Understanding maintenance: Reactive, Predictive, and Preventive strategies
Machines are as imperfect as the people who make them and run them. People will get sick at some point in their lives, no matter what. Equally, machines will break down more than once throughout their lifespan, until they run no more. The trick to longer illness-free period in humans is a smoke-free life, a good diet, and exercise. For machines, the key to longer breakdown-free spans is good maintenance. In this blogpost, we learn about Reactive (run to failure), Predictive, and Preventive maintenance strategies: what they are, how to best implement them, and their pros & cons.
Maintaining your machinery: Challenges and strategies
As a manufacturer, you are probably aware that a tight and rigorous machinery maintenance schedule is an integral part of the day-to-day operations at the factory. You want to minimize the chances of breakdowns, as a non-working machine means that money is being lost every hour. The type and size of the manufacturing operation and the assets you have will largely determine which is the most appropriate maintenance strategy for you. Broadly speaking, there are three types of maintenance strategies: Reactive (Run to Failure), Preventive (scheduled), and Predictive.
Reactive (‘Run-to-failure’) Maintenance
Some machines include, or are themselves, inexpensive pieces of kit which are allowed to run to the end of their useful lives before being fixed or replaced altogether. Reactive maintenance is usually reserved for non-essential equipment, or kits used for redundancy (‘backup’) purposes. In many cases, it makes better sense to replace the item, rather than spend almost as much repairing it.
Preventive (‘Scheduled’) Maintenance
A large number of manufacturing facilities would use a Preventive maintenance schedule to ensure their assets remain in good operational condition at all times. This strategy involves removing machines from the production line at predetermined intervals to inspect them, or repair them if necessary. Regular checks will greatly reduce the risk of equipment failure, ensuring a longer equipment life. While the strategy is common enough, and relatively simple to implement, it may prove costly in the long run as the machines may be taken off production needlessly, and you need a greater number of staff on site at all times to perform the checks.
This is perhaps the most effective (and costly) maintenance strategy. It involves a high degree of specialized staff and tools to carefully analyze the equipment to determine whether or not a fault exists, or one may develop soon. Predictive maintenance improves production efficiency, and also maintenance efficiency by maximizing the time that machinery remains running, and helping the operator determine the possible nature of a fault by analyzing the defects in the output.
The machinery is usually examined at microscopic level, using specialized equipment like infrared cameras, vibration analysis tools, and stroboscopes. What this means is that a Predictive maintenance regime may incur a significant financial investment, as both tools and the personnel to handle them are highly specialized. Because of this, this strategy is best reserved for vital machinery at the factory, i.e., those machines that the production service cannot do without at any time.
Having the tools and the strategy is the first step in your maintenance plan. However, you must also have the means to coordinate and manage the maintenance schedule, to ensure every inspection is done when it should. Microsoft Dynamics 365 includes a Maintenance Management module that offers a one-stop solution for your maintenance needs. This module enables the optimization of the equipment maintenance schedule, necessary repairs, contact with vendors if required, etc., all in real time.
There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to maintenance strategies. Which plan you implement is largely driven by the type of manufacturing done at your factory, and what the budget allows for. Each strategy is better suited to a certain manufacturing operation, though in practice, a ‘mix-and-match’ approves works best in most cases.