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?
The History of Industrial Maintenance
Much has happened in manufacturing since the industrial revolution, but the most dramatic of those changes have 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. 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 rebuilding of industry began. 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 the development of preventive maintenance.
Since the 1980’s 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
In 2019, Advanced Technology Services conducted a survey through a third-party source to collect data about current maintenance practices at over 200 manufacturing facilities. Below are a few of the findings that produce a snapshot of what a typical maintenance program looks like today:
Maintenance strategies: 78% of manufacturing facilities follow a preventive maintenance strategy; 61% have a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), and 56% use a run-to-failure method.
Scheduled maintenance: 53% of facilities allocate up to 10% of their annual operating costs to maintenance processes; 30% devote more than 10% of this budget on maintenance. The average facility spends 20 hours each week on scheduled maintenance.
Attention to systems: Rotating equipment (motors, power transmission, etc.), fluid power systems (air, hydraulic, etc.), and plant automation systems are the three areas where facilities dedicate the most maintenance support, followed by internal electrical distribution systems and material handling equipment.
Unscheduled downtime: The leading cause of unscheduled downtime within respondents’ facilities remains aging equipment (40%), followed by mechanical failure (24%) and operator error (12%). Four in 10 facilities plan to upgrade their equipment and improve/increase training.
Training: Maintenance teams are mostly trained on basic mechanical (73%) and electrical skills (72%), as well as safety (72%). Other types of training include lubrication (55%) and motors, gearboxes, and bearings (52%).
Technologies: The most common technologies facilities use to monitor/manage maintenance are CMMS (58%), in-house spreadsheets/schedules (45%), and paper records of maintenance rounds (39%).
Outsourcing: The average facility outsources 19% of their industrial maintenance operations, and the leading causes are lack of skills among current staff and too many specialized skills being required.
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 enviably 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.
Maintenance 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.
Jeremy Wright is the Director of Project Management at Advanced Technology Services Inc. and is world-renowned expert in the field of industrial machinery lubrication management and asset reliability.