4 Key Maintenance Strategies

Apr 28, 2021

Everyone has heard of the adage “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”. Previously, maintenance strategies within industrial settings largely took this approach; fixing things as and when they break. In today’s competitive environment, many manufacturers understand this is no longer a viable approach. Maintenance strategies need to focus on optimizing operations and reducing downtime.

With the introduction of IoT amongst other technological advances, maintenance approaches are evolving. The industrial internet of things (IIoT) enables the connection of devices and increases the availability of useful data for transformational change, allowing companies to make predictions and gather actionable insights. It allows companies to move beyond just “reacting”.

Types of maintenance

Maintenance strategies traditionally fall into the following four categories, each of which has its own challenges and benefits:

  • Reactive maintenance — this is a form of unplanned maintenance which involves waiting until an asset breaks or fails before fixing it.
  • Preventive maintenance — keeping assets in good order through routine maintenance to help prevent excess depreciation, unscheduled downtime and major repairs.
  • Predictive maintenance — tracking key indicators of equipment and machinery wear utilizing data gathered from connected assets in order to predict and prevent unplanned downtime and expensive maintenance.
  • Prescriptive maintenance — recommends actions to take as opposed to just predicting a failure.

Reactive maintenance

If your strategy involves running assets to failure and then fixing them, you are in reactive mode. While a reactive approach ensures equipment is not over-serviced, by using this approach you run the risk of greatly impacting production schedules and performance — not to mention the safety of employees — through unplanned maintenance and costly breakdowns. Generally, a reactive approach is used by businesses for lower value or non-critical assets only.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance involves the use of different triggers to determine when to service the equipment. Here are some of the most common types of preventive maintenance:

  • Time-based maintenance — also known as calendar-based, this involves completing routine maintenance at fixed time intervals, such as weekly, monthly or annually.
  • Condition-based maintenance — performing maintenance based on the discovery of physical evidence of potential asset failure.
  • Usage-based preventive maintenance — performing maintenance after a certain threshold has passed, such as operating hours or cycles.

Generally, preventive maintenance is most appropriate for assets that are mission-critical for day-to-day operations and are more likely to fail as they age.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a technique utilizing data to predict potential failures before they happen so that maintenance can be planned in a timely manner in order to avoid impacting downtime as much as possible. In comparison with reactive maintenance, maintenance is performed on machines only when it is actually required.

The ability to predict failures requires tools and solutions to enable monitoring of equipment as well potentially experienced personnel to perform data analysis. While this potentially adds an additional layer of complexity and initial upfront cost, the long term cost savings and increased operational efficiency deliver an ROI. Fortunately, there are also many tools available that can make the job of data analysis much simpler.

Prescriptive maintenance

Prescriptive maintenance is the most advanced method. It takes “predictions” regarding failures and prescribes solutions to complex problems and future challenges based on multiple data sources. For example, a predictive maintenance solution might predict that a piece of equipment may soon fail based on past data and detection of an abnormal change in conditions, such as temperature. Prescriptive method, on the other hand, will tell you what exactly to do in order to best solve this problem now and prevent it in the future — such as shortening the time between scheduled downtimes or even reducing production.

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Which strategy should be used?

The best method or methods to implement will largely depend on your business strategy and factors such as the size of your organization. However, it is clear that a reactive approach alone is not enough due to the significant impact that unscheduled downtime due to improper maintenance can have on your products and services, operating costs, and bottom line.

When choosing on the correct strategy for your business, it’s not just about ease of implementation and cost, but about an investment for long term prosperity. Today, more and more industrial companies are realizing this, as they start to take a more proactive approach to maintenance.

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