The Evolution of Industrial Maintenance
Several factors—from automation and big data to staffing shortages and culture shifts—will help guide the evolution of industrial maintenance.
These along with artificial intelligence, sensor technology, and budget constraints will become the standard in factories, pushing age-old reactive practices to the wayside. But how and why did equipment maintenance practices evolve from reactive to proactive? And what changes and trends can we expect to see in the future of maintenance?
What is Industrial Maintenance?
Industrial maintenance is the service done by technicians or mechanics to manage machinery and equipment to increase uptime in order to meet the business objectives. It is used across multiple industries and can involve trouble shooting, fixing, and replacing equipment to improve asset performance.
The History of Industrial Maintenance
Much has happened in manufacturing and maintenance practices since the industrial revolution, but the most dramatic evolution of maintenance has occurred in the last fifty years. These changes affected how industry plants have been maintained. Before the Second World War, machinery was generally large, rugged and relatively slow running, with basic control systems and instrumentation. At this point in the history of maintenance, the demands of production were not as severe as they are today, so downtime was not as critical of an issue. When downtime did occur, it was addressed—but generally, these machines were reliable. In some older factories, machines manufactured in that period are still as good today as the day they were made.
After the war, the next stage of equipment maintenance history began: the rebuilding of industry. A much more competitive marketplace developed, forcing manufacturers to increase production. The overwork of machines lead to an increase in downtime and a rise in costs to fix machines. This increase in production demanded better maintenance practices, which lead to a key step in the evolution of manufacturing industry standards: the development of preventive maintenance.
Since the 1980s, plants and systems have become even more complex. The demands of the competitive marketplace and intolerance of downtime have increased, while maintenance costs have risen. Along with the demands for greater reliability, new awareness of failure processes, improved management techniques and new technologies allowed for a broader understanding of machine and component health. The understanding of risk has become essential. Environmental and safety issues are paramount. New concepts like condition monitoring, just in time manufacturing, quality standards, expert systems, and reliability centered maintenance have also emerged on the scene.
Maintenance Programs of Today
Each year, Advanced Technology Services conducts a survey through a third-party source to collect data about current maintenance practices at over 200 manufacturing facilities. Below we list this year’s findings – producing a snapshot of what today’s typical maintenance program looks like:
Maintenance strategies: 76% of manufacturing facilities follow a preventive maintenance strategy; 60% use a run-to-failure method, and 52% have implemented a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).
Scheduled maintenance: 48% of facilities allocate up to 10% of their annual operating costs to maintenance processes; 39% devote more than 10% of this budget to maintenance. The average facility spends 20 hours each week on scheduled maintenance.
Attention to systems: Production equipment, rotating equipment (motors, power transmission, etc.), and fluid power systems (air, hydraulic, etc.) are the three areas where facilities dedicate the most maintenance support. Other areas of significant maintenance support are internal electrical distribution systems and material handling equipment.
Unscheduled downtime: The leading cause of unscheduled downtime within respondents’ facilities remains aging equipment (34%), followed by mechanical failure (20%) and operator error (11%). More than four in 10 facilities — 46% — plan to address and reduce downtime by upgrading their equipment and adjusting their maintenance strategy.
Training: Maintenance teams are mostly trained on basic mechanical (77%) and electrical (70%) skills, as well as safety (71%). Other types of training include lubrication (51%) and motors, gearboxes, and bearings (50%).
Technologies: The most common technologies facilities use to monitor/manage maintenance are CMMS (50%), in-house spreadsheets/schedules (47%), and paper records of maintenance rounds (46%).
Outsourcing: The average facility outsources 20% of their industrial maintenance operations. The leading causes are lack of skills among current staff and lack of time and resources for maintenance.
What the Future Looks Like
Future implementation of maintenance systems will see greater integration of business and technical systems, with more intelligent use of collected data. They will protect users against change of personnel, with the inherent loss of their learning, and allow better informed choices for decision makers. The use of such wide-ranging systems and sensors will allow for vast data collection, which will inevitably cause challenges with data management. This will require exceptionally trained people to run, maintain, and manage these systems and data, which may continue to be a problem if there is a lack of technical talent available. The capture of those with this specialized knowledge and the training of new people will continue to be essential for the exploitation of advanced maintenance.
Throughout the history of maintenance, it has always had the same definition. It is the management, control, and execution which will ensure that design levels of availability and performance of assets are achieved in order to meet the business objectives. The issue that is driving the evolution of maintenance is that the business objectives are variable over time. They have continually changed and will continue well into the future. Only by understanding the underlying issues driving this change will we be better suited to speculate on the future of the maintenance industry.
To download the 2020 state of industrial maintenance report, click here.