Research & Best Practices

Industrial Maintenance Audits: Maximize Asset Reliability


Audits should be seen as opportunities to find and make improvements to existing systems. In maintenance, auditing the processes used and results achieved will help with meeting goals for asset reliability, asset life extension and cost control.

An industrial maintenance audit can be internal or external. An internal audit may be conducted by maintenance team members themselves or by people from elsewhere within an organization. An external audit is performed by people from outside of the business, as is done with Quality Management Systems. If an organization wants their maintenance management system certified to the ISO 55001 standard for asset management, they will need both internal and external audits.

The focus of an audit depends on the goals. Is it to measure compliance with defined procedures, or is the goal to determine the effectiveness of the current maintenance strategy? If the latter, it may be a preventive maintenance audit that’s needed. This is an audit intended to evaluate the effectiveness of the preventive maintenance being done.

Maintenance activities may also be audited from the perspective of Environmental, Health and Safety (EHS) compliance. In this case, the emphasis will be on checking equipment certifications, verifying hazardous materials are being stored appropriately and confirming that required inspections are being performed.

Why conduct industrial maintenance audits?

An industrial maintenance audit is carried out to measure the effectiveness of the procedures and tools used. The goal is to find areas or activities where improvements can be made.

This could be in terms of maintenance costs, asset reliability and asset lifespan. An audit may also look for compliance to maintenance procedures and EHS standards, again with the goal of finding any deficiencies that may exist or have crept in over time.

A third reason for performing audits is to optimize maintenance strategies. This type of audit will use data gathered from the Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) and, if available, from reliability monitoring sensors and systems installed on production machinery.

Key areas of focus in a maintenance audit

In the typical manufacturing business, the maintenance function works with many other teams. Trying to cover everything it gets involved with in one go could result in a broad-yet-shallow audit that doesn’t yield many findings of value. For greater effectiveness, consider focusing on one or a few aspects of the work carried out. For example:

  • Maintenance procedures: Evaluate compliance with Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and effectiveness of the work order system. Does it give technicians the information they need in a timely manner? Are preventive maintenance tasks documented with enough detail? Are work orders updated in the CMMS in a timely manner when the job is complete?
  • Asset management: Effective industrial asset management is essential for maximizing “wrench time” on machines, focusing resources on the most critical items of equipment and prolonging asset life. Audit aspects such as inventory accuracy, spare parts management and criticality assessments. Consider also a CMMS audit to verify data accuracy.
  • Technician skills: Verify technicians are only assigned tasks they are competent to complete (unless training under the supervision of an experienced colleague). High voltage electrical systems and pressure vessels are examples of where specialized training is needed. Check training records are up-to-date and that a development plan exists for each team member.
  • Safety practices: The nature of maintenance work means technicians are exposed to a wider range of hazards than other industrial workers. Linked with training, technicians must receive education in how to deal with the hazards they may encounter on the job. Lock Out, Tag Out (LOTO) is especially important. They should also know how to report any safety incidents (and near misses, if these are measured in the EHS system). Check this in the training records and verify compliance with safety practices and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs): Maintenance effectiveness can only be improved if appropriate metrics are in place. Examine records such as Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF), Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) and the maintenance backlog, looking for evidence of improvement and accuracy and timeliness of reporting.

Optimizing your maintenance audit

Careful preparation is essential to avoid wasting time during an audit, and to maximize its value. This starts with defining the area or activity to be audited and the goals of the exercise. Audits could be scheduled, perhaps within the CMMS, to make sure they are not overlooked or that long periods do not elapse between audits. Checklists are a powerful tool for ensuring consistency between audits and auditors.

Wherever possible, adopt a data-driven approach. This is especially important with a preventive maintenance audit where hard numbers, such as those that can be obtained from machine monitoring sensors, demonstrate performance. Elsewhere, use KPIs taken from the CMMS. Comparison with the results of previous audits will reveal if trends are moving in the right direction.

When conducting an industrial maintenance audit, remember that the goal is to find ways of improving effectiveness. Simply observing deficiencies is of less value than delivering actionable insights. Focus on making recommendations that will be incorporated into operational standards as a way of driving continuous improvement.

The most useful and constructive audits are those where the auditor works with the audited team or department to develop and implement changes.  This provides opportunities for discussion where assumptions may be challenged, and improvements brainstormed. The audit procedure should make provision for follow-ups to verify deficiencies and non-conformances have been cleared and any changes made are effective.

Support for industrial maintenance

Effective maintenance reduces unplanned downtime and prolongs asset life, but results depend on how well resources are deployed and utilized. That’s why ATS supports using an industrial maintenance audit to assess the effectiveness of department operations and identify improvement opportunities.

As a leader in outsourced industrial maintenance, ATS offers a range of services to help manufacturers extract more value from their assets. These range from technical training and assistance with storeroom management to advice and practical help with implementing a preventive maintenance program.

Contact us to learn more.

Let’s Talk

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.