Asset Management System / Industrial Equipment / Maintenance Work

Our equipment is “special.” Standard maintenance practices do not apply.

Don’t let unique circumstances keep you from finding ways to improve asset use.

By Monroe Blanton, Life Cycle Engineering

It is easy to get lost in the seemingly endless rollout of “innovative” tools and methods for improving manufacturing efficiencies and maintenance programs. They all promise to solve the problems of equipment downtime and guarantee financial success. Most of them zero in on the same fundamentals: less waste, fewer breakdowns, and improved utilization, leading to greater financial profit. It sounds simple, and these programs are often marketed as a one-size-fits-all solution. The formula for success should be the same for everyone, right?

Recently, while reviewing a chemical manufacturing site’s maintenance strategy, I had a conversation with the maintenance manager. He declared: “Our equipment is special. Standard maintenance practices do not apply.” My first instinct was to point out the tried-and-true methods used by countless other businesses in similar circumstances. After all, this site’s equipment includes industry-standard pumps, tanks, heat exchangers, and filters used by other chemical manufacturers. But the more I considered his “our equipment is special” statement and his situation, the more I understood his comments. The challenges the client faced were driven by the reuse of outdated and obsolete equipment, scheduling to meet production demands, and limited resources.

What made this company’s equipment special? The simple answer is that it was “their” equipment. Nothing else needed to be said to justify the statement. It was “their” business, “their” process, “their” manufacturing, and “their” equipment. All of these factors made it special to them.

The company’s goals are straightforward: less waste, fewer breakdowns, and improved utilization. However, the path to get there is unique and can be difficult to follow. 

The appropriate reply to the “our equipment is special” statement is, “Yes, it is!” The next step is to identify how to make your special equipment more productive. This will be unique to your location and will be influenced by your product, production schedule, environment, and people. You will need to evaluate your maintenance program’s special requirements against standard industry best practices and determine a specialized strategy. 

With a holistic approach, you can perform an assessment that evaluates your equipment. Criteria for hierarchy, preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, lubrication programs, materials storeroom and bill-of-material programs should be included. Additional criteria for safety, environment, and production may also be included. Asset criticality and asset condition are two more measurables that identify your special maintenance needs for your equipment.

These key points are ranked and taken together to evaluate business impact or effectiveness. This evaluation is the tool for identifying opportunities and driving measurable results.

The takeaway from a detailed assessment will be a maintenance program that is shaped by industry-leading management concepts yet customized to your organization’s unique needs. 

Yes, your equipment is special to you and to how you use it. Standard maintenance practices need to align with your manufacturing goals and guidelines. This is what makes your maintenance program different from everyone else’s.