Author: Jason Ballentine
Developing a maintenance strategy requires careful consideration and due process. Yet from what I’ve seen, many organizations are making obvious errors right from the start — missteps that can torpedo the success of the strategies they’re trying so hard to put in place.
Without further ado, here are five common maintenance strategy mistakes:
- Relying solely on original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or vendor recommendations.
It seems like a good idea — you’d think the people who made or sold the equipment would know best. It’s what they don’t know that can hurt you.
Outside parties don’t know how a piece of equipment functions at your facility. They don’t understand how much this equipment is needed, the cost of failure, whether there’s any redundancy within the system… OEM and vendor maintenance guidelines are geared to maximize the availability and reliability of the machine, but their strategies might not be appropriate for your unique circumstances or needs. As a result, your team could end up over-maintaining the equipment, which can actually create more problems than it solves. The more you mess with a piece of equipment, the more you introduce the possibility of error or failure. Some things, in some situations, are better left alone.
What’s more, OEMs and vendors have a vested interest in selling more spare parts (so they can make more money). That means that their replacement windows might not be accurate or appropriate to your business needs. Rather than relying on calendar-driven replacement, your maintenance strategy might focus more on inspecting the equipment to proactively identify any issues or deterioration, then repairing or replacing only as needed.
It’s fine to use OEM/vendor maintenance guidelines as a starting point. Just make sure you thoroughly review their recommendations to see if they align with your unique needs for the given piece of equipment. Don’t just blindly accept them — make sure they fit first.
- Relying heavily on generic task libraries for your maintenance strategy.
This is surprisingly common. Some organizations purchase a very generic set of activities for a piece of equipment or equipment category, and attempt to use them to drive maintenance strategy. But generic libraries are even worse than OEM/vendor recommendations because they are just that — generic. They aren’t written for the specific equipment make and model you have. They might even include tasks that simply don’t apply, such as “inspect the belt” on a pump that uses an entirely different drive mechanism. Once a mechanic attempts to perform one of these generic, ill-suited tasks, he or she stops trusting your overall maintenance strategy. Without credibility and compliance, you might as well not have a strategy at all.
Like OEM and vendor recommendations, generic task libraries can help you get started on a robust maintenance strategy, if (and only if) you carefully examine them first and only use the tasks that make sense for your particular equipment and operational needs.
- Failing to include a criticality assessment in your strategy decisions.
If you choose and define tasks without factoring in criticality, you run the risk of wasted effort and faulty maintenance. Think about it: If a piece of equipment is low on the criticality scale, you might be okay to accept a generic strategy and be done with it. But for equipment that’s highly critical to the success of your operations, you need to capture as much detail as possible when selecting and defining tasks. How can you know which is which without fully assessing the relative importance of each piece of equipment (or group of equipment) to the overall performance of your site?
- Developing maintenance strategies in a vacuum.
Sometimes, organizations will hire an outside consultant to develop maintenance strategies and send them off to do it, with no input from or connection with the maintenance team (or the broader parts of the organization). Perhaps they figure, “you’re the expert, you figure it out.” Here’s the problem: For a maintenance strategy to be successful, it must be developed within the big picture. You’ve got to talk to the mechanic who’ll be doing the work, the planner for that work, and the reliability engineer who’ll be responsible for the performance of that equipment, production, or operation. Their input is extremely valuable, and their buy-in is absolutely critical. Without it, even the best maintenance strategy can be met with resistance and non-compliance.
- Thinking of maintenance strategy development as a “one-and-done” effort.
For some organizations, the process of developing a maintenance strategy from the ground up seems like something you do once and just move on. But things change — your business needs change, the equipment you have on site changes, personnel changes, and much more. That’s why it’s vitally important to keep your maintenance strategies aligned with the current state of your operations.
In fact, a good maintenance strategy is built with the idea of future revisions in mind. That means the strategy includes clear-cut plans for revisiting and optimizing the strategy periodically. A good strategy is also designed to make those revisions as easy as possible by capturing all of the knowledge that went into your strategy decisions. Don’t just use Microsoft Word or put tasks directly into the system without documenting the basis for the decisions you made. What were your considerations? How did you evaluate them? What ultimately swayed your decision? In the future, if the key factors or circumstances change, you’ll be able to evaluate those decisions more clearly, without having to guess or rely on shaky recall.
If you’ve found yourself making any of these mistakes, don’t despair. Most errors and missteps can be addressed with an optimization project. In fact, ARMS Reliability specializes in helping organizations make the most of their maintenance strategies. Contact us to learn more.