What is Maintenance Strategy?

A maintenance strategy outlines systematic approaches businesses adopt to minimize operational downtime, control maintenance expenditures, and optimize production efficiency. Companies can mitigate disruptions, curtail costs, and uphold optimal operational performance levels within their facilities by meticulously scheduling inspections, preventive maintenance tasks, and predictive analytics.

A comprehensive maintenance strategy is a proactive, decision-making framework for managing and optimizing asset health and performance. Over the past decade, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) technology has transformed maintenance principles, enabling organizations to install smart devices that monitor the manufacturing floor. The following blog post shares the four primary maintenance strategies in use today, along with their advantages and disadvantages.

What are the Main Maintenance Strategies?

Maintenance strategies encompass various methodologies organizations implement to uphold operational efficiency and asset reliability. These approaches typically include reactive (run-to-failure), predetermined, preventive, corrective, condition-based, and predictive maintenance. Businesses can proactively manage assets, minimize downtime, and optimize maintenance costs by strategically deploying these strategies.

A man in a yellow hard hat using a lap top in a manufacturing facility and reviewing a maintenance strategy.

Four Common Maintenance Strategies

1. Reactive Maintenance (RM)

Reactive maintenance, sometimes discussed as run-to-failure, involves sending a team to repair assets only after they fail. When production halts, the plant supervisor will utilize available resources to coordinate a work order. A reactive maintenance strategy may be used as a cost-cutting approach, as other methods of maintenance may seem expensive or out-of-reach for cash-strapped operations.

However, reactive maintenance is not a practical solution in the long term for repairable assets. If a critical failure occurs, it can cause unnecessary delays in production that can cost more in lost production time than it would have cost to implement a more proactive maintenance strategy in the first place.

Despite its shortcomings, an reactive maintenance strategy is justified for replacing unrepairable items which should be employed on non-essential or low-cost equipment.

2. Preventive Maintenance (PM)

Preventive maintenance is a cost-efficient maintenance strategy intended to reduce downtime and extend the lifespan of all machinery. Much like annual or mileage-based service on consumer vehicles, preventative maintenance is often time- or usage-based, following your equipment manufacturers’ recommended schedule and servicing machines during planned maintenance visits.

While this time-tested approach is effective, it still has limitations. For example, with preventative maintenance, parts may be replaced unnecessarily when they are still in good repair. In contrast, issues can arise between planned maintenance visits that could lead to costly unplanned downtime.

For many organizations, PM is ideal for preserving low to medium-priority assets that are more expensive to repair.

3. Predictive Maintenance (PdM)

Predictive maintenance, or PdM, is designed to predict failure trends via condition monitoring and machine learning algorithms that use a model to fine-tune the allocation of physical resources.

Furthermore, PdM enables teams to identify maintenance concerns in real-time rather than waiting until a scheduled maintenance visit or an unexpected machine failure. Condition-monitoring technology will instantly alert staff to potential problem so they can be fixed before they escalate.

With a predictive maintenance strategy, organizations can significantly reduce unplanned downtime, optimize their maintenance schedules, and resolve small issues before they escalate, saving significant costs over time. While predictive maintenance does require a technology investment, the return on investment (ROI) for this strategy are quickly realized.

Industrial PdM can be used for all equipment, or it can be reserved for your most critical assets. Backed by sensor information, this cost-saving strategy eliminates the guesswork inherent in reactive and preventative maintenance strategies.

4. Reliability-Centered Maintenance (RCM)

Reliability-Centered Maintenance, or RCM, responds to non-linear failures by providing analytics on all potential failure modes and building a custom plan to address each part’s stability. RCM aims to make equipment available at all times, no matter what degree of criticality it has.

This framework is quite elaborate, so many organizations find that they need to work with a reputable partner to integrate RCM across their entire network of assets. Otherwise, the company could end up with too many plans and no idea of how to execute them successfully.

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Implementing Condition Monitoring in Your Maintenance Strategy

One key element of proactive maintenance strategies is the use of condition monitoring technology, which allows maintenance teams to plan maintenance around data from the machine itself. Condition monitoring captures a machine’s health indicators by monitoring changes in vibration, temperature, acoustics, and power in real-time.

These metrics, which are early indicators of asset wear, can then be compared to the machine’s baseline. If any of these conditions exceeds thresholds for normal operation, alerts are immediately sent to maintenance personnel to address the issues promptly before they lead to failure.

Choosing a Maintenance Strategy

When choosing a maintenance strategy, it is important to understand you budget, goals, and risk tolerance. Developing a robust maintenance strategy requires weighing the benefits and costs it brings to the table. Maintenance management is about tackling asset failure using the best criticality insights to eventually achieve the desired output.

Keep in mind that while a proactive maintenance strategy might cost more in terms of initial investment, it will easily pay for itself the first time unplanned downtime is averted.