A Guide to Building and Measuring a Lean Maintenance Strategy

Professional racing is a masterclass in efficiency. Teams don’t just dislike waste—they hate it.

Every millisecond of a pit stop has a purpose. Every component of a car is analyzed to ensure it’s functioning at its best. Strategies are designed to get from point A to point B as fast as possible.

When you translate this mindset to the shop floor, you achieve a lean maintenance strategy. Lean maintenance is the merciless reduction and elimination of waste at every stage of your maintenance program so you can go further, faster, while spending less.

This guide outlines the basics for building and measuring a lean maintenance strategy, including:

  • What is lean maintenance
  • The types of waste in maintenance
  • A formula for creating a lean maintenance strategy
  • Metrics for tracking lean maintenance success

What is lean maintenance?

Like lean manufacturing, lean maintenance is the continual process of identifying, reducing, and removing waste from maintenance activities. Waste is considered anything that doesn’t increase output, decrease costs, or otherwise boost productivity.

There are a lot of examples of waste in maintenance, including:

  • Money spent on a part that becomes obsolete before it’s used
  • Time spent clarifying the details of a maintenance request
  • Effort spent collecting maintenance data you never use

It’s often difficult to spot waste in your maintenance program. That’s why a lean maintenance strategy can’t work without iteration. Iteration is the practice of making small changes over time to find the best way to set up processes and activities. In other words, lean maintenance is not a one-and-done project. It’s a way of thinking and acting that takes years to build.

What are the benefits of lean maintenance?

Odds are, you’ve uttered the words, “What a waste of time,” or “What a waste of money,” in the last couple of weeks. Lean maintenance eliminates those moments. And while there are a thousand things you could be referring to, most of them can be grouped in these four main benefits:

1. Cost savings

A lean maintenance strategy reduces direct costs (labor and resources) and indirect costs (the money you lose in downtime or lost production). For example, you might discover that you can reduce routine maintenance on an asset from once a week to once a month, cutting labor costs by 75% in the process.

Quote from Charles Rogers

2. Efficiency gains

Efficiency is another word for getting more done in less time. Lean maintenance strategies help you find activities and processes that take too much time so you can modify or eliminate them. Voltalia’s maintenance team is a great example of this benefit in practice. The company noticed that one of its service teams spent 40 hours a week driving from the office to an off-site facility. The solution was to build a satellite office near the off-site facility to save time.

3. Maximized potential

When machines and people are not bogged down by unnecessary duties, they can operate at full capacity and perform to the best of their abilities. Tom Dufton’s maintenance team is a perfect example. Tom, a maintenance manager, noticed his skilled maintenance technicians were spending a lot of time assisting production. He used this data to advocate for extra operators so his team could get back to maintaining equipment.

4. Employee engagement

Removing unnecessary work and administrative tasks helps employees feel more engaged with their work. It also gives them time to up-skill and do high-value work. One way this translates into real life is with new maintenance software. If technicians don’t have time to learn the system, your big investment in technology could be for nothing. Eliminating extra tasks elsewhere will give your team time to learn, ask questions, and get used to new technology.

Quote from Bryan Sapot

The three types of waste in maintenance

The first step in eliminating waste is to find it. There are three main areas in a maintenance operation where waste shows up: Environmental, financial, and human potential.

Environmental waste

Environmental waste occurs when raw materials are used inefficiently or disposed of because of inefficient maintenance activities.

Examples of environmental waste in maintenance include:

  • An increase in scrap or rework after equipment maintenance
  • Overuse of fuel by improperly maintained vehicles or unnecessary transportation to and from a worksite
  • Overstocking parts for maintenance due to an outdated inventory purchasing schedule

The impact of environmental waste from maintenance includes:

  • More pollution and trash
  • Higher carbon emissions
  • Low-quality products
  • Increased safety hazards

Some strategies for reducing environmental waste in maintenance include:

  • Frequent inventory cycle counts and just-in-time purchasing to ensure your storeroom isn’t flooded with unused inventory
  • Grouping scheduled maintenance together in one time period to cut down on travel
  • A mandatory check from a second technician after repairs or replacements prior to production to ensure start-ups don’t result in scrap or rework

Financial waste

Financial waste refers to the extra costs from inefficient maintenance. It also includes lost production from unnecessary downtime.

Examples of financial waste in maintenance include:

  • High labor and parts costs from preventive maintenance tasks that are done too frequently
  • Defective products from an asset that was assembled or rebuilt incorrectly
  • Delayed maintenance because technicians had to wait for a part to complete repairs

The impact of financial waste includes:

  • Higher labor and parts costs
  • More capital expenditures
  • Lost revenue
  • Missed opportunities to grow the business

Strategies for becoming leaner include:

  • Identifying tasks in your preventive maintenance schedule that can be eliminated or done less frequently
  • Reducing downtime by finding maintenance work that can be completed while an asset is running
  • Building a FRACAS to address and prevent failure on critical equipment
  • Creating parts kits for critical equipment to speed up repairs and avoid stockouts
  • Setting a regular meeting with production staff to align maintenance with operations and get updates equipment changes

Wasted human potential

Administrative work and unnecessary tasks wear on staff and take them away from specialized tasks only they can do. Burnout, poor morale, and turnover increase, leading to even more waste.

Examples of wasted human potential in maintenance include:

  • Spending hours every day writing, reviewing, and sorting work orders
  • Fixing the same component over and over again
  • Inspecting non-critical equipment with low or nonexistent failure rates
  • Supporting production more than once in a while
  • Searching for parts and supplies in your storeroom

The impact of wasted human potential includes:

  • High employee turnover and loss of organizational knowledge
  • Low wrench time and big backlogs
  • Decreased employee engagement and low adoption of new systems
  • More pencil whipping and less accurate data

Strategies for becoming leaner include:

  • Conduct frequent maintenance team meetings to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions
  • Automate activities you do frequently, like creating work orders or reports
  • Eliminate or reduce scheduled maintenance that has low rates of follow-up work
  • Train machine operators to do routine maintenance tasks

Creating a lean maintenance mindset

The first step in creating a lean maintenance strategy is to ask the right questions, challenge the way you do things, and be willing to change. This is a lean maintenance mindset and it’s essential to make lean maintenance strategies work long term.

There are four changes that’ll help you shift to a lean maintenance mindset:

1. From small details ? Big picture

There will always be days when your team is reacting to everything—putting out fires, getting last-minute requests, and racing to catch up on backlog.

But a lean maintenance mindset prevents this from becoming the norm. It allows you to build maintenance activities around business and production goals, and deprioritize or eliminate work that doesn’t connect to these goals.

For example, you might spend an hour every week creating a report. But if that report doesn’t help you eliminate waste, that time becomes waste itself. You can either spend time building more useful reports or do other waste-eliminating work.

2. From getting it done ? Collecting data as you go

A lot of maintenance teams operate in survival mode. Complete the task and move on to the next one. No time for any extra steps.

But a lean maintenance strategy hinges on data and taking the time to collect it. Those five extra minutes it takes to complete extra fields on a work order adds up. Having a lean maintenance mindset means building a buffer in your schedule to account for this. It also means everyone knows the importance of these extra steps and isn’t pressured to fudge the numbers to make up for lost time.

3. From big changes ? iterative improvements

Everyone wants to see big wins as quickly as possible. Our brains crave a finish line and tangible results.

But that’s not how lean maintenance works. Instead, it depends on making small, consistent improvements. If done right, it’s a process that’s never truly finished. The best way to tackle this shift is to give yourself and your team small goals and milestones, track progress, and celebrate success.

For example, you might want to cut out unnecessary steps in your scheduled maintenance. In lean maintenance, you’ll examine your work orders once a month to reduce delays and increase wrench time by 10% to 15% across the entire year. It’s crucial to track progress, celebrate it with your team, and get suggestions from technicians on how to keep winning. Technicians will feel a sense of ownership over this metric and will be invested in making progress.

4. From “that’s the way it is” ? “Is this necessary?”

It’s easy to accept the status quo. It’s uncomfortable to change. And it takes a lot of work.

But lean maintenance is all about challenging business as usual. You need to look at everything your team does with a critical eye and make changes if something no longer makes sense. This requires you to adopt a win-or-learn mentality instead of a win-or-fail mindset. Your team will be able to question things without blame or punishment.

For example, you might have done a PM at the same interval for a decade. But everything has changed in that time, from the equipment to the technician doing the work. You need to question how the PM is done as well. Should it be done more or less? Is it even necessary anymore?

Building a lean maintenance strategy

Building a lean maintenance strategy follows a three-step formula:

  1. Understand what you’re currently doing and how you’re doing it
  2. Find areas of waste and eliminate them
  3. Create processes that allow you to do steps one and two over and over again

Step 1: Mapping your maintenance process

This step is about knowing how your team currently operates so you can find the work you’re doing too much of and work you’re not doing enough. This stage involves documenting your maintenance processes, including:

  • Key information about equipment, like criticality and failure modes (this FMEA template can help you collect this data)
  • What inspections and repairs are done, and how often
  • What an emergency looks like and how your team reacts
  • How follow-up or corrective maintenance is created, assigned, and tracked
  • Team meetings and what happens in each one
  • Goal-setting, metrics creation, reporting, and data collection
  • Health, safety, and compliance activities
  • Parts purchasing and storeroom management

Then think about business needs:

Step 2: Identify opportunities for improvement you can act on now

The next step is to find out where you’re spending too much time, money, or energy. Here are a few ways you can spot waste hiding in your processes:

  1. Look at specific processes with members of your maintenance team. Ask them what part of the process takes the most time or where they face challenges when completing work. Use this insight to make activities easier and remove roadblocks.For example, something as small as misidentifying lubrication can lead to wasted time, breakdowns, lost production, and buying too many supplies. Colour-coding lubrication and bearings can eliminate this waste altogether.
  2. Identify tasks that consistently take more time or money than planned and conduct a root cause analysis to find out why. This is more helpful than slashing costs, which can do more harm than good and doesn’t address the real reason for the waste.For example, labor costs for a weekly work order are twice as high as you’ve budgeted. An RCA might find repair times are longer than expected because different technicians are doing the work. You might tweak the schedule to put the same technician on the job so they can familiarize themselves with the work and do it faster.
  3. Audit your planned maintenance work to make it more efficient. We outlined the steps for auditing your PMs in a separate article, but the main takeaway is to question the need for all regular maintenance and the frequency, timing, and resource for each task.For example, a PM might be triggered every 10 days, regardless of how much the asset is used. That can be a waste of time and money. In this situation, try triggering maintenance based on usage, like after every 100 hours of production.
  4. Develop KPIs and metrics around the growth and success of your team. This data will allow you to find wasted potential on your maintenance team.For example, you might track turnover rates or knowledge-sharing opportunities on your team. These stats can uncover complex processes or areas of low productivity that you can correct. The end result is better morale and a higher-performing maintenance team.

Step 3: Build a long-term vision

The core vision of your lean maintenance strategy will always be to improve maintenance bit by bit so it supports business goals. But those goals may change, as will the things you need to improve.

This step is about documenting what you’ve iterated on, the impact of change, and what might come next.

If your iterations produced a negative result, don’t immediately jump back to the way things were. Instead, think about what caused the negative result and see if there’s another iterative improvement. It can take a few tries to get it right.

Choosing metrics for a lean maintenance strategy and tracking success

While every project will have different KPIs and metrics based on your desired outcomes, here are some best-practice metrics to start with:

Environmental wasteFinancial wasteHuman potential waste
Idle timesMaintenance costs (by asset, type, task, etc.)Wrench time
Raw material usageEquipment downtime (planned and unplanned)Employee turnover
Carbon emissions/energy useRate of corrective maintenance after inspectionsTime spent on production support
Travel times to/from sitesResponse rates to breakdowns/emergenciesTime spent on administrative tasks
Raw materials disposal (ie. oil)Clean start-ups after maintenanceNumber of steps in a maintenance process

While this isn’t a comprehensive look at lean maintenance metrics, it does give you a good foundation. And you don’t need to track, measure, and improve every metric. Choose metrics you can realistically collect and ones that connect to production and business goals.

There are two ways to create success plans around each metric and push your lean maintenance strategy forward. The first is to go small. Pick a few metrics and focus on improving specific areas of your maintenance operation. For example, if you want to reduce maintenance costs, choose your top 10 most expensive tasks. Focus on reducing waste in these activities.

The other method is to go broad. Aim for a goal that includes improving several metrics. For example, the ultimate target might be increasing efficiency through better standardization across sites. As part of this project, you can standardize the processes for work requests, reporting, and parts purchasing. There are several metrics you can use to build your project and track its success. This includes the number of steps in a maintenance process, time spent on admin tasks, response rates to breakdowns, and raw materials usage.

It’s essential to share your wins, regardless of your approach. The whole point of lean maintenance is to make small gains that add up to big ones over time. Showing off your success keeps momentum high, increases buy-in, and helps you advocate for more resources to expand your lean maintenance program.

Quote from Jason Afara

Lean maintenance is ongoing

At its core, lean maintenance is about tying maintenance practices to business needs. This will likely ruffle feathers, but it’s a critical step to move maintenance from a cost center to a value driver. And when you do that, the world begins to open up for the maintenance team to be seen as a true business partner.

Source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/guide-to-creating-a-lean-maintenance-strategy/

5 Ways Your Maintenance Team Can Increase Production Efficiency

Every day, meat processing plants need to make sure the metal detectors in their machines are working. It’s a simple check to ensure there’s metal where there should be and no metal where there shouldn’t be.

This process involves running test balls through the machine. It takes about 45 minutes to complete (25 minutes of manual labour and 20 minutes of admin time). It’s routine maintenance— the type most people don’t give a second thought to.

It’s also an example of how tweaking maintenance processes can boost production efficiency. Instead of a manual check, the inspection can be done with an automated test-ball shooter. A button is pressed, the balls roll out on their own, and the task is wrapped up in five minutes. The result is more than 160 hours of extra equipment availability per year.

This is just one example of how companies can leverage maintenance to increase production efficiency. This article outlines several other strategies for bolstering production efficiency using maintenance, including:

  • How maintenance impacts production efficiency
  • Five ways the maintenance team can boost production capacity
  • How to measure the impact of maintenance on production

What is production efficiency?

Production efficiency is a measurement used mostly by manufacturers to determine how well (and how long) a company can keep up with demand. It compares current production rates to expected or standard production rates.

A higher rate of production efficiency delivers three critical outcomes for manufacturers:

  1. Reduced resource usage: Efficient production systems produce the same number of goods with fewer resources
  2. Higher financial margins: Efficient production means higher margins throughout the supply chain
  3.  A better customer experience: Efficient production allows products and services to be regularly and dependably delivered to customers

How to calculate production efficiency

The calculation for production efficiency compares the actual output rate to the standard output rate. The formula can be applied to either manual or automated work.

When it comes to industrial processes, the calculation takes quality into account. Let’s say you produce 50 units in an hour, but only 30 are useable. Your rate of production for that hour is 30 units.

The following formula is used to calculate production efficiency:

Production Efficiency = (Actual Output Rate / Standard Output Rate) x 100

For example, a manufacturing company receives a new order of 100 units. The standard rate of completion for 100 units is 10 hours, or 10 units per hour. However, the company took 12 hours to complete 100 quality units. In this case, the production efficiency formula would look like this:

Actual Output Rate = 100 units / 12 hours (8.3 units/hour)

Standard Output Rate = 100 units / 10 hours (10 units/hour)

Production Efficiency = (8.3 / 10) x 100 (83%)

In this instance, output and productivity levels are below capacity.

Production Efficiency Formula

How maintenance can increase production efficiency

Proper equipment maintenance is essential for increasing production efficiency. It ensures your total effective equipment performance (TEEP) is as high as it can be. Using preventive maintenance to keep assets operating at their best helps to:

  • Limit equipment downtime: If equipment is checked regularly, you can find and fix failures before they cause big breakdowns that disrupt production. Having a solid preventive maintenance schedule also allows you to coordinate with production so planned downtime is done quickly.
  • Establish a corrective action system for failures: Having a strategy to find, analyze, and fix failure (aka a FRACAS) allows you to target recurring issues at their root. You can spot and eliminate problems that impact equipment availability and product quality the most.
  • Coordinate better shift changeovers: Better changeovers between maintenance shifts means communicating the right information to technicians quickly and accurately. This includes a run-down of what work needs to be done, when, and any obstacles that might get in the way of that work.
  • Ensuring standard operating procedures are clear and maintained: SOPs train operators to do routine maintenance so machines can be operated with fewer breakdowns and accidents.
Stewart Fergusson quote

Five things your maintenance team can start doing tomorrow to increase production efficiency

There are a lot of projects that take months or years to complete. But getting quick wins is also crucial for building momentum and proving the value of your maintenance team. So, here are five things your maintenance team can start doing tomorrow to increase production efficiency.

1. Optimize the frequency of your PMs

A preventive maintenance schedule can be a good example of having too much of a good thing. Going overboard on preventive maintenance can affect production efficiency in two ways. You can either waste valuable time preventing non-existent failure. Or you can increase the risk of failure by meddling with a perfectly fine component.

These guidelines can help you find the right balance between too many PMs and too few:

  • Use equipment maintenance logs to track the found failure rate on preventive maintenance tasks. Start with PMs that take the longest to do or cost the most.
  • If a PM leads to regular corrective maintenance, keep it at the same frequency.
  • If a PM rarely identifies failure, try increasing the time between inspections. If the found failure rate exceeds the frequency of the PM, tweak your schedule so it’s better aligned. For example, an inspection might happen every two weeks. But a failure is usually found every six weeks. In this case, plan for the PM to happen every 4-6 weeks instead.
  • If a machine experiences frequent breakdowns between inspections, try shortening maintenance intervals. You can also modify the trigger for maintenance, changing it from a time-based trigger to usage or performance-based trigger.
PDCA model

2. Identify machines that can be maintained while running

Some routine maintenance can be done while a machine is still operating. Find out if there are any assets that can be safely worked on while being used for production. The key word there is ‘safely’. This might mean that some work can’t be done because certain areas of a machine aren’t safely accessible while it’s operating. In this scenario, determine if partial maintenance is possible and if it’ll have a positive impact on the performance of the equipment.

It’s also a good idea to track rotating or spare assets and swap them for production equipment when possible. That allows you to do regular maintenance on these machines without sacrificing productivity.

3. Make equipment capabilities transparent and clear

Create an iron-clad list of instructions for operating equipment and common issues to be aware of. You can use a failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) to create a list of common failures experienced by each asset. This can also include warning signs for breakdowns.

Having this information clearly outlined and easily accessible gives operators a chance to notice the early signs of failure and notify maintenance before it gets worse. Employees will be empowered to observe and identify any potential problems, and report them accordingly.

4. Use work order data to identify where your team can be more efficient

Work order data can tell you what jobs can get done quicker and how to minimize the risk of asset failure so you can boost production efficiency. Look for these telltale signs of broken processes in your work orders:

  • Unavailable parts and supplies: If this issue is delaying maintenance, review the purchasing process for parts and supplies. That includes making sure your cycle counts are accurate and the threshold for purchase approvals is low enough that inventory can get replenished quickly. You can also create parts kits for frequent repairs or emergency repairs on production equipment so your team can locate and retrieve parts quickly.
  • Misidentified/misdiagnosed problems or missing instructions: Make sure task lists, failure codes, and descriptions are clear. Attach photos, manuals, and other documentation to the work order.
  • Diverted resources resulting from emergency work orders: Emergencies can always be avoided. Analyze your work order data, find tasks that are too big, and break it down into smaller jobs to reduce the risk of major disruptions.
  • Scheduling conflicts with production: See if maintenance can be scheduled while production is happening or if work can be done at an alternate time, like evenings or weekends. You can also consider giving operators minor maintenance responsibilities associated with the work order.
  • Lack of adequate worker skillset: Work order data can show you if the person/people assigned to the work may not have the right skills. Make it very clear on the work request what kind of skills or certifications are necessary for certain maintenance types.

5. Find the biggest obstacles for your team and eliminate them

You can learn a lot from the data that comes from your equipment and work orders. But sometimes, you just have to ask the people who are doing the actual work. They will be able to tell you what barriers they face when completing work. Acting on this information is crucial to continually improve your maintenance processes. All those improvements can add up to a huge boost in production efficiency.

For example, your technicians may spend a lot of time going back and forth from the office to retrieve manuals, asset histories, or other materials that help them on a job. You probably won’t know that just by looking at work order records or wrench time reports. Armed with this information, you can figure out a solution. Maybe that’s creating areas throughout your facility where files can be accessed for nearby assets. Or it could be digitizing those files so they can be accessed through a mobile device.

Here are a few questions to ask your technicians to find any roadblocks:

  • What tasks commonly take you away from a machine?
  • Are information and parts easily accessible? If not, why?
  • What information would help you complete work more efficiently?
  • Are there processes or systems that are hard to use or you think could be improved?
  • Is there anything that frequently keeps you from starting a task on time?

Four ways to measure the impact of maintenance on production efficiency

There are many ways to measure how your maintenance efforts are affecting production efficiency. The most common metrics are the following:

Found failure rate on preventive maintenance

This metric will help you measure how efficient your preventive maintenance schedule is. If your found failure rate is high, it means you’re cutting down on unnecessary maintenance while preventing major disruptions to production.

Unplanned asset downtime (last 90 days)

This number tracks the amount of unplanned equipment downtime and compares it to the previous 90-day period. Because each minute of downtime lowers your production efficiency, this number highlights how maintenance is contributing to healthier, higher-performing assets.

Average time to respond to and repair breakdowns

This stat quantifies all the work you’ve done to prepare for emergencies. Breakdowns will happen. Having a plan to quickly and safely fix these failures will help you reduce the amount of time production is stalled.

Clean start-ups

Compare the amount of useable products coming from the equipment prior to and after maintenance is completed. If the machine is running better after maintenance, it’s proof that your team is increasing production capacity in a meaningful way.

Maintenance has the opportunity to drive production efficiency

Maintenance often gets talked about as an expense. A necessary evil. A cost-center. But the reality is, good maintenance can drive your business forward. When you keep the machines running, you can do more, faster, with less. That means happier customers, a better bottom line, and more profit for everyone in the supply chain. It’s a true win-win-win.

In order to turn maintenance from a cost centre to a business driver, you need to reorient maintenance as a business function and start asking how maintenance can drive production efficiency. From there, a world of opportunity opens up.

Source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/increase-production-efficiency-with-maintenance/

The perfect formula for aligning operations and maintenance

When operations and maintenance don’t work well together, it can be costly. And messy. Take this story of a food manufacturer as an example.

The facility uses a sheeter, which rolls huge balls of dough. The sheeter needs to be cleaned every day. The production team regularly cleans the machine with water. There’s just one problem with this—water makes the dough clump up and break the machine. As a result, emergency maintenance is the norm.

If this situation feels familiar to you, you’re not alone. It happens thousands of times a day. Operations and maintenance have different goals, motivations, and processes. The result is confusion, frustration, and finger-pointing. This isn’t good for business or employee health.

This article is all about learning how to break that cycle and improve alignment between operations and maintenance, including:

  • Metrics to share
  • How to increase collaboration
  • Tips for building joint processes

Why aligning operations and maintenance should be your top priority

Any manufacturer working to reduce waste is either leading the pack or about to break away from the field. For proof of that, look no further than the fact that manufacturers waste 20% of every dollar they spend.

Waste often appears during production as highlighted by these scary stats (courtesy of automation.com):

  • Large industrial facilities lose over 323 production hours a year to unplanned downtime
  • The average annual cost of downtime is $532,000 per hour or $172 million per plant
  • The cost of downtime for Fortune 500 manufacturers is equal to 8% of annual revenues
Cost of DowntimeAutomotiveFMCG/CPGHeavy IndustryOil & Gas
Unplanned downtime hours per facility each month29252332
Cost per hour of downtime$1,343,400$23,600$187,500$220,000

Huge costs are one thing. But work delays, reactive maintenance, and emergency purchases have a mental and physical toll as well.

Improving the relationship between operations and maintenance is critical to cutting downtime at its source.

“When maintenance and operations are aligned, it allows the business to find issues within the operations,” says Jason Afara, Senior Solutions Engineer at Fiix.

“And then business leaders can make informed decisions on how to correct these issues with the appropriate resources. It turns guessing games and blame games into a unified effort.”

Where to align operations and maintenance processes

Planning scheduled downtime

The definition of efficient maintenance is keeping equipment up and running with as little downtime as possible. Of course, this is easier said than done. The production team has quotas to fill. Anything that gets in the way of hitting that target is a threat. That includes maintenance.

“We would fight operations just to get a little bit of maintenance on a machine,” says Jason, remembering his time as a maintenance manager.

This is all too common and unproductive. Luckily, there are two ways maintenance and operations can create a plan for preventive maintenance that benefits both groups:

  1. Use data to compare the impact of maintenance to the impact of failure
  2. Develop shared processes that reduce the amount of scheduled downtime

The first step is for both teams to understand how their activities affect the performance of equipment. Once again, it’s often more complicated than it sounds.

“This is where maintenance departments usually fail,” says Charles Rogers, a Senior Implementation Consultant at Fiix with over 33 years of experience in maintenance.

“They don’t have data to back up their asks. You have to be able to prove your case and show evidence that if you don’t do maintenance on schedule, there will be much worse consequences at some point—probably sooner than later.”

The best way to align your efforts is to determine the acceptable risk and the consequences of failure as one team. Share information on common failure modes, how often they’re expected to happen, as well as repair times and costs for each one. Compare this to the frequency of scheduled maintenance, the time it takes to do these tasks, and the costs involved.

Quantifying the difference makes it clear that scheduling frequent breaks in production for maintenance is a better way for both teams to hit their goals and avoid big, time-consuming breakdowns.

Creating shared processes between operations and maintenance allows the teams to share and action data. For example, it allows operators to detect small failures and maintenance technicians to respond to them faster. Examples of these processes include:

  • Regular meetings between operations and maintenance leaders to discuss production and preventive maintenance schedules, spec changes on machines, or other updates
  • Quarterly meetings between the two teams to discuss successes, challenges, solutions, and root cause analysis
  • A work request process that enables machine operators to quickly and confidently identify problems and empowers technicians to prioritize and respond to issues with minimal disruption

Creating shared work and clear responsibilities

Any mention of operations and maintenance working together will inevitably lead to talk of total productive maintenance (TPM). You can read a short primer on TPM here, but the idea is that everyone at a company (from technicians to accountants) is responsible and involved in maintenance.

Making operations part of the maintenance process is one of the easiest and most effective ways to begin building a TPM program. Here’s an example of how that might be done:

How operations can be involved chart

The key to making these shared processes successful is to create clear job responsibilities. When people know exactly what they need to do, it helps you:

  • Provide the right training and materials to the right people
  • Create accurate timelines and budgets
  • Test new processes, optimize them, and expand them
  • Pick out bad data and figure out the root cause of it

Start defining clear responsibilities by creating a maintenance type for operators. This allows you to track how much work you’re giving to operations. It also helps you design work order templates for operators so they know what to do and where to go if the scope of work changes.

Building realistic work timelines

When operations and maintenance know how long it takes to get things done, it’s easier to set schedules, budgets, and targets accordingly. It also prevents unseen delays, reduces frustration, and fosters respect between the two teams. But it’s not useful to share maintenance timelines if they aren’t accurate. There are a few strategies to make sure expectations match reality:

  1. Look at equipment maintenance logs. Identify work that frequently takes longer than is expected, and adjust timelines accordingly.
  2. Analyze your work order data to find PMs with a high rate of required follow-up maintenance. Factor that into your brief to the operations team.
  3. Account for parts of a work order that fall outside of actual wrench time. That includes retrieving parts, completing safety procedures, and running tests on machines.

Providing realistic timelines doesn’t always mean your schedules will match up. But it does help operations and maintenance have a conversation about what can be done in the time you have. When determining what maintenance can be sacrificed for production, here are a few questions to ask:

Five questions to help operations and maintenance solve scheduling conflicts

Five ways to build a strong relationship between operations and maintenance

Your operations and maintenance teams might be best friends. Or maybe there’s some tension between them. Whatever the relationship is like, there’s always an opportunity to make it better with a few, simple strategies.

Create multiple ways for the two teams to communicate

Communicating with other teams is often one of the first activities to be abandoned when work gets busy. That’s why there needs to be formal processes in place to maintain the flow of information. Creating dedicated channels for communication might include:

  • Team meetings: Regular meetings create space for everyone’s voice to be heard and to keep challenges, plans, and updates visible
  • Channels to post and see updates: This can be anything from a whiteboard to a WhatsApp group, or a digital work request portal for tracking the status of requests
  • Peer reviews: This is a process where operations and maintenance team members review each other anonymously to identify how they can work better together

There are a few key pieces of information to discuss when you’re working in these channels:

  • Machines updates: Bring up spec changes, potential problems, safety risks, or updates to standard operating procedures
  • Schedules: Talk about upcoming work, risks or conflicts, what’s needed to be successful, and any changes from what was previously discussed
  • Reporting: Review targets, progress, troubling trends, or major successes in your reporting
  • Roadblocks and solutions: Discuss major challenges or questions your team has and collaborate on ways to remove those obstacles
  • Long-term planning: Figure out how both teams can continually improve, including how to better manage budgets, hit long-term goals, and develop new skills

Having a framework for communication between operations and maintenance allows you to turn talk into action. Here are a few ground rules:

  • Focus on solutions, not blame: Finding a solution should be the goal of all your conversations
  • Focus on the collective: Find solutions that work for everyone, instead of trying to win an argument or battle for your team
  • Develop a feedback loop: Create trust by actioning feedback and keeping everyone aware of progress
  • Value consistency, but stay flexible: Commit to communicating, but understand that meetings might need to move around once in a while if an emergency occurs
  • Create an agenda for all meetings: Have a plan for what you’re going to talk about so you can make the most of everyone’s time

Set the same goals

There will be less friction between operations and maintenance when the two teams define success the same way. There might be different ideas on how to get to your goal, but both departments will be moving in the same direction.

“In the worst scenario, these departments are siblings who are constantly fighting,” says Jason.

“But in the best-case scenario, you’re working together to achieve the same goals, celebrating together when you hit those targets, and joining forces to get back on track when you don’t.

There are a few metrics that both operations and maintenance can share responsibility for:

  1. Clean start-ups after maintenance and first-pass yield/first-pass good: Both numbers aim to measure efficiency and waste
  2. Total cost per unit of production: Both operations and maintenance can be accountable for reducing costs while improving quality
  3. Time spent supporting production/maintenance: Tracking the time each team spends supporting the other will help you allocate resources and create effective hiring plans
  4. Unplanned downtime( last 90 days): See the impact of preventive maintenance and the shared processes that make this work efficient
  5. Mean time to detect and repair: Everyone has a part in finding and fixing failure before it leads to breakdowns and doing so with as little disruption to the business as possible

Integrate production and maintenance systems

It’s easy for operations to have a negative view of maintenance when their only exposure to it is a breakdown or service interruption. Integrating the systems used for production and maintenance provides visibility into each team’s work. This allows you to see the positive impact of each department and help each other accomplish even more.

Ryan Robinson’s maintenance team is a great example of how integrating maintenance software with equipment and production systems can deliver incredible results. Ryan, the shop manager at a wholesale tree grower, connected sensors on several machines with a CMMS. This gave him the data he needed to optimize maintenance intervals and increase production efficiency.

“Because we know how equipment is used on a daily basis, we have some idea of what is going to be expected of maintenance tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day,” says Ryan.

Ryan was also able to use this data to spot vehicles with high idle times. He brought this information to the farm manager, who figured out the reason why and found a solution.

Read Ryan’s story

World-class maintenance teams are aligned with operations

Operations and maintenance are the heartbeat of any company with lots of assets and big production targets. That’s why it’s essential that they develop a healthy relationship and formal processes for working together. The two teams must share everything from the metrics they aim for to the systems they use, and the schedule that guides their work. Joining forces gives them better visibility into the challenges that face the business and the power to overcome them. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.

Source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/guide-to-aligning-operations-and-maintenance/

Free vs paid equipment maintenance software: Which one is best?

Cloud software is on the rise in the manufacturing industry. Here are some numbers from IndustryWeek to back up that claim:

info graphic

There’s a reason for this rapid adoption of cloud-based software—it has a huge advantage over traditional, on-premise systems. From cost to security, flexibility, and even sustainability, cloud software is quickly overtaking on-premise technology.

Maintenance teams are also recognizing the advantages of cloud-based equipment maintenance software. More and more, they’re replacing old systems with cloud-based solutions that allow them to plan maintenance, track work, and measure performance.

But after decades of being tied to computer terminals and using Excel, whiteboards, and Post-it notes to manage maintenance, it can be tough to justify the cost of a cloud-based computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). Luckily, many equipment maintenance software vendors offer free versions of their systems.

This guide will help you determine what equipment maintenance software is best for your team right now and into the future, including:

  • The pros and cons of free CMMS software and paid CMMS software
  • When you should use free CMMS software vs. investing in a paid solution
  • When to make the jump from a free CMMS to a paid version
  • How to justify the change from free to paid to your manager

Pros and cons of free vs. paid equipment maintenance software

The three key elements that separate free and paid CMMS software are functionality, implementation, and support. Looking deeper into each category will uncover where the strengths and weaknesses lie in both types of equipment maintenance software.

1. Functionality

The functionality of equipment maintenance software is the features available to you and the way you can use them. For example, setting up scheduled maintenance in your CMMS is a functionality. There are two ways functionality differs between free equipment maintenance software and paid software.

The first is that a free CMMS often has less functionality. You’re able to do basic actions, like create maintenance schedules, dashboards, and asset logs. But you miss out on more sophisticated features, like building reports, creating e-signatures on closed work orders, and generating failure codes.

The second difference is that free software often has limits on its functionality that paid software doesn’t. For example, you may be able to only create 30 scheduled maintenance tasks a month on a free CMMS. These limits are usually not in place when you pay for a full subscription, although this can differ by feature and tier.

2. Implementation support

Implementing equipment maintenance software involves more than just creating a password and adding some information to the system. It includes:

  • Uploading scheduled maintenance tasks and triggers
  • Adding asset information and organizing assets into hierarchies
  • Creating user profiles and setting user permissions
  • Setting up parts and minimum quantities, and attaching bills of materials to work orders
  • Connecting your CMMS to other software
  • Training staff on how to use the system
  • Downloading the mobile app on all user devices
  • Building and scheduling reports

Implementing free CMMS software is usually a DIY effort. You likely have access to resources like help articles, training videos, and basic vendor support. But you’re doing the legwork to set up and launch the system and the processes around it.

Paid equipment maintenance software, on the other hand, often comes with implementation support. A trained implementation rep or team will often help you implement the system. The level of implementation support can differ depending on tier. Implementation services might also be an extra cost, regardless of what you pay for the system.

3. Ongoing support

Ongoing support is the help you receive from your CMMS vendor for daily troubleshooting or improvements on the system. For example, you might require ongoing support if:

  • You want to make a field on your work order request form mandatory, but don’t know how
  • If you want to change user permissions, but can’t figure out how
  • If you want to build a new report that tells you the impact of maintenance on your company’s energy usage

There are usually different levels of ongoing support depending on if you use free equipment maintenance software or paid software. A cloud-based CMMS will always have a baseline level of service, regardless of tier. For example, security measures will always be automatically updated by the vendor, no matter what. Free services also often include support over phone, email, or online chat (although it might not be 24/7), through a free community of users, and an online hub for FAQs.

If you have a paid version of equipment maintenance software, you usually get access to more support services. This can include a dedicated customer support rep and priority access when requesting help. Your subscription might come with a set number of hours of premium support. If you go over that amount, you may need to pay extra.

When to use paid or free equipment maintenance software

There are a few key factors that go into choosing between free equipment maintenance software and paying for a CMMS. While it’ll depend on your specific circumstances, here’s a quick rundown of what software is best for certain maintenance teams:

Free CMMS is best for
Paid CMMS is best for

There is one other consideration when deciding between the two types of cloud-based CMMS software—you can always upgrade from free to paid, and you can often move from one paid tier to a lower or higher one.

When to move from free equipment maintenance software to paid

If you’re already using free software to its limits, it might be time to switch to a paid version. Here’s how you know you’re at that point:

1. You need to do more

Hitting the limits of your free plan is the first indication that you should move to a paid tier. If you’re exceeding the capacity of your free CMMS, you’re probably managing maintenance in another way outside your software, like Excel or a whiteboard. This increases the risk of missing work, duplicating data, and reducing CMMS adoption rates. In this scenario, paying for equipment maintenance software provides a higher return on investment and saves you time.

2. You need more out of your data

Free equipment maintenance software is a great way to collect maintenance data. But it doesn’t usually have the tools you need to analyze that data. While there are basic reports you can create yourself on programs like Excel, there are three issues this creates. First, it’s time-consuming. Second, it means you’re handling data in two different places, leading to errors and inaccurate data. Lastly, this isn’t effective for more complex reporting, and analysis.

If you find yourself running up against inaccurate data, time-consuming reporting cycles, and (worst of all) data you can’t use to make decisions, it’s time to move from a free CMMS to a paid one. Making this investment allows you to collect data and use it to create reports in your CMMS. Some CMMS software even includes predictive analytics to take your maintenance program to the next level.

3. You need to connect with other software

Odds are, your maintenance software isn’t the only piece of technology your business runs on. There’s an alphabet soup of manufacturing and preventive maintenance software out there, from SCADA and PLCs to ERPs and MES software. When these systems aren’t connected and sharing information, it could create some of the same problems as managing maintenance in two different places—inaccurate data, duplicate work, and unaddressed equipment failure.

Integrating your business systems with a CMMS clears up these problems and helps you make upgrades to your maintenance program, like automatically triggering scheduled maintenance based on equipment usage. Unfortunately, this feature is not available in most free equipment maintenance software. If this is something you want or need, it’s time to invest in a paid version of a CMMS.

4. You need to manage more people or multiple sites

Most free equipment maintenance software caps the number of users on the system. If you have more than three or four people on your maintenance team, they won’t all be able to use the CMMS. If you have a larger team or are growing, it’s a good idea to invest in a paid version of your CMMS.

Similarly, if your company’s maintenance team stretches across multiple sites, you’ll need a paid CMMS. Using the same system at different locations creates standardization. It also allows you to look at maintenance metrics across your entire organization and share information and resources. For example, if your site needs a part, you can check your shared CMMS to see if another site has that part. This saves you from spending budget on new or emergency parts.

How to justify the cost of upgrading your CMMS to your boss

There are two key stories you need to tell to get your boss on board with investing in equipment maintenance software: What you’ve accomplished with the free system and what you could accomplish with the paid version.

This pitch deck template is a great way to create this story. But here are some of the key elements you’ll need to convince your boss:

What you need to know to pitch a CMMS to management

Source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/free-equipment-maintenance-software-pros-and-cons/

Where bad maintenance data comes from and how you can fiix it

Not all maintenance data is created equal

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.

Bad data and its consequences

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.”

source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/how-to-improve-your-maintenance-data/

The link between maintenance and a more sustainable world

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 are shifting to a system where we design out waste and pollution, keep products and materials in use, regenerate natural systems
Source: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/what-is-the-circular-economy

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.

Resources graphic
Source: https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2020/03/how-a-circular-economy-could-save-the-world-feature/

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:

Benefits of maintenance graphic
Source: https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/concept/infographic

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:

people, planet, profit graphic

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.

Source: https://www.fiixsoftware.com/blog/maintenance-and-sustainability-framework/