Equipment maintenance can have a significant impact on a company’s bottom line. In fact 2020, 46.91% of surveyed companies in North America reported spending 21% to 40% of their total operating budget on equipment cleaning and maintenance alone. With maintenance costs eating up such a large portion of budgets, it’s clear that streamlining maintenance processes is crucial for organizations looking to reduce expenses and improve profitability.
The Real Cost of Maintenance Inefficiency
Labor is often the largest contributor to maintenance costs. Companies bleed money when technicians and maintenance crews spend time hunting down tools, waiting for permits, or working without proper documentation. These non-value-adding activities, known as “wrench time,” have been found to account for only 30 to 40 percent of a maintenance technician’s day.
The remaining time is lost to inefficiencies.
Improving maintenance efficiency not only reduces costs through better wrench time but also improves equipment reliability. Some companies falsely believe that cutting maintenance budgets will lower expenses.
In reality, proper maintenance enhances asset performance and prevents unexpected downtime. The numbers prove it, too – according to Plant Engineering’s 2020 study, the top causes of unplanned downtime are primarily maintenance-related issues like aging equipment, mechanical failure, and lack of maintenance time.
The Blueprint for High Maintenance Efficiency
To maximize the time technicians actually spend maintaining and repairing assets, companies need to minimize non-value activities through an efficient work order process. This forms the foundation for maintenance excellence.
At its core, this process involves creating maintenance plans, translating them into scheduled tasks, assigning work orders to technicians, and tracking completion. Supporting this foundation requires optimizing maintenance organization, performance measurement, capabilities, culture, and technology utilization.
In 2020, 76% of manufacturing companies worldwide prioritized preventive maintenance strategies – a testament to the growing recognition of structured processes enabling higher wrench time and cost savings.
Organizations often benefit from partnering with maintenance consultants specializing in streamlining work order processes to build a foundation for maintenance excellence. With extensive expertise in developing strategies for wrench time optimization, reliability improvement, and cost reduction across industries, these professionals can guide internal teams in implementing impactful maintenance best practices tailored to their unique needs.
Common Pitfalls in Maintenance Efficiency
Certain ingrained practices in organizations can foster maintenance inefficiency. Being aware of these pitfalls is the first step to overcoming them.
Reactive Maintenance Culture
A reactive culture of “run to failure” maintenance can emerge in companies where production takes priority. Preventive maintenance is seen as an afterthought while teams scramble to address breakdowns. Insufficient attention is given to maintenance planning and scheduling. This leads to more downtime, higher costs, and poor labor management.
Over-Reliance on Shift Teams
Having maintenance shifts to handle equipment breakdowns is useful. However, problems arise when organizations depend entirely on shifts to address all maintenance needs. Shift teams are more challenging to manage, track, and optimize than day maintenance crews. Over-utilizing them can be inefficient and expensive.
Inadequate Planning and Scheduling
Even companies that recognize the value of preventive maintenance often stumble when it comes to proper planning and scheduling. Failure to accurately define maintenance task plans leaves room for error and inconsistency. Likewise, incomplete schedules mask inefficiencies by overlooking maintenance needs. This results in downtime and lost productivity.
Case Study: Aluminum Rolling Mill
To understand the real-world impact of optimized maintenance processes, let’s examine an aluminum rolling mill case study:
The decades-old mill was plagued with unplanned downtime, costing $100,000 annually.
Maintenance issues were addressed reactively with no standard protocols. Work orders were vague, with technicians unclear on priorities.
By implementing a streamlined work order process centered around preventive maintenance planning, the mill achieved over 30% reduction in total maintenance costs within a year.
Plant reliability improved markedly, with a 4% increase in mean time between failures observed within 18 months.
Continuous refinement of maintenance strategies supported by new technologies enabled the mill to sustain improvements long-term.
UpKeep’s 2019 data shows that US factories lose $50 billion annually to unexpected downtimes due to outdated equipment. The mill’s success demonstrates the massive savings possible through improvement in maintenance.
The Role of Continuous Improvement
Organizations cannot view maintenance optimization as a one-time initiative to stay competitive. Continuous improvement is imperative to account for changing needs and adopt emerging technologies.
Creating a feedback loop using data analytics helps identify areas requiring improvement. Reviewing metrics like maintenance costs, asset performance, and wrench time monthly and quarterly enables companies to refine strategies regularly.
Investment in technologies like AI and IoT is equally crucial. With the global predictive maintenance market size projected to reach $23.5 billion by 2024, advanced analytics will be integral for timely equipment failure prediction and prevention. Adopting innovations contributes tremendously to sustaining maintenance gains.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can companies transition from a reactive to a proactive maintenance culture?
Conduct an audit analyzing the causes of downtime – are systemic gaps leading to excessive rework and breakdowns?
Initiate awareness campaigns highlighting the risks of reactive maintenance and the benefits of prevention.
Implement capacity-building programs and upskilling teams in preventive maintenance best practices and mindsets.
Develop standardized maintenance procedures and KPIs that align technician priorities with preventive goals.
Are shift teams entirely redundant in a streamlined maintenance process?
Shift teams continue playing a key role in managing unpredictable breakdowns. However, balance is needed between shift and day maintenance teams for optimal cost and workforce management. Day teams empowered to handle preventive maintenance can minimize dependence on costlier shift technicians.
How can technology play a role in enhancing maintenance efficiency?
IoT sensors enable real-time equipment monitoring, predicting failures before they occur.
Big data analytics optimize maintenance planning based on failure patterns.
AR and AI improve technician productivity, accuracy, and on-the-job training.
Automated maintenance scheduling minimizes human error.
Overall, a data-driven approach is vital for long-term gains. In summary, maintenance excellence requires both systematic processes for higher wrench time and a culture of continuous improvement fueled by technology adoption. While the journey demands commitment, the cost reduction and reliability enhancement payoff can be monumental. Companies aiming to optimize maintenance operations must prioritize streamlining their work processes to unlock lasting impact.