Maintenance Control – from Zero to Hero

Six Giant Steps to Effective Maintenance Management

by Bryan D. Weir of Perspective CMMS
Posted 2/21/2005

You can just see the eyes of many maintenance managers in many small
companies glaze over at the mention of CMMS, RCM, TPM, FMEA and the other
maintenance related acronyms that are often introduced in discussions on maintenance and facilities management . Big companies often employ some of these initiatives in their maintenance organizations because they can afford to do so. The reality for many cash-strapped, smaller businesses is quite different . Most of their maintenance is reactive. Plant and equipment problems only get dealt with as they arise and this is usually when it is too late to avoid the resulting disrupt ion to their product ion or processes. 

Even when a company has both the will and the money to spend, it is difficult to
know where to start when considering the implementation of maintenance
management systems. Probably the majority of smaller companies are st ill at this
stage, which effectively means the majority of maintenance people. The prospect
of developing suitable maintenance control strategies and policies from a standing
start is daunting. There are many quest ions such as how much will it cost , where
will the resources come from and how will we cope?

Well, here’s a surprise, the truth is that there is not really a lot to it and I would
suggest the following simplified, non-scientific approach. I won’t show you any
pie charts or fancy graphs and there will be no more three letter acronyms but it
is a realistic, effective plan and its low cost puts it within the reach of all small

Step one – Select a low – cost CMMS

This will involve spending some money because your CMMS, (Computerized
Maintenance Management System) , with its equipment register will arguably be
the most important component in this process. The good news is that low cost ,
Access based systems are now available from a couple of hundred pounds/ dollars
upwards. I f you have $1,000 or £600 to spend you should be able to find a single
user system that will more than meet your requirements. I f you need information
on CMMS select ion you will find all you need to know on the Internet . Just search
for something like “CMMS” or “CMMS software select ion” and you will get many

Step two – Develop your equipment register

Maintaining an equipment register – a list of all of your maintainable equipment –
is a necessity. At the lowest level this may only hold details of your equipment
and its location but most CMMS applications provide space to store all sorts of
equipment details. These may include make, model, serial number, equipment
history, linked spares, linked drawings, etc. You can decide for yourself what
information you want to record. I f you are lucky you may already have this on a
spreadsheet or database.

I f you have lots of equipment you may want to consider developing a user
friendly asset numbering system. These are not hard to create, e.g. FAPACK03
could represent the final assembly area (FA) , packaging machine (PACK) number
three. You can develop this to meet your needs.

Step three – develop your first Planned Maintenance ( PM) schedule

Clearly PM schedules are best when they are based on equipment history but you
probably won’t have any history available. I f you don’t have it your past
experience should be able to let you determine which equipment really must be
on your PM schedule. The initial schedule will therefore be based on your
familiarity with your own equipment but the PM frequencies that you choose
initially should be considered to be no more than an educated guess. Where
practical, you may also want to consider the use of metered maintenance that is
based on runtime or cycle time as opposed to a fixed time period.

Step four – Put a good, ad hoc work reporting system in place

Maintenance can be broadly classified as planned or unplanned where unplanned
is breakdown or reactive work. Before a proper maintenance plan is in place the
ratio of unplanned maintenance versus planned maintenance will be high,
perhaps as much as 95% to 5% or even more. Your aim must be to reduce this
ratio to a more satisfactory level. To do this you must introduce an effective work
request system that captures the details of all ad hoc work that is being done.
One way to do this is to refuse to accept any work requests unless they are
formally requested through the CMMS. The details of these jobs will then be
captured and included in your equipment history.

Step five – Use the maintenance history to fine tune the Schedule

As time passes and equipment history starts to be collected in the CMMS system
you can use it to identify the equipment whose performance is causing disrupt ion
and downtime. You can then optimise the PM work that is taking place in an effort
to minimise this. The CMMS must be capable of producing the specific report s
that can identify your improvement areas. For example, if you are in a product ion
environment and reduction of downtime is a problem a downtime ” top ten” report
will be important .

Step six – Move f rom PM routines to planned inspect ions.

One of the dangers of introducing PM routines is that after some time it can
become generally accepted that they absolutely must be done within the chosen
period. This period was probably chosen by the guesstimate method mentioned in
step three above and it may not be the optimum interval. For example a monthly
maintenance routine can often be scheduled on plant or machinery that may only
have been used for a week or two during the previous month. PM periodicity is
therefore something that must be reviewed regularly.

You can use your developing equipment history to analyse the PM work that is
taking place and ask yourself what it is achieving. Look at the likely failures that
could occur on the equipment and try to put in place inspect ion routines to
monitor equipment condition

With more time, and a greater understanding of the problems that are occurring,
you should be able to drop many of your PM routines in favour of planned
maintenance inspect ions. These will give you an indication of when a routine
really needs to be carried out as opposed to doing it blindly, on a calendar based

The advantage of inspect ions is that many of them can be done quickly, while the
equipment is still running (subject of course to normal safety regulations.) This is
basic condition monitoring or condition based maintenance* and even at this
grass root s level it can be very effective. I t can be further developed with the use
of low-cost , portable condition monitoring tools such as temperature and
vibration measuring equipment .

What does all this cost?

The above scenario is within the reach of almost all maintenance departments. At
this stage there is no need to throw money at the problem. You can do it for as
lit t le as £1K but if you can afford £5K you could get yourself a pretty useful CMMS
system. All you really need is the time and the motivat ion. I f you do it right you
will end up with more time on your hands for analysis and predict ion of problems
as opposed to reacting to them. I f you follow the above rules your returns will be
much greater than your investment .

How long does all this take?

I t cannot be done overnight . There is a significant amount of work involved and it
depends on the resources that you can allocate to it . That said, a small company
could put a CMMS in place in a couple of weeks and if you already have an
equipment register and maintenance procedures this will make it easier .
Gathering equipment history is a different story and it will be a few months
before you have any significant data available. One year down the line you should
be able to measure significant performance improvements.

*Condition Monitoring (CM) – a maintenance process where the condition of equipment is
monitored for early signs of impending failure including overheating and changes in vibration patterns. Equipment can be monitored using sophisticated instrumentation or the human senses. Where instrumentation is used actual limits can be imposed to t rigger maintenance activity. Condition Monitoring (CM) , Predictive Maintenance (PdM) and Condition Based Maintenance (CBM) are other terms used to describe this process.
(Definition by Bryan Weir of Perspective CMMS)

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