Prioritizing Maintenance by Determining Critical Equipment

One of ManagerPlus’s big focuses in training and consulting on maintenance procedures is the necessity of a preventive posture when it comes to maintenance. If a large portion of your maintenance budget is consumed by corrective repairs, it’s a good indicator that you’re spending too much and that redirecting resources to strategic preventive efforts will have a positive effect on those costs, as well as the secondary and tertiary costs that ripple through the rest of you operation.

Identifying Mission-Critical Assets

One factor that is essential to structuring large maintenance plans is the classification and prioritization of equipment assets. Do you know what the lost opportunity and productivity costs are for a single day or week of downtime for a particular asset? Do you know the average rate of corrective repairs, average downtime or the effect on other departments’ operations when a particular asset is down for repairs?

Multiple factors can affect how critical an asset is to your organization, though every operation and industry has concerns specific to it:

  • Safety risks for critical equipment failures
  • Equipment life cycles and acquisition schedules
  • Manufacturing processes and production schedules
  • Costs of breakdown at multiple production phases
  • Health and safety inspection requirements
  • Convenience of repair

Knowing which equipment is most critical and precisely how its operation or malfunction affects your business can lead to more effective maintenance choices in the long run and even help you address other operational vulnerabilities with effective risk management.

Why Critical Assessment is Fundamental

The benefits of this criticality-based approach become clear when considering the things immediately under the control of most maintenance managers: maintenance scheduling and replacement lifecycles. The full cost of downtime isn’t always fully known, which can impair a manager’s ability to prioritize preventive maintenance effectively.

Scheduling remains a serious challenge here that doesn’t always receive the strategic thinking it deserves, which is why a comprehensive CMMS is so critical. It helps you spot the opportunities for moving up or rescheduling routine maintenance to fit the new multi-shift paradigm.

The process of assessing the impact that assets have on your operation is systematic:

  1. Historical Analysis: Use historical data for the past several years to determine not just your largest repair costs, but those equipment classes that are experiencing the highest rates of corrective repair.
  2. Asset Inventory: Criticality often requires more detail. Compile a list of relevant subsystems and components for all operational assets, classifying each in a way that makes sense and enables connection throughout the operational web that makes up your business.
  3.  Downtime Cost: Assess the cost of individual pieces of equipment at every stage of your critical business processes. What are the costs in maintenance, labor, lost productivity and foregone business when an asset fails or a process is impaired due to unscheduled maintenance?
  4. Defining Failure: Not all types of repairs are the same, so it’s critical to classify downtime as routine maintenance, major repair or upgrade, critical failure or a life-ending event for particular assets. The frequency of these failures for different equipment will affect the priority they receive in your new system.

Throughout this process, it’s critical to get the input of experienced and knowledgeable personnel with on-the-ground knowledge that may not be reflected in current maintenance logs or cost assessments. Information has to flow effectively for your data to accurately reflect the true impact of equipment maintenance and downtime organization-wide.

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