Implementing an equipment maintenance strategy has led to increased asset lifespans and equipment reliability for thousands of organizations. Your guide to success and best practices is outlined below—give it a read!
What is equipment maintenance?
Equipment maintenance is an umbrella term for any upkeep performed on a facility’s assets. It covers anything from emergency repairs to strategic equipment enhancements, and the equipment being serviced ranges from a major piece of machinery to the computer system used for clocking labor hours. Facilities rely on their equipment to keep the flow of operations running smoothly, and effective equipment maintenance ensures that essential equipment is always functioning at its best.
Objectives of equipment maintenance
Equipment maintenance has 4 main objectives: protect equipment and lengthen lifespans, shorten or entirely eliminate unplanned downtime, improve overall facility efficiency, and cut operating costs. These objectives are the driving force behind all equipment maintenance decisions.
Protect equipment and lengthen lifespans
This is the most obvious objective of equipment maintenance. Performing maintenance on your assets keeps them in tip-top shape, which improves their performance in the short-term and ultimately lengthens lifespans.
Eliminate/shorten unplanned downtime
Ensuring that equipment is properly cared for also reduces downtime. Unplanned breakdowns are inevitable, but with an effective combination of preventive and predictive equipment maintenance, unplanned downtime can be virtually eliminated.
Planning maintenance proactively allows you to schedule upkeep in times outside of your equipment’s typical operating hours. This keeps equipment availability and reliability high. Furthermore, planned maintenance procedures typically take less time to resolve and cost less than unplanned procedures.
Improve facility efficiency
Higher quality equipment, longer lifespans, and less downtime all contribute to this next objective: improving facility efficiency. Ultimately, performing equipment maintenance allows a facility to optimize operations and get more work done. This also creates a smooth, low-stress workflow, making day-to-day operations more enjoyable for both you and your team.
The driving force behind all facility decisions is money, which is why cost savings is the final objective of equipment maintenance. By enhancing equipment performance and lifespan, costs naturally decrease. Less downtime and improved efficiency also result in additional savings.
Types of equipment maintenance
There are several types of maintenance, but most fall into three major categories: reactive, preventive, and predictive. These maintenance types account for everything from emergency repairs to strategic maintenance plans scheduled months in advance to boost a piece of equipment’s effectiveness. The best facilities utilize a mix of these three maintenance types, the ideal formula being 80% proactive (preventive and predictive) and 20% corrective (reactive).
Reactive maintenance, also known as corrective maintenance, is typically what comes to mind when most people think of the word “maintenance.” Reactive maintenance is prompted when equipment experiences a malfunction or breakdown, and a repair is needed to get the equipment functioning again.
These repairs are typically the most costly and time-consuming. Although they can never be avoided entirely, reducing unplanned breakdowns—and therefore the need for reactive maintenance—as much as possible is best for facility operations.
Preventive maintenance refers to operations planned with the intention to prevent future breakdowns. Most preventive maintenance is triggered with time-based or meter-based metrics. When a certain amount of time has passed, or a piece of equipment has gone through a certain number of actions, maintenance is prompted.
This maintenance style allows for the creation of preventive maintenance schedules. These schedules allow you to organize, plan, and budget for maintenance in the most cost effective and efficient ways possible.
Learn more about preventive maintenance.
Predictive maintenance is similar to preventive maintenance in that it aims to solve equipment problems proactively. However, instead of scheduling maintenance based on time or meter readings, predictive maintenance relies on the condition of the asset to prompt maintenance. If the asset’s performance changes to reflect a potential malfunction or breakdown, predictive maintenance is scheduled to resolve the issue before failure occurs.
Learn more about predictive maintenance.
Learn about other maintenance management styles.
Risks of inadequate equipment maintenance
Not only does performing preventive equipment maintenance bring countless benefits, but failure to do so may end up harming your facility. Here are four risks associated with poor equipment maintenance.
Potential safety hazards
Poor equipment maintenance can pose a huge safety threat to your team. The safest equipment is equipment that functions exactly as it was initially intended to. As pieces wear out and tools dull, the risk of injury while operating steadily climbs. To avoid unnecessary safety hazards, make sure your equipment is always operating in tip-top shape.
Failure to perform adequate equipment maintenance will often result in damaged or broken down equipment, which then results in lost productivity. Choosing not to perform preventive and predictive equipment maintenance leaves you completely at will to the equipment’s breakdown timeline. To quote Murphy’s law, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong,” and any breakdown can drastically throw off the productivity of your facility. To reduce downtime and improve productivity, it is best to perform equipment maintenance early and often.
Putting off equipment maintenance will also result in needless expenses. By performing maintenance at crucial points strategically placed in an asset’s lifetime, most major breakdowns can be avoided. Less major repairs means fewer expenses. While money spent on emergency reactive maintenance can never be completely eliminated, it can surely be lessened!
Poor quality production
Finally, if your equipment isn’t great, your product won’t be either. In manufacturing facilities, poorly maintained equipment leads to higher rates of product malfunction. Less viable products means more waste, further driving up needless expenses.
Equipment maintenance best practices
Equipment maintenance brings a host of positive outcomes when implemented properly, but proper implementation can be tricky. Follow these best practices to ensure that you’re on track to get the most out of your equipment maintenance plan.
Gathering information is a crucial first step when implementing new equipment maintenance practices. In order to make the best possible maintenance plan you need to understand the equipment’s lifespan and timeline. You can then use this to implement maintenance at strategic points to stop a breakdown before it occurs.
Some pieces of information to consider collecting before making your maintenance plan:
- Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) recommendations: Oftentimes, OEMs give guidance on optimal equipment care and suggestions for preventive maintenance. Take this into consideration when creating your plan.
- Maintenance history: A detailed history of past breakdowns and maintenance performed of your equipment can guide you in determining the optimal time to perform preventive maintenance.
- Spare parts inventory log: An accurate and dynamic spare parts inventory log will ensure you always have the necessary parts to perform preventive maintenance as scheduled. There are several systems of inventory management—find the method that works best for your facility and create an inventory tracking routine based on it.
Establish maintenance checklists
Creating a checklist is a great way to ensure quality and consistency across all technicians. With a checklist in place, detailing each step of the maintenance routine, you can ensure your team is always ready to perform predictive and preventive maintenance tasks in full.
For greatest success, checklists and maintenance instructions should be stored in a way that is easily accessible to all technicians at all times, especially while they’re on the job. For facilities that use mobile devices to schedule and document maintenance, a cloud-based storage system is a great way to document these details.
Send out equipment maintenance reminders
After developing a maintenance schedule, setting and sending out maintenance reminders is a great way to make sure the necessary maintenance is performed correctly at the right time.
Scheduling maintenance with a software system rather than a pen and paper system will automatically send reminders when maintenance is scheduled to occur soon. Using a digital system is a great way to ensure maintenance tasks never slip through the cracks.
Choose a system to support your plan
There are several ways to track, manage, and schedule maintenance. Here is a glimpse into 4 different systems:
Pen & paper
Pen and paper maintenance request systems rely on printed forms to plan, schedule, and document maintenance. A single printed form documents the entire maintenance process. Equipment maintenance is scheduled in a paper calendar and technicians are informed of their day’s tasks by the maintenance manager.
Whiteboard maintenance request systems are similar to pen and paper–the process starts with a maintenance manager filling out a paper form to plan and schedule maintenance for a certain piece of equipment. When it comes time for the maintenance to be performed, the information is then organized on a whiteboard where tasks and assigned technicians are visible to all team members and the amount of work needed to be completed is easily visualized.
Using Excel or Google Sheets to manage equipment maintenance allows all maintenance requests, assigned technicians, and pertinent details to be viewed in one forum, accessible to all team members with software access. Going digital can boost organization, but allowing too many people to have access and editing power to the document can result in lost data and forgotten equipment requests.
Computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software
CMMS software is the most comprehensive equipment maintenance management system. This software completely automates all aspects of equipment maintenance from scheduling to assigning tasks to documenting the maintenance.
Ways to maximize equipment lifespan
Equipment maintenance may sound like a daunting and expansive task, but it doesn’t have to be. Listed below are some of the easiest maintenance tasks that can significantly lengthen your equipment’s lifespan, perfect for beginning an equipment maintenance journey.
Identify major causes of equipment breakdowns
Understanding why your equipment is breaking down is the first step in prevention. Pay attention to the causes of major breakdowns and begin thinking of ways to intervene or lessen the impact of these factors.
Document each equipment item’s service histories
This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous one. In order to understand the factors at play in your equipment’s breakdowns, start tracking and documenting all maintenance. When you start to record your equipment service history you may be able to find trends and patterns that can help you create the most effective preventive maintenance schedule.
Put a preventive maintenance plan in place for each equipment item
With your newly documented service history and identified factors of breakdowns, generate a preventive maintenance plan that schedules service at your equipment’s most vulnerable points. Having a plan will hold you and your team accountable and keep you organized.
Adhere to factory recommended maintenance intervals
It can be easy to toss out instructions when you feel like you’ve got things under control, but when it comes to your equipment, pay close attention to the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations. These suggestions were put in place for a reason, so even if your equipment appears to be working fine, take the time to perform preventive maintenance at the OEM’s recommended intervals.
Pay close attention to each machine’s fluid levels
This one seems obvious, but overlooking something as simple as fluid levels can result in a disastrous breakdown. Make a routine of regularly checking equipment fluid levels to ensure you never let a careless mistake derail your facility. Putting this task in a maintenance checklist or integrating it into your preventive maintenance schedule with automatic reminders is a great way to never forget this important task.
Keep equipment clean
This is another simple step that can prevent major breakdowns and lengthen your equipment’s lifespan. Debris on your equipment can cause serious damage—consider including equipment cleaning as a daily task on maintenance checklists.
Specify which team members are responsible for each item
When there is a lot of work to be done and a lot of people to do it, sometimes that work is completed quickly and efficiently, but other times diffusion of responsibility occurs and none of the work gets done. Assigning specific tasks to your team creates a sense of accountability and can help your facility operate as effectively as possible.
How equipment maintenance software can help
Creating an equipment maintenance plan and sticking to it sounds great in theory, but when it comes down to the logistics and following through, many facilities leaders can be discouraged. Most, if not all, facilities leaders want the benefits associated with equipment maintenance but fail to put a plan into action because creating a new maintenance system is daunting.
Asset and equipment maintenance software is a great tool for simplifying maintenance tasks and organizing all aspects of the maintenance process in one central hub. With this software in place, you can schedule maintenance on a digital calendar that automatically assigns available technicians, sends alerts and reminders, and notifies you of any materials needed to perform the maintenance. It will even tell you the inventory stock level of those materials.
Asset and equipment maintenance software can also act as a database for important equipment maintenance documents such as maintenance checklists, detailed service histories, specific instructions for repair, and anything else pertinent to your facility.
Regardless of how you decide to go about implementing an equipment maintenance plan and system, taking care of your assets is sure to reflect back positively on your facility.
Keeping your equipment healthy and increasing their lifespans is sure to boost facility productivity, reduce needless costs, and make your job as a facilities manager much easier.
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