Maintenance analysis has changed a lot over the last decade or so. New tools and technology have increased our ability to collect and interpret data. It’s enabled us to make informed decisions that wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago.
But if our understanding of maintenance analysis has changed, why do we still rely on the same handful of metrics we did 40 or 50 years ago?
Metrics like overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and mean time to repair (MTTR) dominate almost every list of go-to industry measurements. But experts agree that they’re flawed. Not only are these traditional metrics prone to bias and inaccuracy, but they also often don’t have a purpose. And when data doesn’t have a purpose, you can’t use it to make key decisions, like whether to hire an extra technician or increase the frequency of a task.
That’s why we’ve put together 10 useful metrics you won’t see on any other list and some tips for how to use them to improve your maintenance program.
10 maintenance metrics for better maintenance analysis
#1 – Time spent supporting production
What is it?: The total time that the maintenance team spends on production-focused activities. Usually measured weekly, monthly, or quarterly.
How can you use it?: Everyone has to pitch in to complete a big order once in a while. But when once in a while turns into every day, maintenance suffers. This metric helps you catch an unhealthy backlog before it happens and reallocate resources to prevent it. It also helps you advocate for a higher headcount on your team or an increased training budget to help production staff learn minor maintenance tasks.
#2 – Follow-up work created after inspections
What is it?: The number of corrective work orders created from routine inspections. Usually measured monthly, quarterly, or annually.
How can you use it?: There are many different ways you can use this metric for maintenance analysis. You can sort it by machine, shift, or site to get insights into how your assets or team are performing. But the most useful is by task.
It’s a good sign when regular preventive maintenance includes follow-up repairs. It means your schedule is accurate and that you’re preventing bigger problems. It allows you to flag common repairs and build processes to make them more efficient. For example, you can create parts kits for quicker access.
If the failed inspection percentage is low, you can increase preventive maintenance intervals. This will reduce the amount of time and money spent on tasks without increasing risk.
#3 – Cost of follow-up maintenance vs expected cost of total failure
What is it?: A comparison between the cost of corrective maintenance (i.e. labor and parts) and the cost of asset failure if maintenance is not done (i.e. lost production, labor, and parts).
How can you use it?: Use this type of maintenance analysis to plan your maintenance strategy. For example, if regular inspections cost you more than failure, you can likely go with a run-to-failure approach for an asset over a preventive one.
You can also use this metric to prioritize tasks and backlog, and figure out how to allocate your budget.
#4 – Cost by maintenance type
What is it?: The total cost of maintenance (i.e. labor and parts) by maintenance type (ie. preventive, emergency, follow-up). Usually measured monthly, quarterly, and/or annually.
How can you use it?: Higher costs are usually the result of broken processes. This view allows you to find out which processes need work so you can increase efficiency.
For example, are work orders unclear and leading to increased repair times and labor costs? Try clarifying instructions.
Are you bringing outside contractors in to do emergency repairs? You could invest in more training for your team or hire a specialist.
#5 – Clean start-ups after maintenance
What is it?: The number of times a production line starts without stoppages or waste after completed maintenance. This is measured monthly, quarterly, and annually.
How can you use it?: Include this metric in your maintenance analysis to draw a direct line between your team’s work and increased output.
If clean start-ups are low, it gives you another chance to spot problems in your processes. For example, you might find that the specs for a production line may be out of date. This will lead technicians to rebuild components incorrectly and the line to stall. Updating the specs is a simple tweak that could lead to higher output.
#6 – Size of backlog
What is it?: The total number of hours of overdue and scheduled maintenance tasks. Track this metric weekly and monthly.
How can you use it?: This metric can be a godsend when it comes to getting your team some much-needed relief. Quantify the gap between available labor hours and your total backlog hours. You might find that the amount of backlog far outpaces how much your team can do. Use that to make a case for more budget to spend on extra overtime, hiring another technician, or bringing in more contractors.
#7 – Top 10 assets by downtime
What is it?: This is your heavy hitters list—the equipment that breaks down most often or takes the longest to repair. Keep tabs on these assets weekly, monthly, and quarterly.
How can you use it?: This metric keeps your biggest problems visible. You might raise an eyebrow at that, but highly visible problems get solved the fastest. This kind of maintenance analysis can help you prioritize your problem-solving efforts, make decisions quickly, and measure their impact.
For example, if you know asset A is at the top of your downtime list, you can start by isolating the reason why. Is it because repairs take longer on that asset? Is work being delayed? Does that piece of equipment break down again and again?
The answer to these questions will give you an idea of how to prevent failure in the future. You might get rid of obsolete parts that keep breaking. Or put an extra technician on a job. Or clarify how much lubrication should be used on a bearing. If all else fails, conducting this type of maintenance analysis helps justify a capital expenditure on new equipment.
What is it?: The ratio of planned maintenance to all other types of maintenance over the last 90 days.
How can you use it?: This is a measure of progress. Going from reactive to planned maintenance doesn’t happen overnight. The time frame allows you to make a clear connection between action and results. You can draw a line between what happened and its impact on your end goals.
For example, if your percentage has dropped, you can look at what happened in the last 90 days to cause that drop. That could be a massive, unexpected breakdown. Or an increase in production support during the busy season. If you want to increase the percentage, try creating a better work request process to uncover problems earlier. Or shorten inspection intervals on assets with the highest instances of unexpected downtime.
#9 – Wrench time (last 90 days)
What is it?: The amount of time technicians spend working on a piece of equipment as part of the total time it takes to complete a job. This is usually measured by job or as a weekly, monthly, and quarterly average.
How can you use it?: Wrench time is a common tool for maintenance analysis, but it’s often used the wrong way. Technicians usually (and unfairly) get the blame for low-wrench time. It leads to wrench time inflation as technicians fudge the numbers to avoid trouble.
Low wrench time usually has its roots in broken processes, not the ability of the technician. That leads to bigger backlogs, more reactive maintenance, and avoidable labor costs.
To use wrench time in your maintenance analysis, start with the jobs that have the lowest scores. Review these jobs step-by-step with technicians. Work together to find out where unclear or incomplete processes cause delays. You’ll spot bottlenecks easier when breaking the task down into smaller pieces. The result is more value for your team’s time and money.
#10 – Health and safety work orders completed
What is it?: The number of work orders completed for health and safety or compliance purposes. This is usually tracked monthly, quarterly, and annually.
How can you use it?: Some metrics are quantitative. Others are qualitative. This one is the latter. And it’s essential for measuring the performance of your maintenance team and the impact it has on your business. A safe workplace keeps accidents low, and productivity and morale high. Passing audits and remaining compliant is crucial to staff safety and avoiding fines.
Three big goals you can accomplish by combining these metrics
All the metrics mentioned above are powerful in their own right. But when combined, they supercharge your maintenance analysis and help you achieve three common goals:
Get a bigger budget and more time for maintenance
Metrics to combine:
Cost by maintenance type
Clean start-ups after maintenance
Top 10 assets by downtime
Getting more money and time for maintenance means winning over whoever divvies up the budget, and whoever leads production. The quickest way to get them on board is to align your plan with their goals. The three metrics above will help you get there.
First, highlight the cost-benefit of preventive maintenance. Regular preventive maintenance might seem expensive. But just one instance of emergency maintenance can cost up to $250,000. If you’re tracking cost by maintenance type, you can highlight how much the company is losing with reactive maintenance, and how much it can save you by investing in preventive maintenance.
Next, it’s time to sway the production team. Use clean start-ups after maintenance to show production that you have their best interests in mind. It emphasizes what is good for maintenance is often good for production.
No one is going to give you more resources without a plan. Your list of bad actors is a blueprint for how you’re going to make the most of your extra time and money. It quantifies the problem and makes it very clear where you’ll focus your efforts.
Get your maintenance team to buy into change
Metrics to combine:
Planned maintenance percentage (90 days)
Wrench time (last 90 days)
Follow-up work created after inspections
Change sucks. And that makes it hard for your team to get on board with a new system or process. The best way to change the mind of naysayers is to show them how your plan is eliminating their biggest pains. Tracking the metrics above is one way to do this.
These data points give you a chance to compare how you operated before a change (i.e. lots of reactive maintenance and frustration over guesswork) and what you’ve accomplished since implementing a new system or process. Seeing the pay-off first-hand makes it easier to convert any critics and expand your project, whether it’s setting up a CMMS or allowing machine operators to do routine maintenance.
Build a preventive maintenance program that would make most other companies jealous
Metrics to combine:
Cost by maintenance type
Follow-up work created after inspections
Cost of follow-up maintenance vs expected cost of total failure
The best preventive maintenance programs don’t have the most PMs. Instead, they have the most efficient PMs. That means doing the right work at the right time. These metrics will help you achieve this balance.
Measuring cost by maintenance type helps you allocate resources to preventive tasks and gauge the efficiency of your PMs. You can track if cost-cutting strategies are working and make sure they’re not leading to reactive costs down the line.
Keeping tabs on follow-up work is one way to optimize PM frequencies. If an inspection isn’t leading to corrective work, you can increase inspection intervals. That means you can use fewer labor hours and parts, and spend that money and time elsewhere. Similarly, comparing the costs of corrective maintenance and total failure ensures you’re not spending money on proactive tasks that aren’t worth it.
The best maintenance analysis is constantly evolving
The best maintenance metrics have a purpose. They are collected and used consistently. They guide decisions and inform you on how to run your maintenance program on a daily basis. This is the backbone of successful maintenance analysis.
On the flip side, all maintenance analysis is a work in progress. Revisit your metrics on a regular basis to make sure they’re still relevant to your goals and the way your maintenance team works. Some of the metrics listed above might work for you now, but you might find others are more effective in six months. Or maybe five years.
Lastly, the best maintenance analysis incorporates data that other departments find useful. If you can connect the metrics above to solve the challenges of other business units, you’ll be well on your way to creating a world-class maintenance program.
Data: It’s the backbone of any maintenance program. It’s what you use to measure success. It tells you what assets need more attention and how that will impact your schedule. It’s what helps you survive maintenance audits unscathed. In short, data is the language that helps you tell the story of your maintenance team.
But not all data is created equal. And it could be that yours is failing to say what it needs to. Jason Afara, a Senior Solutions Engineer at Fiix, experienced this when he was a maintenance manager.
“We had more technicians than we did CMMS licenses, so we had people logging in after they had already completed a work order, just trying to fill in all the details they could remember,” he says. “We were always trying to catch up, and that impacted our credibility.”
The cost of bad maintenance data
That’s just it—when your data is off, it’s harder to go to bat for your team. It’s not as easy to justify buying a new piece of equipment, trade production time for maintenance or make a new hire if the data isn’t there to support that request.
It can impact your team on a day-to-day basis as well. For example, a technician might wait until the end of the day to log completed work. This gap in time could lead them to misremember how long it took them to do a job. Maybe they round down. No big deal, right? Except it is.
That one mistake could cause a domino effect. The next time you go to schedule that job, you plan less time for it. Now the technician is rushing to complete the work, increasing risk for both them and the machine. You’ll also lowball the cost of labor hours in your budget, putting you in a tricky situation with your finances.
Let’s dive into where your data can go wrong, and how you can audit it to start steering things in the right direction.
Where bad maintenance data begins
Bad data is often born from the best intentions. That makes it hard to spot. But there will always be a silver lining to go along with these issues—you have a data-driven culture. You know the numbers are key and the insight you get from them is even more valuable. That’s the most important ingredient for finding and eliminating bad data.
Here are two aspects of maintenance programs that most often contribute to bad or incomplete data.
Trying to boil the ocean
A lot of maintenance teams try to do too much, too soon with their data. Having the ability to track things is great, but if you don’t have a well-thought-out plan in place for what you’re going to measure—and why—you’ll run into problems.
It’s an easy trap to fall into. The advent of IIoT technology, like sensors that track every second of an asset’s behaviour, has introduced seemingly infinite ways to capture data. The trouble for maintenance managers doesn’t come from having too much data, but from not knowing how to pull out the data that matters.
Brandon De Melo, a Customer Success Manager at Fiix, puts it this way, “Let’s say you have a sensor that’s pulling machine data. That’s great, but you can’t stop there. You have to consider all the things that factor into that data, like downtime or other external factors that could affect it.”
Not thinking critically about metrics
Every maintenance team is held to certain KPIs—but are they the right ones? As Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s Director of Solutions Engineering, points out, it can be easy to get caught in a cycle of tracking a number like labour hours simply because it’s the metric that comes from your boss (or their boss).
It’s important to take a critical lens to maintenance metrics and really think about whether they should be measured.
“At the end of the day, you need to be measuring the metrics that support your department,” says Fergusson. “Not enough people understand why they’re measuring what they’re measuring.”
Where bad maintenance data lives
We know what contributes to bad data, but where does it show up? Bad data is really good at blending in with clean data, so it’s not always obvious. But knowing the telltale signs of inaccurate information will help you spot it without pouring over dozens of reports. Here are the most common places where you can find bad maintenance data.
In your storeroom
Bad data can lurk alongside bearings and motors on the shelves of your storeroom. There are a few ways this can happen.
Firstly, it’s easy to have an out-of-date inventory count if you have obsolete parts sitting on shelves. If you don’t check in on your inventory to make sure it matches up with what’s actually available, you’ll run into problems when you have to pay for a part you weren’t expecting.
And then there’s the danger of fudging the numbers to make the bottom line look better.
“Let’s say it’s near the end of the month and you have to replace a $3,000 part,” says Afara.
“Some maintenance managers will say, ‘You know what? Let’s just wait for that repair so it actually hits our books next month.’ It turns into a bit of a game.” This hesitation can negatively impact the whole business if what’s in the books is valued over what’s actually needed to improve production.”
In your preventive maintenance schedule
Every maintenance team has their regular PMs—but how many of them are actually necessary?
“Maintenance can get really emotional really quickly,” says Afara. “You’ll have what’s called an emotional PM, where the team is doing a regular check just because there was a failure six plant managers ago and no one’s changed it.”
When maintenance teams inherit PMs, it’s easy not to question it, but it’s easy to see how things can snowball and tell an inaccurate story of which work actually needs to be done.
In your work order and asset histories
It doesn’t take much for data to go haywire when documenting work. Attention tends to go to the wrong places when a plant’s priorities are out of sorts.
“What commonly happens is, there’s such a focus on technician time,” says Afara. “A message comes from the top that every minute needs to be accounted for, and the result is that technicians are just making up time on work orders to show that they’ve done the eight hours they’ve been asked to.”
As we touched on earlier, the root problem here is a lack of specific planning. You’re worrying about the metric at the expense of strategy, which results in data that doesn’t tell the truth and can’t be used to drive real change.
In your reports
Every data set has its spikes and dips. The important part is how you’re making sense of the fluctuations that show up in your maintenance reports.
“Do you actually have anything in place to explain why, for example, a drop can happen in September and then happen again in January?” says De Melo.
Without critical analysis or an understanding of what contributed to an anomaly in the data, tracking those fluctuations is useless. You need to understand what happened before you can begin to understand what you could have done differently.
How to audit maintenance data
Now that we have a clearer picture of where maintenance data can go wrong, how can you start fixing it?
The answer will be different for each team, but the right place to start is wherever you’re having a problem with no way to explain why you’re having it.
“Let’s say you can’t figure out why you have so much unplanned downtime, and looking at the data isn’t helping you at all,” says De Melo.
“In this scenario, you’d want to talk to the production manager and start asking questions like, ‘How is this being tracked? Is there a system in place?’ There will always be a process of tracking down the right information, but you can’t just sit there and just twiddle your thumbs, hoping that the answer is going to come to you.”
In terms of creating a data audit checklist, again, your best bet is to approach it from a strategic perspective.
“Sit with some key stakeholders, like plant managers and technicians, and do some brainstorming around what you want to improve and understand better,” says De Melo.
“Once you know what you’re looking for, you can build a checklist that makes sense.”
The best maintenance data is data with a purpose
Taking a critical and thoughtful approach to auditing your maintenance data ensures that everything you’re tracking and analyzing is being examined for a reason. This helps you understand how each piece of data is connected. Then you can make actual improvements to your maintenance program instead of making smaller, less impactful changes around the margins.
“If you really understand your maintenance activity, everything else is just going to flow in behind it,” says Fergusson.
“Your plant leadership may not understand maintenance backlog or OT, but when you tell them that delaying a maintenance window is going to cost another $250,000 in our plant maintenance budget because of X, Y, Z, and you have the right data to back it up, they’ll listen.”
When all is said and done, the data is the easy part.
“If you have the culture and the metrics and the right people and processes in place to track everything, and you just don’t have the actual data, no problem. You can get that up and running in a week,” says Fergusson.
“More often, though, it’s the opposite. You have all the data, it’s all flowing somewhere, and everybody’s looking at different pieces of it, but none of it’s building to a true story.”
What happens when the maintenance team is the only one that cares about maintenance?
There might not be a more common, or truer, saying in the world of sports than, “Defense wins championships.”
Although there are no championships to win in business, there are quotas to hit and money to make. And defence still matters. In this case, defence means maintenance. But when the maintenance team is the only one playing defence, they’re outnumbered and the losses pile up.
A faulty part goes unnoticed and causes a breakdown. That’s a loss. A machine isn’t lubricated properly and results in waste. Loss. A PM is missed and an accident happens. Another loss.
But a lot of these losses can be avoided with total productive maintenance. Total productive maintenance (TPM) is a defence-first mentality for business. The work order process is one of the cornerstones of this strategy. This article will explore how to create and optimize that process with TPM in mind.
What is total productive maintenance: A brief primer on TPM
Total productive maintenance is the idea that everyone has a part to play in improving the performance and quality of systems with maintenance. That includes the maintenance team, but also operations, production, finance, and other departments. When you have 100 eyes peeled for possible equipment failures or safety hazards instead of five or 10, they’re easier and more efficient to catch and fix.
An example of TPM in action would be an operator doing routine maintenance, like basic lubrication, or a plant manager creating an asset management policy. Neither person is on the maintenance team, but both use maintenance to have a direct impact on the health and performance of equipment.
There’s a lot more to TPM than we can fit in this article. If you want to read more, check out these articles on getting started with TPM and putting a TPM plan into action.
12 ways to use work orders to build a successful TPM program
How to get operations involved TPM
Work orders are the bread and butter of maintenance which also makes them essential for a good TPM program and getting operators involved in maintenance success.
Find a starting line: Work out the wrinkles in your TPM program by starting small. Focus on one machine or area of your plant. Look for equipment with a low criticality that requires regularly scheduled maintenance. Split the responsibility of the PM between maintenance and operations.
Designate a maintenance type for operators: This creates clear roles and responsibilities and allows you to track where extra training, information, or resources are needed to help operators be successful.
Write bullet-proof work request templates: Be very clear about what information is needed to help technicians complete a job. Operators will gain a better understanding and appreciation for what goes into maintenance.
Write a template for completion notes that leaves no room for error: Break this section of a work order into specific fields that helps you document exactly what happened on the job. Operators will be able to spot useful information in past work orders much easier. It will also make training requirements easier to create.
Build solid task lists: Find a balance between being detailed in your tasks and overwhelming operators with too much. Adding pictures helps you avoid information overload. Providing estimated times for each task is an extra bit of guidance that operators will appreciate.
Add as many visual aids to work orders as you can: In addition to pictures, add diagrams or videos if your operators are accessing the work order from a mobile device.
Highlight success with work order data: There might be resistance to your TPM program at first. There’s a lot of data in your work orders that help you prove that it’s worth it. Even something as simple as having fewer reactive work orders tells a story. Fewer breakdowns mean more throughput and less waste from post-failure startups.
How to get the rest of your organization involved in your plan
A true total productive maintenance strategy doesn’t stop at the edge of the production floor. It reaches into the offices of almost everyone at your company. Here are a few ways you can start bringing more and more people into the TPM fold.
Assist in design and/or procurement: Use common maintenance types and failure codes, along with request and completion notes, to help reliability and purchasing personnel build or buy equipment that won’t repeat the failures of past assets.
Advocate for more resources: Presenting a list of backlogged work orders, its labor hours, and the cost of not doing the work can help you highlight the scale of problems and convince your boss that you need some extra help.
Make maintenance accessible: Integrate your work order request system with the systems that everyone in your business uses, like email or Slack.
Identify inventory efficiencies: Use work order data to find out if the same parts cause breakdowns or failed inspections. Work with inventory personnel to find the root cause of the problem and solve it.
Celebrate your success: If you want people to c`are about maintenance, you need to prove it’s worth their attention. Work orders are a great source of success stories. They can help you draw a link between scheduled maintenance and failure prevention or clean start ups and higher production.
Everything you just read in three sentences
Talk with members of every group using work orders, from requesters in finance to operators, and find out how to make instructions and templates clear and accessible to each of them.
Piloting your TPM strategy on a small area of your organization will help you identify where it needs to be improved and how to scale the project moving forward.
Tracking good results from your work orders, no matter how small, will increase buy-in for your TPM program, or, in other words, bragging is the surest path to success.
This article was written by Katie Allen, Fiix’s Sustainability and Social Impact Manager.
Waste. Garbage. Rubbish. Litter. Trash. Excess. These concepts are relatively new in our modern world. Waste was often synonymous with barren land and had nothing to do with the disposal.
Garbage — the act of throwing something away — was introduced in the early 1900s. Now, it’s a regular part of life— we buy, we use, and then we throw away. This is so common that we have entire waste management systems with teams of people and machinery dedicated to our garbage.
This used to be my job. I would advise the public on where to put items when they were ready to throw them out. I would pick through big, black garbage bags on grueling hot days, dissecting, weighing, and sorting what people threw out. I helped divert hazardous and electronic waste from entering the landfill. I even managed a vermicomposter.
But in all my years doing this work, I never once offered a way for people to fix their stuff so it didn’t need to be tossed out in the first place.
We focused so heavily on reduce, reuse, and recycle that we forgot the most important ‘R’: Repair — the act of looking after your stuff.
We were not the only ones to miss this. It’s not common to receive a maintenance or repair manual when purchasing a product. You often need to search the web to find a community post or a video on how to fix something.
Maintenance and repair is regarded as a mundane practice in our society instead of being recognized as a sustainable approach to product consumption and creation. While we focus on the next, new, shiny thing, we forget the infrastructure, products, and equipment we already have.
The 12th UN Sustainable Development Goal focuses most heavily on addressing this deficit with the circular economy. The goal states that, “Responsible consumption and production” will help us decrease our reliance on natural resources, increase sustainability reporting, reduce waste in all forms, and ultimately encourage lifestyles that are synonymous with nature.
While this is a highly ambitious and admirable goal, they are missing a critical component: Maintenance and repair. Maintenance is the primary method for life cycle management. While it is important to rethink the way we design products (and the machines that make them) and how we recycle them, we need to think about the way we actually use the product. This is key to understanding the circular economy and how we can use it to bolster our efforts for sustainability.
What is the circular economy?
The Ellen Macarthur Foundation is leading research on the circular economy and defines it as a system “based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems.”
We currently function in a linear economic system based on a take-make-waste model. Many of the resources we extract are used and eventually wasted.
This system is problematic for many reasons. Its inefficiency is wreaking havoc on our natural world with mass amounts of waste and pollution, which also negatively impacts our most vulnerable societies. This system is depicted in the graphic below. It maps all our global resources from extraction to end-of-use. Minerals, ores, fossil fuels, and biomass make up everything from our homes to our food.
As Robert Kunzig points out, “Two-thirds of the material flowing through the economy, 67.4 billion tons in 2015, gets emitted as pollution or otherwise scattered or disposed of as waste.”
While these resources are essential components of our economy, we are witnessing colossal inefficiencies throughout the process resulting in what’s called externalities.
An externality is a cost or benefit of an economic activity experienced by an unrelated third party.
Waste, represented by the grey “end of use” bubbles at the bottom of the graphic, is the most obvious negative externality. Other negative externalities include air pollution, emissions, and the wealth gap.
The circular economy is all about accounting for these externalities. We can phase out waste and pollution from the beginning with responsible design. Through maintenance best practices, we can increase the lifespan of assets, keep material in use, and create greater value socially, environmentally, and economically. And through the regeneration of our natural systems, we can create a thriving, circular economy that works within planetary boundaries.
What is maintenance?
Maintenance is the best way to keep materials in use.
Maintenance is any activity—such as tests, measurements, replacements, adjustments, and repairs—intended to retain or restore a functional unit in or to a specified state in which the unit can perform its required functions.1
You can find examples of maintenance in all aspects of your life, from brushing your teeth to changing the oil in your car or washing your dishes. These are all forms of maintenance that keep us and our belongings functioning as intended.
In industrial settings, maintenance is performed through a variety of strategies that best suit the asset in question. Typically, these strategies are applied to some of the biggest machinery and equipment in the world. Some examples include managing air flow and air quality in electrical and HVAC units, replacing filters, cleaning bearings, pumping tires, and fixing conveyor belts, reactors, and pumps. This takes place in factories, food processing, and energy production facilities, data centers, and manufacturing plants.
Maintenance and repair strategies keep many of these operations running efficiently, supporting very large, positive outcomes across the triple bottom line of sustainability: People, Planet, and profit.
Benefits of maintenance
Click image to enlarge:
The Ellen MacArthur Foundation showcases the different elements of the circular economy in the map above, The smaller circles represent the most efficient solutions in terms of cost, materials, and resources.
Here, maintenance makes up the smallest circle, and thus the most efficient and accessible solution. This is because, at its core, maintenance is about keeping the same equipment, materials, and assets in use. With rising costs of raw materials and end-of-life treatment, maintenance becomes a very attractive solution to kick-start the circular economy and build momentum in a more sustainable direction.
In Sobral and Ferreira’s 2018 article, they argue that the fundamental principles of maintenance — continuous improvement, improving performance, and increasing lifespan — are the foundation of Lean Thinking. The main objective of Lean Thinking is to improve society while eliminating waste. Maintenance and efficiency go hand-in-hand, creating positive outcomes beyond just eliminating waste. An effective maintenance strategy can result in improvements across the triple bottom line, as highlighted in the graphic below:
Socially, better maintenance practices can improve health and safety, the quality of workplaces, and the local community. In various studies, it has been reported that better maintenance is associated with lower injury frequency, and when done poorly, maintenance accounts for 10% of workplace incidents.
Environmentally, maintenance can improve air quality, reduce emissions, and reduce waste. It can also prolong asset lifespans, reduce energy consumption, and reduce water consumption. A preventive maintenance program can result in 20% savings in raw material usage. In the residential sector, regular maintenance can save up to 35% of energy costs. In vehicles, researchers found a 30% reduction in emissions following maintenance.
Economically, maintenance reduces costs, improves utilization, and aids with compliance. These are the most common indicators of success. In some instances, predictive maintenance can save up to 12% of costs and decrease downtime by up to 45%.
Measuring all the ways in which maintenance has an impact is critical to the success of any organization. Highlighting these efficiencies and giving maintenance the credit it deserves will help advance the circular economy.
Barriers to success
As it stands today, maintenance isn’t prioritized or recognized. The Maintainers, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., have long sung the praises of maintenance and repair. They examine our obsession with innovation and our disregard for the mundane.
Maintenance and repair, the building of infrastructures, the mundane labour that goes into sustaining functioning and efficient infrastructures, simply has more impact on people’s daily lives than the vast majority of technological innovations.
– Andrew Russell & Lee Vinsel
We are so focused on new things, whether physical or conceptual, that we fail to recognize the critical, overlooked, and the underpaid role that maintenance plays in our society. Failing to meet our maintenance needs can have catastrophic consequences. The ongoing cost of maintenance and repair is often undervalued when building infrastructure. That’s when things break, crack, and deteriorate.
In 2019, America’s infrastructure was given a report with a final grade of D+. A team of 28 civil engineers from across the country analyzed everything from energy infrastructure to railways and schools. They found that nearly everything was deteriorating to a point of concern, with most infrastructure approaching the end of its service life.
The impact of this is frightening, costing the US millions of jobs and trillions of dollars in GDP, while externalities are going unmeasured, costing us in pollution and health and safety.
COVID-19 showed us that it’s up to us to keep the world running, and when we stop, we notice. Technical maintenance is often seen as a cost centre rather than an opportunity to save money, time, energy, and waste. The current narrative surrounding maintenance is not exciting, nor is it measured properly, so we don’t understand its full value and potential.
Maintenance and repair need a rebrand and a re-education campaign. It must be considered as a key source of efficiency in the circular economy and we should be placing resources in these areas to understand how to improve practices.
Technology is helping with this rebrand. Tools, like a CMMS, help organizations track, schedule, and organize maintenance activities. Tracking data is critical. Analyzing that data using artificial intelligence can enable companies to find trends and areas for improvement. Utilizing technology can help bring light into what was once a black hole of information.
Driving the circular economy forward with better maintenance
There are three factors at play that will help us advance the circular economy through better maintenance.
First, the maintenance, reliability, and asset management space needs to recognize and prioritize the best sustainability practices from this line of work and measure it. Technology will be critical in capturing this information.
Second, circular economy research and advocacy must incorporate maintenance and repair as critical steps in advancing sustainability.
Lastly, organizations must adopt technology that enables these best practices. Without adequate data collection, measurement, or management, many of these benefits are lost and aren’t accounted for.
We don’t have to reinvent the wheel as we reach for sustainability. We just need to look after what we already have.
One of the worst things about getting your maintenance budget cut is all the questions.
Do I need to lay off staff? How can we hit our targets with fewer resources? What projects are essential and what can wait? Is my job safe?
It’s enough to keep you up at night for a while.
We talked to a few experts who’ve been there before. They told us how they managed a smaller maintenance budget while hitting their targets, keeping up with preventive maintenance, and avoiding staff burnout.
How to find extra room in your budget
#1 – Find it in your storeroom
Pay close attention to your inventory minimums when restocking parts and supplies, says Joe McVay, an Implementation Consultant at Fiix with experience in facility maintenance.
“Many organizations don’t realize how much cash flow is tied up in inventory in the warehouse that could be bought just-in-time from multiple vendors without interrupting the business,” says Joe.
Look for parts in your storeroom that are either not immediately critical or can be easily sourced from vendors with short lead-times. Adjust your purchasing schedule accordingly so you’re not spending money on unnecessary inventory.
Many vendors also offer ‘keep stock’ programs, says Joe. These programs guarantee the availability of parts without adding them to your books until you need them. This gives you short-term flexibility in your budget without the risk.
#2: Find it in your schedule
Preventive maintenance is great, but too much will cost you. You can reduce the cost of labor and parts without sacrificing asset health by cutting unnecessary PMs, says Charles Rogers, Fiix’s Senior Implementation Consultant with over 33 years of experience in maintenance.
“If your regular inspections aren’t finding something wrong with an asset, you can probably do them less often,” says Charles.
He recommends looking first at scheduled maintenance based on OEM guidelines. These PMs are more likely to have room for improvement because they weren’t created with your specific use case in mind. Monitor any PMs you change to make sure failure rates don’t increase.
#3: Find it in your work orders
Increasing wrench time helps you stretch your maintenance budget further, says Rob Kalwarowsky, a Reliability Engineer and Asset Manager.
Rob suggests calculating wrench time for all work, starting with jobs that have higher labor costs. Flag areas where wrench time is low. The average wrench time is 20% and 40% is world-class, says Rob.
“Once you have this baseline you can trace the cause of low wrench time to a root cause and tweak your schedules and processes to bridge that gap,” says Rob.
Increasing wrench time by a few percentage points across hundreds of repairs and PMs can save you thousands of dollars in labor and make up for some of your lost budget. And when maintenance is quicker, production gets more uptime. It’s a win-win for everyone.
#4: Find it in your processes
Your budget gets a little tighter every time a highly skilled technician stops what they’re doing to complete a routine task. That’s why Jason Afara, a Solutions Engineer at Fiix and former maintenance manager, suggests training operators to do routine maintenance.
“Operators know their machines best,” says Jason, “Give them the power to inspect machines…and do light maintenance that would otherwise take up your time.”
Not only will a few hours of training save you money in the long term, but it also helps you catch equipment failure earlier and prevent emergency maintenance, which eats into your budget.
#5: Find it in your people
This is another gem from Rob and it’s all about communication, engaging staff, and leading by example.
“You’re cutting maintenance that [your staff] believe they should be doing,” says Rob. “That’s going to have a negative impact.”
Low morale is more than some extra grumbling in the break room. It creates fear, mistrust, and information gaps, says Rob. When you’re missing the whole picture, you can’t see problems and prioritize work, which is essential after maintenance budget cuts.
“You need to foster a low-fear, high-trust environment so people can tell you exactly what’s happening on the shop floor,” says Rob.
Here are some ways to do that:
Book a regular meeting with staff to talk about concerns, roadblocks, solutions, and successes. It might take time for everyone to feel comfortable sharing. That means you could be the only one talking for a little while.
Stop playing the blame game. If a critical work order wasn’t done on time, talk to your technicians, find out what held them back, and think of a way to prevent it from happening again.
Create metrics that have nothing to do with efficiency. Your technicians need to know they’re being measured on how well they collaborate, identify problems, and work to find solutions. It tells your team that you care about them as much as the bottom line.
How to convince your boss to increase the maintenance budget
Getting a bigger maintenance budget is tough, but not impossible. We put together a few tried and tested strategies that other maintenance teams have used to score extra resources. They’ll help you change minds, make your case, and get the budget you need.
If you’re strapped for cash, you’re probably also strapped for time. That means backlog. Lots of backlog. The good news is, it’s easy to get people on board with fixing this problem if you have the right data.
Start by tracking your preventive maintenance backlog in hours. Compare this number to the available hours for your workforce to determine the gap between the two.
The next step is to show how backlog impacts the business. Track mean time between failure and the cost of breakdowns. When MTBF goes up because you’re missing maintenance, it means more downtime and less production.
Use this data when you’re asking for the budget to hire an extra person, offer more overtime, or spend more on contractors. This is what worked for Tom Dufton, a maintenance and project manager at food manufacturer Perth Country Ingredients:
Using clean start-ups to justify higher labor costs
Other areas of your business suffer when the maintenance budget is cut. Your staff is spread thin, work is rushed (or missed), and equipment fails. Tracking clean start-ups is one way to prove this and get the extra cash you need to prevent it.
Clean start-ups was a key metric for Stuart Fergusson, Fiix’s Director of Solutions Engineering, during his time as a production line manager at Proctor and Gamble. This KPI not only united maintenance and operations, but also tied directly to financial targets. That always gets people’s attention.
Unfortunately, clean start-ups are hard to achieve without the time, people, and resources to do proper maintenance, which takes money.
Making your case for this money starts with calculating the cost of lost time and production from poor start-ups for all machines across a full year. Compare this to the lower cost of extra people and resources to achieve clean start-ups.
Using time tracking metrics to show the ROI of technology
Administrative tasks waste time and money. If your technicians spend an hour a day writing work orders, that’s an hour of lost efficiency you’re paying for. So while it might seem cheaper to do everything by hand instead of with technology, it’ll cost you more in the long run.
Things like sensors and CMMS software come with a price tag. Getting an increase in your maintenance budget for these purchases starts with tracking the amount of time your team spends on administrative tasks. Then find out how much time you’d save with software.
The final step is to highlight how you would use this extra time and the impact that would have on company targets. For example, if you were able to do one more PM per day, how much more uptime could the company gain.
This was the strategy used by the maintenance team at Rambler Metals & Mining. The company was able to slash the time spent on administrative tasks by 15% after implementing a CMMS. They were able to do more preventive maintenance and reduce equipment failure.
Everything you just read in three sentences
1. Eliminating waste, whether it’s parts you don’t need or delays in your work, is crucial when dealing with maintenance budget cuts.
2. Don’t forget to communicate with your team, include them in decision-making, and be open to feedback so you can avoid a toxic work environment.
3. If you’re asking for an increase in your maintenance budget, lean on numbers to prove the value of maintenance and highlight what your company is losing by not investing in maintenance.
There’s a reason people buy toolboxes. While each tool serves its purpose, having only one at your disposal vastly limits what you’re able to achieve. On the other hand, having all your tools allows you to do more and solve a wider range of problems.
Similarly, no maintenance team or plant manager should look to just one maintenance KPI to track and improve production. Multiple maintenance metrics—and categories of metrics—exist because each one provides different information that leads you to take several different actions.
Today, we’re going to take a look at Total effective equipment performance, or TEEP, and how your maintenance team can use it together with OEE and OOE to improve scheduling and output at your company.
What is TEEP?
Total effective equipment performance (let’s call it TEEP from now on) exists in the same family of maintenance metrics as overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and overall operations effectiveness (OOE). All three metrics take machine performance, quality, and availability into account to measure overall equipment performance. Where these metrics differ lies in how they define availability.
On its own, TEEP measures your total potential for equipment capacity. It defines availability as a function of all available time—365 days a year, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. When you measure TEEP, you’re asking, “How much could we potentially be producing if there were no limits to scheduling?”
TEEP is calculated by multiplying performance, quality, and availability, where availability is defined as current production time divided by all available time.
For example, if you ran a machine 24/7 for a week and it produced perfect products without stopping once, TEEP would be 100%. If that same machine ran 16 hours a day without stopping, availability would be 67% (16 hours divided by 24 hours). Let’s say it also operated at 90% of potential throughput (performance) and produced perfect products 88% of the time (quality). The asset’s TEEP would be 53% (0.9 x 0.88 x 0.67).
Of course, no plant is ever running on a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year schedule. This is why TEEP is useful when compared to the other metrics in its family.
How TEEP compares to OEE
As a metric, TEEP is most closely related to OEE, so let’s distinguish between these two metrics first.
While TEEP measures an asset’s potential capacity, OEE measures an asset’s current level of productivity. It’s calculated, much like TEEP, by multiplying an asset’s availability, performance, and quality, where availability is calculated as the total run time of the asset divided by the planned production time of that asset.
OEE differs from TEEP in that it is rooted in the reality of the current production schedule. It supposes that the maximum amount of time that a piece of equipment can run cannot be greater than what it already is.
Because OEE is a current-state metric, it gives production teams and operators a pretty accurate read on how well their equipment is performing, and whether any changes to availability, performance, or quality could increase capacity. Because OEE is closely tied to production, it’s a metric that many facilities monitor in real-time to determine whether any improvements could be made.
How TEEP compares to OOE
Similar to TEEP and OEE, OOE (overall operations effectiveness) is once again calculated by multiplying performance, quality, and availability, where availability is defined as actual production time divided by operating time.
Operating time includes the planned production time of an asset (like OEE), plus any unscheduled time during which an asset might be taken offline.
How to use TEEP
Now that we have these metrics—and the differences between them—straight, let’s talk about how they can be used together. We can think of these three metrics as a sort of cascading system, where TEEP measures the total effective (or potential) equipment performance, OOE measures your current equipment performance taking unscheduled time into account, and OEE measures everything as it is right now.
We spoke to Stuart Fergusson, Director of Solutions Engineering at Fiix, to parse out these three scenarios. “TEEP is a couple of steps removed from a true maintenance metric,” he says. “It’s useful at the business level for someone like a plant manager because it helps inform scheduling decisions.”
In other words, calculating TEEP helps you answer questions like, “Should we introduce new shifts? Is it worth it to run through the holidays? What would happen if we ran through weekends?”
Stuart adds that some people are quick to jump to metrics like TEEP because they’re actually not calculating OEE correctly. This happens when maintenance is done during downtime is not counted against OEE. As an example, think of a factory that shuts down during weekends and runs all maintenance during that time. Maintenance time is not being counted against production here, which could give you an inflated sense of what your OEE actually is. If maintenance is counted as planned downtime, you get a very different sense of your OEE and what you’re actually capable of achieving.
Take this example: Let’s say that you calculate your OEE as 90% based on the 5 days a week that your machinery runs. With an OEE that high, it seems like it would be simple to increase capacity without buying any new equipment. But what if you use the downtime on weekends to run all your routine maintenance? That time is not available for more production, because it’s always being blocked off for maintenance, but it’s throwing off your OEE because it’s not being included in the equation.
Stuart suggests calculating OEE, OOE, and TEEP the way you normally would, and then examining the deltas between each metric. By investigating the differences between each metric, you can start to see where changes in scheduling could be made to improve production.
“You could be running your equipment very, very well three days a week, and you would still get a low TEEP score,” he says. “But compared with OEE, you can look at that delta and say, ‘We would have to add X staff members to improve our OEE.’”
How TEEP can help you plan
TEEP can be improved when performance, availability, or quality improvement, and it’s probably most useful when you’re out of ideas for how you could improve your OEE given your current production schedule.
TEEP can be used as a benchmark to compare how you’re currently planning your plant production schedules. Unlike OEE and OOE, it gives you an idea of how much your equipment is sitting unused. Again, Stuart warns that its usefulness has its limits. “You should only ever be tracking and putting a metric in front of people that have the ability to change it,” he says. “There’s nothing an operator can do to affect the total available time. On top of that, they can’t schedule themselves in for another shift.”
But when operators, maintenance teams, and plant managers work together (yes, you’ve heard this before with regards to total productive maintenance), it’s clear how they can use their own metrics (like MTTR for maintenance) to improve overall equipment production capacity. When these functional areas can work together to improve capacity while taking the realities and limitations of the entire operation into account, a holistic picture starts to emerge of what a plant is truly capable of achieving.