If and when a machine breaks down, it can cause a number of problems within a business. Due to inevitable downtime that occurs while administrators fix the problem, projects can go off schedule, or worse yet, production can be halted.
When a piece of equipment is experiencing issues, there are a number of ways to deal with the problem through maintenance. However, just as there are a myriad of things that have the potential to go wrong with large industrial equipment, so too are there a variety of types of maintenance which can decrease downtime.
Maintenance technologies have a certain set of goals, including lengthening asset lifecycle and lowering the need for replacements as well as boosting efficiency and performance.
According to a recent paper from the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center, reactive maintenance is simply defined as when equipment operators fix a machine after it has already broken. Without proper condition monitoring tools in place, it is extremely difficult to predict when a system will experience issues. Therefore, reactive maintenance, or "firefighting," occurs within organizations without an equipment monitoring system. The paper also stated that this type of upkeep is normally a consequence when businesses ignore proper machinery care. When little to no maintenance occurs, operators must be called upon to "put out the fires" when a machine breaks down.
However, with proper technology present, reactive maintenance can become a thing of the past.
This type of repair strategy includes the replacement, overhaul or remake of a piece of equipment according to a set schedule, despite the item's condition. Minor preventative maintenance, which is comprised of fundamental equipment service like cleaning and routine adjustments, should take place at regular intervals, according to the paper. Major preventative maintenance, or when a machine is scheduled to be shut down for larger fixes or tasks, can be a more expensive option. However, both major and minor preventative upkeep should occur within a business.
When an organization has an equipment monitoring system in place, it has the opportunity to employ a predictive maintenance strategy, the most desirable practice for equipment upkeep. The paper refers to this as a "right-on-time maintenance strategy."
"Predictive maintenance may be best described as a process which requires technologies and people skills, while combining and using all available diagnostic and performance data, maintenance histories, operator logs and design data to make timely decisions about maintenance requirements of major/critical equipment," the paper stated.
By leveraging data made available through equipment maintenance software, business administrators can identify possible points of failure within a machine before it breaks down. In this way, they are able to schedule repairs and general upkeep according to their convenience, which greatly reduces consequences related to unplanned downtime.
Preventative maintenance practices have additional benefits besides preventing downtime. Mintek stated that by utilizing equipment monitoring to achieve near-zero downtimes, businesses can greatly enhance the service provided to their customers, as well as boost the reputation of a business as a whole.
"While not all reputation boosting moves are working taking, preventative maintenance yields so many benefits in so many areas at so little cost that it is clearly an intelligent strategy for companies to adopt," stated Mintek.