Is Templating Maintenance A Power Play Or A Shortcut To Failure

Is templating maintenance a power play or a shortcut to failure?

July 4, 2023
Jeff Shiver says the trick is to know your assets well enough to recognize where templating should stop and more individual care should start.

When one attends conferences or looks through advertisements from media sources, it’s common to find groups offering templated approaches to maintenance task development. Meanwhile, reliability-centered maintenance purists discourage the use of templated tasks and prefer a more comprehensive individual asset approach that is more time-consuming.

While both groups present the offerings through rose-colored glasses, each method has merits and disadvantages. What is the right direction?

First, what is templating? Templating preventive and condition monitoring tasks refers to creating a generic or standard set of maintenance activities that can be applied to multiple assets of the same or similar types. This template acts as a blueprint for preventive and condition-based maintenance tasks, which includes guidelines for inspections, cleaning, lubrication, parts replacement, and other necessary activities. It also outlines the methods and frequency for condition monitoring, such as vibration analysis, oil analysis, thermal imaging, or ultrasonic inspection.

You already have many preventive and inspection tasks in your CMMS for your specific assets to start the process. You can develop your templates using these tasks, aggregating them into software designed to build your template library. Or you can purchase a database listing tasks for generic assets like a centrifugal pump and, ideally, import that into the software by asset type.

As you build new PM procedures in the software, you are presented with the library choices to add to the task list. The application can speed up the development process, ensuring standardization. That standardization simplifies the learning process for the technicians and makes it easy to scale the tasks across multiple similar assets. Overall, PM development costs are reduced compared to individually tailored task development. After all, a pump is a pump, right?

Not necessarily, as each pump’s operating context determines the likely failure modes and the resulting tasks needed to mitigate the opportunity for failure, and this is the rub for people trained in reliability-centered maintenance concepts. The operating context includes redundancy, quality standards, batch and continuous flow processes, shift arrangements, safety and environmental standards, repair times, spare parts availability, market demand, and more, as noted in John Moubray’s RCM II book.

Consider two pumps in a duty and standby redundancy configuration. The duty pump may run constantly, and the standby only runs when the duty pump is switched off or in a failed state. The failure modes for the duty pump can include impeller wear over time and the pump bearing seizing due to improper lubrication. The failure modes of the standby pump might consist of the grease slumped in the bearing, brinelling from no movement, the pump suction blocked by foreign objects, or a component removed to keep the duty pump running. Because the failure modes are different, the maintenance strategies for each asset must be different.

Another consideration with templating tasks verbatim is the precision maintenance approach that should include measurements to determine the condition of the components to find them in the act of failure as opposed to the failed state. While you may have similar components on packaging equipment, the actual configuration or settings may vary widely based on the product’s run on the machines, again creating different task values for items like wear or chain stretch.

Further disadvantages to templating procedures include the lack of flexibility or overlooking specific maintenance needs based on operating context, potential redundancy of tasks not required for the application, and potentially missing specific environmental or safety considerations. Lastly, an over-reliance on templates can lead to a reduction in critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

So, which approach is right for you? Sharing some “from the plant floor” case studies:

  • One manufacturing company uses identical machines across their enterprise. Templating worked for them, as they saw a significant improvement in overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), reduced downtime by 30%, and reduced maintenance costs.
  • A chemical plant attempted to apply templates across similar reactor units but with different operational demands. This approach resulted in several unnoticed signs of wear in specific units, leading to unexpected equipment failure. It resulted in significant production loss, revealing the need for more operating context-specific maintenance procedures.
  • Another group has similar but not identical assets across their sites. Approximately half of the facilities used the templated approach, while the other half developed individually tailored schedules based on each asset's specific conditions and operational history. Plants with individually tailored procedures and frequencies saw fewer unexpected failures and less downtime, even though the initial PM development process took longer.

No doubt, templating PM procedures is another tool in the toolbox. However, please don’t overlook the value of having personnel trained in reliability-centered maintenance concepts to know how and when—and more importantly, when not to—apply templates.

About the Author

Jeff Shiver | Founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc.

Jeff Shiver CMRP is a founder and managing principal at People and Processes, Inc. Jeff guides people to achieve success in maintenance and reliability practices using common sense approaches. Visit or email [email protected].

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