equipment

Developing A Strong Equipment Maintenance Strategy

by Jason Cockerham on April 27, 2021
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The cost of equipment failure is detrimental for any business, so implementing a strong equipment maintenance strategy is vital to preventing unanticipated failures.

Having this strategy in place not only saves you costs up front, but also extends the life cycle of your equipment and makes your company more productive in the long run.

To get started on the right foot, there are some important things to keep in mind as you’re developing your strategy.

What is an effective equipment maintenance strategy?

Developing an equipment maintenance strategy does not happen overnight but it is undoubtedly worth the time and effort it takes to build it.

There are three key aspects to every good equipment maintenance strategy:

  • Types of equipment failures
  • Spotting failures
  • Anticipating failures

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Aligning maintenance to types of equipment failure

Each time you take apart a complex machine and put it back together, you have the potential to introduce new problems. You start with the intention of fixing it, but in the process run the risk of creating more issues.

While a good preventive maintenance program should be the cornerstone of your strategy, you need to find the optimal frequency for each type of equipment.

This is known as reliability-centered maintenance, and it requires a deeper understanding of each piece of equipment and its potential failure points. Starting with failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) is crucial to creating an effective long-term equipment maintenance strategy.

Some failure patterns are age-related failures, which don’t require any intervention until the equipment or piece of equipment reaches a wear-out point. Understanding that a certain piece of equipment falls in the category of age-related failure helps you save unnecessary servicing costs while reducing the risk of introducing new problems.

Other failure patterns occur randomly, making it impossible to determine the mean time between failures (MTBF). In this case, a regular maintenance schedule can only minimize the likelihood of failures to some extent. To avoid falling into the trap of reactive maintenance for these issues, it’s more effective to rely on condition-based maintenance (CBM).

Equipment-maintenance-cmms

CBM is the idea of monitoring assets in real time and replacing parts as needed, at the most opportune times. You determine the opportune times by measuring asset conditions like temperature, vibration, oil quality, electrical amperage, etc. The idea is to use these ever-changing diagnostic measures to perform preventive maintenance when an asset indicates that it is needed, rather than at set intervals of time or usage.

Predictive maintenance is a more advanced form of condition-based monitoring. It uses Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) sensors embedded in equipment to continuously collect data.

Once you map the failure pattern to each piece of equipment and identify the right strategy to address it, you also need to remove any redundancies. For example, you may not need both a preventive and predictive approach for the same machine. Eliminating redundancies will make your equipment maintenance strategy more cost-effective.

How to spot failures

Before we can begin anticipating failures, we have to know how to spot them, and what to look for.

The main way to spot failures is by performing inspections with thorough checklists. You might be thinking that checklists are simply a list of things to check, and you’d be right, but a better way to think about it, especially in terms of equipment maintenance, is as an ordered list of tasks that need to be performed before a specific action takes place.

The best way to understand this is by thinking about a pre-flight checklist for pilots. There are a pre-determined set of steps that the pilot has to perform in a specific order before the plane can safely fly. A pilot’s checklist involves a mix of visual inspections and actions to be performed.

Again, these inspections and tasks must be performed in a specific order for the airplane to safely fly.

The types of checklist and maintenance strategies will vary depending on your assets and your industry, and the best place to find a thorough list is by checking with the manufacturer or by following the industry standards.

Let’s look at some general types of equipment you might need to inspect, and some things to look for during inspections.

equipment-downtime

Equipment types for inspection 

Heavy or powered equipment 

Mechanical equipment 

Non-mechanical equipment 

Here they are in a bit more detail.

Heavy or powered equipment inspection checklist 

Assets and equipment include: 

  • Forklift 
  • Scissor lift 
  • Crane 
  • Bulldozer 

Examples of things to check and do include: 

  • Check oil level and discoloration 
  • Inspect tires for worn tread, crakes, proper inflation 
  • Remove and inspect air filter 

 Mechanical equipment inspection checklist 

Assets and equipment include: 

  • Pump 
  • Air compressor 
  • Conveyor belt 
  • Extruder 
  • Refrigeration units 

Examples of things to check and do include: 

  • Check extruder screw for chips and wear 
  • Check all air tubing for cracks and leaks 
  • Inspect seals and fix leaks 

 Non-mechanical equipment inspection checklist 

Assets and equipment include: 

  • Plumbing 
  • HVAC 
  • Gas lines 
  • Electric panels   

Examples of things to check and do include: 

  • Clean all drains and p-traps 
  • Check condensate drain 
  • Ensure breakers are secure 

Anticipating equipment failures

Predicting failures is certainly appealing, but it’s important to remember that its success is closely tied to data availability. The best way to anticipate failures is by gathering data on your assets and using that data to develop a preventive maintenance model.

As we mentioned earlier, the main types of failures you will most likely face are age-based failures and condition-based failures. Both types of failures can be anticipated with the right amount of data, and equipment management software to help you manage them.

Equipment management software, also known as enterprise asset management (EAM) software is designed to gather data on your equipment, then analyze it and tell you when it’s time to perform maintenance, and how much those maintenance tasks are costing you.

desktop dashboardAge-related failures are pretty simple to anticipate. A common example is lightbulbs. If the manufacturer tells you the lights will last for approximately 100,000 hours, and you run your facility 24/7, then you can reasonably expect those bulbs to last you about 10 years before they’ll need replacing.

Condition-based failures can be a little trickier, but with the right EAM software, they can also be anticipated. Once you set up your predetermined metrics for your asset, such as miles or hours operated, you and your technicians will be notified when it’s time to perform maintenance, before the asset reaches its failure point.

Instead of waiting for your equipment to fail and being pressured to race around trying to fix it, potentially leading to a poorly done job, your technicians can get out in front of maintenance work and repair your equipment before there’s ever an issue.

Who should be included in your equipment maintenance strategy?

Everyone at your plant ultimately contributes to the success of your equipment maintenance strategy. However, unless you have outlined clear roles and responsibilities, it’s all too easy to start pointing fingers when a machine breaks down.

Here is an example of how you might define roles on your maintenance team:

Machine operators perform routine maintenance tasks and inspections (e.g. cleaning, tightening bolts, and lubricating equipment) to reduce the likelihood of breakdowns.

Floor supervisors review and approve the maintenance log.

Safety supervisors ensure machine operators adhere to the safety checklist and point out non-compliance issues.

Service technicians, who have more training than machine operators, perform preventive maintenance.

Reliability engineers look at equipment maintenance metrics and perform data analysis to fine-tune your equipment maintenance strategy (such as adding or deleting items from the inspection checklist or changing the cadence of maintenance schedules).

Senior manufacturing leaders support these activities by establishing training and standard operating procedures, as well as investing in automated systems that simplify these processes.

While you may not have all these roles within your organization, everyone should have a clear understanding of their role in your equipment management strategy.

inventory-management-software-dashboard

The right tool makes all the difference

As any technician will tell you, you can’t do the job without the right tool. When it comes to equipment maintenance management, EAM software is the best tool you could have.

Enterprise asset management software offers a unified platform for manufacturing leaders to track all information related to their physical assets throughout the equipment lifecycle

With a robust EAM software like ManagerPlus, you can do things like:

  • Automate work orders
  • Track inventory
  • Improve communication
  • Manage data
  • Track and store inspection reports

Automate work orders

Set condition-based metrics for your preventive maintenance schedule and your EAM software can automatically generate and assign a work order to the proper technician when it’s time to perform work.

Track inventory

Trying to keep up with all the parts you need to maintain your equipment is a hassle and most equipment or warehouse managers simply order more than they think they’ll need or order extra when they’re offered a good deal.

The truth is that about 80% of parts inventory goes unused every year. EAM software helps you identify the critical inventory that you can’t be without and non-essential parts that you don’t need to waste money holding on to.

As soon as a work order is generated and assigned, the necessary parts are attached to it and inventory levels are updated in real-time to reflect the change, even across multiple inventory locations. This makes it easy to always know exactly what you have and when it’s time to order more so you’ll always have the right parts, in the right place, at the right time.

Improve communication

Miscommunication is often the cause of incorrect or missed maintenance work. With so many different tasks and things to coordinate, getting everyone on the same page can be difficult. With EAM software, your data, work orders, and all other asset information live in the cloud so everyone on your team is always working from the same source of information and any changes or updates are reflected instantly.

You also have one central location to communicate with your teams. Instead of having to track down individual technicians to follow up on work or scour the warehouse looking for parts, all the information you need is available in one place.

This proves even more useful when trying to communicate with vendors. Any good equipment maintenance strategy will involve vendors in some way and trying to keep in touch with them can be a hassle. A good EAM software solution will help you communicate with vendors as easily as you do with your internal teams.

Work orderManage data

You already know that good data is vital to a good preventive maintenance program but it’s just as important to manage that data properly. As with any good resource, if it’s not managed properly, it’s not very useful.

The Internet of Things (IoT) allows maintenance managers to collect massive amounts of data on their assets but you need EAM software to manage it all effectively. Data is good, but it’s even better when it all connects and talks to each other. Your inventory data is useful, but it’s even more productive when it talks to your work order data so it can be assigned appropriately.

One of the most useful aspects of data is the insights you can gain from it. With all your asset data coming in, a good EAM software can generate cost reports for you and give you detailed cost breakdowns on all your equipment. You’ll be able to see exactly where your maintenance budget is going and discover gaps in your maintenance program where you might be spending more than you thought you were.

With these insights documented, you’ll be able to track the cost savings and performance improvements over time so you can make an even stronger case to the executives about how your maintenance team really does actively contribute to the company’s bottom line.

Track and store inspection reports

Your inspection reports are the first line of defense in your preventive maintenance program. Using EAM software with an app that lets equipment operators perform inspections from their mobile devices means you’ll always know the moment an asset needs maintenance. Instead of waiting around for the operator to perform the inspection and hand-deliver the piece of paper to you, you’ll be able to see the moment an operator marks an asset as failing inspection.

With these instant notifications on your mobile devices, your technicians can also see as soon as work is requested, or a piece of equipment is flagged for maintenance work and can begin the job right away. They can do the work and close out the work order within hours.

Ideally, operators should be able to scan a barcode on their equipment to instantly begin checking off the inspection list and technicians will be able to scan the same barcode to pull up the work order and relevant information.

The best EAM solutions are based in the cloud which means all your inspection reports are stored in one place forever so when it’s time for an audit, you’ll quickly and easily be able to prove compliance.

Where do I start?

The best place to start improving your equipment maintenance strategy is by talking to an expert. The team behind ManagerPlus has been helping companies improve their equipment maintenance strategies for over 20 years and is happy to talk with you more about the challenges your company is facing, and how our EAM solution can help you solve them.

Schedule a demo with us to see it in action for yourself.

How to effectively maintain equipment

As a maintenance manager, the best way to keep equipment running is with a robust equipment maintenance strategy.

A good equipment maintenance strategy includes being able to:

  • Identify types of equipment failures
  • Spot equipment failures
  • Anticipate failures before they happen

The best way to spot equipment failures is with thorough inspections using comprehensive checklists. These inspections are the first line of defense for a strong preventive maintenance program that helps you anticipate and prevent failures before they happen.

Every maintenance task needs the right tool to be done properly and EAM software is the best tool for managing your equipment maintenance strategy.

Good EAM software enables you to:

  • Automate work orders
  • Track inventory
  • Improve communication
  • Manage data
  • Track and store inspection reports

The best way to get started improving your equipment maintenance strategy is to talk to an expert.

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Jason Cockerham
About the author

Jason Cockerham

Jason is a storyteller at heart with a career spanning everything from film and TV to iPhones. Just don't expect much before his first cup of coffee.

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