve your business. For example, measuring how long it takes someone in your company to perform maintenance on an asset would be relevant if you want to improve downtime. If, on the other hand, you were trying to increase sales by selling more products (a common goal), then measuring how much time your assets spend creating the product would be important to measure.
  2. Accurate: The measurements must accurately reflect what they’re supposed to (e.g. if we’re measuring downtime on an asset but only tracking one asset at our company instead of all the assets that may be down within 24 hours).

What are some examples of maintenance benchmarks?

Below are a few examples of maintenance activities that can be benchmarked:

  • Frequency of preventive maintenance
  • Frequency of corrective maintenance
  • Equipment downtime (annual or monthly), mean time between failures (MTBF), time to failure after installation
  • Average repair time (annual), mean time to repair (MTTR)

Ramesh Gulati, the author of Maintenance and Reliability: Best Practices, examines key performance indicators that can be easily measured and compared across businesses and industries. His book Maintenance and Reliability: Best Practices provides the metrics of well-performing companies. Most importantly, he outlines the performance of world-class companies so that you can compare it.

Here are some common maintenance KPIs and both average and world-class benchmarks according to Gulati:

Performance MeasureBest PracticeWorld Class
Maintenance cost
as percent of Replacement Asset Value
Maintenance material cost
as percent of Replacement Asset Value
Schedule Compliance40-90%>90%
Percent (%) Planned Work30-90%>85%
Production Breakdown Losses2-12%1-2%
Parts Stock-out Rate2-10%1-2%

There are two things to consider in the table:

  1. First, the performance is always measured as a percent. This means that the numbers are normalized to account for the size of the machine, total work orders being completed, or total production cost. In this case, taking the percentage is a way of normalizing your maintenance performance. Your data is more likely to tell you your actual performance status.
  2. Second, even world-class companies aren’t perfect. They make mistakes. Unplanned breakdowns happen despite the best intentions, equipment, and training of a top company. While you should aim to achieve zero breakdowns, you should always have a preventive maintenance plan to help you cope when something goes wrong.

What are the steps to benchmark maintenance activities?

  1. Define the problem before starting on the solution. For example, perhaps your team is doing too much reactive maintenance and, as a result, isn’t hitting production targets due to unplanned downtime.
  2. Set goals that are ambitious but realistic. If your team is doing too much reactive maintenance, create a process for the team to work through preventive maintenance strategies together for each asset. From there, you can set up new production targets for the team to achieve now that this new process is in place.
  3. Have a plan step for when things go wrong. Let’s say your asset breaks down completely, and it’s not a simple fix with a part replacement. Having a backup plan for when the worst-case scenario might happen is always a good idea.
  4. Be patient and give yourself time to achieve your goal. Set up a meeting with your team to check on your progress. Some teams set these up at 30, 60, and 90-day intervals and cross-compare the previous 30 days to the current.

Holding your team accountable to the benchmark

To hold your maintenance team accountable, you must set goals for them (see step 2 listed above). You can do this by assessing your current performance against the benchmark and then setting goals that are slightly higher than what you’re currently doing. For example, suppose your organization has been performing an average of 10 preventive maintenance activities per month on machines A and B over the last six months. In that case, one goal could be 11 PMs per month for these two machines. We can also convert benchmarks to PM percentage, so for example, out of all maintenance activities on asset A, the goal is for 80% of it to be planned and scheduled.

Benchmarking works because it allows you to understand where you are relative to others

Benchmarking is a great way to improve your maintenance activities. It allows you to understand where you are relative to others and helps identify areas where you need improvement. Benchmarking works because it gives everyone on the team a common goal they can work towards, increasing motivation and productivity in the long run.