8 Ways to Have Cost-Effective Maintenance Programs

Rohan Mathew

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Running a manufacturing plant is an essential duty, as the world learned all too well in 2020. Panic buying of personal protective equipment, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other essentials pushed factories to go into overtime.

Without quality maintenance programs, emergency production like that wouldn’t be possible. Some studies indicate that unplanned downtime due to disorganized maintenance often costs up to $250,000 an hour!

These aren’t costs you can afford—even less so in uncertain economic conditions.

Lucky for you, you’re not alone in your search for cost-effective maintenance programs. Take a look at these eight sure ways to guarantee your plant’s success while saving money.

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  1. Use Reliability Centered Maintenance Programs

Reliability centered maintenance programs, or RCM programs, are among the best maintenance programs. With RCM software, you can pinpoint how and when equipment may fail. You’re also able to record, predict, and understand the effects of asset failure.

With that information in mind, you can create a maintenance strategy that takes care of regular issues before they create big problems.

Seven essential steps make up the basic structure of RCM:

Step 1: Deciding What Assets to Monitor

The first step of RCM is picking equipment to monitor. You don’t want to monitor less important assets in high detail. See the next tip for more on this process.

Step 2: Lay Out System Functions

Whatever equipment you choose in Step 1 is part of one system within the manufacturing process. There are multiple systems involved, so differentiate the chosen system from others.

By defining system limits, you can better focus your maintenance efforts.

Step 3: Figure Potential for Failure

Once you know what equipment you’re focusing on, you need to know how it could fail.

There are many different ways machinery can break, called failure modes. Knowing each one helps you address them.

Step 4: Know Why Machinery Fails

After you know failure modes, pinpoint what causes errors. Steering clear of these causes helps you avoid issues from the start.

Step 5: Know What Failure Means

Look at every failure mode and figure out what happens afterward. Knowing this ahead of time lets you plan.

Step 6: Pick Maintenance Methods

Decide how to address each failure mode. You’ll assess conditions and plan your next moves.

Step 7: Put Plans Into Motion

Once you have all your plans written out, perform maintenance. Adjust strategies as needed based on the effects.

  1. Focus on Equipment That Matters

Step 2 of successful, cost-effective RCM is focusing on key equipment. If you try to do RCM analysis on every part of your production plant, you’ll spend more money than you need to.

So, how do you choose what equipment to analyze? Here’s the drill:

Review your production process and hone in on the most essential pieces of machinery. What is the equipment that you can’t complete tasks without? Consider a wood processing plant producing 2X4’s, for example.

Some of the most essential equipment, in this case, might include bark stripping machines and log splitters. If this equipment fails, the plant can’t even begin to process the lumber it receives. Failure could lead to hours of delays and thousands or even millions of wasted dollars.

For that reason, the plant might focus on these machines in RCM analysis. Ensuring they stay up and running means the production line keeps running more or less like normal.

You should also focus on the equipment that costs the most to repair. Losses in areas like production and labor aren’t the only effects of unplanned downtime. You also need to factor in the cost of repairs and replacements.

In some industries, replacing one machine could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars on top of other downtime costs. An unforeseen problem that leads to asset replacement could counteract an entire quarter’s profits.

You can use RCM analysis to target mechanical problems before they ruin your day. Then, you’ll save money on reactive maintenance and replacements.

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  1. Know How Much Work the Job Takes

One common maintenance error is over-estimating or under-estimating labor hours. If you budget for a two-hour repair that actually takes eight hours, you’ll run into money problems in no time.

When you plan for maintenance, be scientific about it. Look over your old maintenance records to see how long your repairs take on average and how much they cost. This gives you information specific to your needs.

Still, you might not have a massive amount of data from your plant alone. Look into other factories’ repair times to see how long they take on average.

Use all the data you collect to decide how much time maintenance and repair jobs should take. Seeing how long previous repairs took won’t give you an answer that’s set in stone. Still, taking a look gives you a rough estimate of the labor hours and costs you might incur.

Having the approximate costs of maintenance and repair down from the start gives you a more reliable budget. Knowing how much you need for maintenance labor lets you spend on other parts of your business with more confidence.

  1. Learn From Your Mistakes

It’s simple enough to say you should learn from your mistakes, but following through is harder. When a mishap occurs—and they will occur—it’s not enough to make a mental note. Do an investigation of every failure, even when you’re not required to due to injury or another liability.

Having exactly what happened and everything that follows written down is invaluable for future problem-solving.

Also, consider that mistakes aren’t always big problems. There are flaws in every maintenance operation or crisis management procedure. No matter how well a plan goes, you can always improve upon it.

Every time you enact RCM or other maintenance procedures, you have an opportunity to see what works and what doesn’t. If your goal is saving money on maintenance, it’s worth taking time to keep a constant eye focused on the processes. This practice helps you stay updated and efficient, letting you cut unneeded costs.

  1. Don’t Discount Extra Evidence

RCM management programs are vital to optimized production. Yet, RCM is focused on preventing failures in primary assets. This means it doesn’t always keep track of the overall costs of running a plant.

Over time, as you tune up your equipment and have it serviced, you collect a lot of data. If you’re not using an evidence-based asset management (EBAM) program, you might not keep track of how much you spend on each of your assets. Yet, you collect receipts, maintenance reports, and production records on the whole factory all the time.

You don’t need to set up two management programs to keep an eye on overall equipment maintenance costs. You can reap the benefits of RCM while integrating parts of an EBAM process in order to make the most informed decisions when replacing machinery.

  1. Keep Supplies on Hand for Quick Action

RCM or whatever cost-efficient maintenance program you choose helps you predict and address asset failures. Yet, that knowledge isn’t worth much if you don’t have the tools you need.

Don’t update your stock of spare parts and maintenance supplies here and there as you think you need it. Instead, you should make an organized list of all required backup parts and maintenance supplies. When you run into a problem you haven’t faced before, make note of what you needed to take care of it and be prepared going forward.

Having an organized and easy to access supply inventory can make the difference between taking care of a problem in its earliest stages and a disaster that results in hours or even days of downtime.

Don’t become complacent in your maintenance schedule or tempted to skimp on duties when you see supplies are running low or out. Moreover, try your hardest to not run out of supplies in the first place.

Entering a contract with a reliable, quality supplier is one way to avoid those issues. It’s easy to make friends with suppliers, or you might work with people who are already friends or family. Don’t let this tempt you to give suppliers slack with on-time and accurate deliveries because of personal connections.

While maintenance supply deliveries might seem like a small or tangential part of your production processes, you don’t want to realize how much you need them the hard way. Make sure you have all the supplies and parts you need ahead of time. You won’t regret it.

  1. Don’t Perform Maintenance by Memory

Designing a quality equipment maintenance program might seem like you have every scenario planned out. Once you find a strategy that works well, you may follow it to a “T” at all times.

Yet, don’t become too confident in your strategies.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with following a successful maintenance policy. In fact, straying from the plan could result in massive system failure.

So, why shouldn’t you be confident in your plan? If you’re too confident in your strategies and perform maintenance by memory, you’re much more inclined to make a silly mistake.

One missed step can lead to big problems, and there’s a super-easy way to avoid this. So, how do you do that?

In the same way that keeping your inventory of spare parts and other maintenance musts organized helps avoid disaster, all you have to do to stay on top of the protocol is to make a list. A simple list might seem annoying or like beginners’ stuff, but don’t fall prey to pride.

There’s no shame in being organized and careful about every part of your maintenance program. This is for sure: You’ll be a lot more embarrassed about a crisis caused by one small oversight than you will be about carrying around a list!

Another reason you shouldn’t perform maintenance by memory is that doing so won’t let you make small adjustments to your strategy. A list won’t only help you follow the procedure with care, but will help you note exactly what steps need improvement. Once you make changes, following a list will ensure you don’t fall back on old ways.

  1. Be Prepared for Failure

This final point can’t be stressed enough: Always assume that asset failure will occur. The situations you identify when making an RCM plan might seem like remote possibilities, and they could be.

Still, you should never assume that. The absolute easiest way to avoid being caught off-guard by manufacturing problems is to expect errors. Having a plan and supplies on hand isn’t helpful if you aren’t ready to put plans into action.

This means being on your toes and having your eyes peeled for problems every day. It means being exact when following maintenance programs, and it means having everyone up-to-date on their training and in the know about maintenance procedures and crisis plans. It also means updating these plans and renewing training on a regular schedule.

Being ready for failure and staying on top of your duties in anticipation will save you money in the long run. It’s true that you might need to put extra money into planning software or training sessions. These up-front maintenance program costs can be annoying and tempting to cut out.

Yet, what you pay in preparation will save you the pain of disaster clean-up, which could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Optimize Your Business and Live Well

These eight key strategies for cost-effective maintenance programs will help your business keep all its assets safe and up-to-date at a low price.

For more great tips on improving business strategies, take a look around the site. Then, check out some of our health and lifestyle articles to optimize your life, too.

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