Is maintenance optimisation worth the effort?

Is maintenance optimisation worth the effort? part 1

In the first of a two-part article, Asset Management specialist Paul Wood discusses performance metrics and maintenance strategies in relation to the maintenance optimisation of a business.

Whatever industry you work in, one thing for sure is that you want to avoid your assets breaking down causing unplanned downtime, loss of production, product scrap, safety issues and loss of revenue.

This is the fundamental reason why we do maintenance.

However, have you ever stepped back from the ‘coal face’ and assessed how optimised your maintenance approach is?

It’s far too easy to be head down getting all the preventative tasks planned and scheduled or keeping the reactive backlog list at a minimum. But have you ever asked yourself ‘why you’re doing what you’re doing and if is it adding value?

Performance Metrics

Without some form of performance metric (however simple), how do you know how well you’re performing? Even a simple analysis of planned vs unplanned work can give an insight, as a high level of unplanned work is often an indication of a lack of control. What is important though, is that time is allocated for maintenance and acceptance that the asset will not be available.

What this means is that an asset with 100% availability is not necessarily a good thing, as it will often lead to unplanned downtime. For example, a loose bolt which would be picked up on routine maintenance could quickly escalate to a catastrophic failure.

Having SMART metrics and ensuring people understand them is key to achieving them.

Maintenance Strategies

Different companies adopt different maintenance strategies.

There are 4 main types of strategy which can be adopted

1.Run to Failure

This is where the asset is run until it fails. Whilst this sounds counterintuitive when discussing optimising maintenance approaches, it is quite appropriate in some instances. Often adopted for non-critical assets, a simple example would be light bulbs.


Easy to understand and implement

No planning required


Highly unpredictable

Makes planning staff resources difficult

Potential safety risks

Can lead to a firefighting culture

2.Preventative Maintenance

These are normally time-based activities such as inspections, adjustments, lubrication, or parts replacement. Often advised by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) or developed over time. They aim to prevent unscheduled downtime and major failures.


Reduces unplanned downtime

Enables resource planning

Extends asset life


Requires more labour

Can lead to unnecessary maintenance if not reviewed

3.Predictive Maintenance

This utilises condition-based inspection techniques to detect defects or faults early so that planned preventative maintenance can be undertaken to avoid asset failure.  A good example of this is vibration monitoring which can be used to detect and monitor bearing defects before they reach a point requiring replacement.


Increase asset life

Reduces unplanned downtime

Reduced Preventative Maintenance

Increased safety can reduce the need for intrusive tasks


Expensive equipment

Can require competent staff to interpret data

Can be difficult to install and operate

4.Reliability Centred Maintenance

This is a combination of all three of the above and allows specific maintenance strategies to be developed for each asset system based on its potential failure modes aiming to maintain reliability levels. Due to the initial work intensity of performing such analysis, this would normally only be used for business-critical assets to ensure performance, safety etc. is maintained at a high level but in a cost-effective manner.


Increased asset availability and reliability

Reduced maintenance costs

Utilises root cause analysis to develop maintenance regimes


Time and effort required to setup

Requires business maturity to adopt

High-performing companies will often adopt a Reliability Centred Maintenance approach to ensure they are operating at an optimised performance level to get the best out of their assets.

Look out for Part 2 coming soon, where Paul looks at the value in maintenance, alignment to business strategies and more.

If you wish to discuss anything you have read here please contact [email protected].

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