Maintenance as an Innovation Strategy
« Maintenance activities don’t claim to change the world, their objectives can't be expressed in layman terms, they don’t share the breathtaking charm of high-performance device making, they demand to be repeated periodically and continuously and, if they are successful, their effects just can’t be seen. » (Pier Giorgio Perotto)
According to the European regulation EN 13306, maintenance is defined as “the combination of all technical, administrative and managerial actions during the life cycle of an item, intended to retain or restore it to a state in which it can perform its required function”. Maintenance activities comprise of inspection, commissioning, measuring, substitution, regulation, repair, failure detection, parts replacement, setup, lubrication and cleaning.
The problem of maintenance is central to the debate and the attention of operators in the industry. The current trend is not so much the need for a general increase of interventions as for more rational planning and management.
The concept of maintenance has undergone a dramatic evolution whose reasons are related to organizational and technological development, and to the revolution of information and communications technology. Originally, service was almost exclusively focused on the mere preservation of items, but with the advent of the computer revolution, a new concept of productive organization has emerged. Maintenance is becoming a new form of science, which tends to counteract the causes of obsolescence and degradation resulting from use and aging.
Maintenance activities can significantly contribute to the productivity of a system, however, their cost in terms of both technical and economic resources can become quite relevant.
Proper maintenance is of paramount importance to the proper operation of any machine, it is no coincidence that a machine’s risk assessment is significantly influenced by the level of service expected and practised.
A typical report produced by Maintenance Q-Control®, yielding both plant and personnel performance at a glance.
Management of operations and maintenance schedules.
In several areas of industrial production, outsourcing of maintenance services is not an option due to their strong connection with production, and therefore with the final product. Productive assets and equipment cannot be evaluated separately from the core business, as they are necessary to achieve the final product.
Companies have numerous difficulties in obtaining information directly from the production units. Information is often collected through paper-based systems at the production site, and cannot always be digitalized and stored in a computer system.
The strategic role of computerized maintenance is to introduce new approaches and – most importantly – new tools to integrate all the employees involved in the process, whether internal or external, and enable them to interact with one another. Therefore it plays the main role in defining how human, economic, and technical resources must be coordinated in order to achieve the business goal.
Maintainability and Maintenance
A single failure may cause the stopping of a whole plant with consequent disruption costs causing losses. It is difficult to predict the extent of the losses and damage resulting from the failure and it is therefore essential to draw up a maintenance programme comprising inspection activities and preventative investigations. Action must be taken by decreasing the possible magnitude of the consequences (protective action) and/or working on the probability of occurrence (preventative action). These actions involve those responsible for maintenance, but also other business functions such as maintenance engineering, risk management, and technical direction.
Maintenance procedures impact on production companies at various levels. In particular we can focus on the following aspects:
- Patrimonial – plants represent huge money immobilizations that need to be as rewarding as possible
- Technological – the poor state of the system can affect the quality of the product and/or service provided
- Economical – defectiveness and loss of production reduce profits
- Social/legal – equipment in poor condition can lead to accidents, pollution and safety problems.
Lack of sensibility towards schedule optimization arises basically from scarce awareness of the advantages obtainable from investment in maintenance, and limited research on the overall long-period effects of strategic maintenance choices.
The application of a mere “on-fault” maintenance strategy causes the persistence of multiple management problems, such as an increased risk of unpredictable failures with consequences that can be serious, such as possible chain failures with relevant economic impact, and a great difficulty in budget forecasting and scheduling.
As mentioned above, maintenance can no longer be seen as a business function ancillary to production, but as an integral part to it. Maintenance comprises the study of the technical and human causes that lead to failures, in order to prevent them, and all actions aimed at organizing resources to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the service in order to optimize the global economic efficiency of the production system.
The solution manages and optimizes scheduled maintenance activities, preventive maintenance and extraordinary maintenance interventions through an integrated, structured approach. Maintenance management and continuous monitoring of activities assures better performance and longer-lasting equipment, facilities, fleets, and machinery. Maintenance can reach 15 % of the operating cost of a facility; unscheduled maintenance is often a “hidden cost” because it is not recorded and by the end of the year ends up in oblivion.
The system can record, directly on a production site, all ordinary and extraordinary interventions, allowing for analysis and cost assessing in the main office. Each operator can use the system through an interface tailored to suit their own duties and competencies, to get the most in the easiest way.
To ensure and manage an effective maintenance service means ensuring that the system operates to the best of its capacity, in a safe way and maintaining top quality. It has been observed that the maintenance service's user is much more efficient as maintenance is effective. Therefore effectiveness is to be understood as “doing only what is needed” and efficiency as “doing one's best, getting maximum results with minimum effort”.
The system aims at improved reliability, cost reduction and increased profitability. It compares data and checks deadlines through a digital archive, available at anytime from anywhere. It also allows you to intervene when it is really needed, knowing in advance and in detail the steps to be taken as well as any quotes and orders for parts and labour.
It allows the collection and organization of all information and all necessary technical documentation, as well as precise assessment of the impact of maintenance costs on the final product through timely knowledge about interventions and the work time required to maintain safety within the company. In this perspective the system also provides for the quick and easy compilation of a report describing the work performed, as well as any comments on the difficulties encountered and recommendations for further improvements. Another advantage is control of all sites from a single location in real time, through a web interface.
All the above is handled automatically: the system informs the user of deadlines through video messages, e-mail or text messages with a detailed description to complete the operation. Through the web interface and with a few simple mouse clicks detailed reports can be obtained to compare and analyze the individual machines, operators, departments, ordinary and extraordinary maintenance, their deadlines, intervention timings and associated costs.