What is proactive maintenance?

Proactive maintenance is a preventive maintenance strategy that works to correct the root causes of failure and avoid breakdowns caused by underlying equipment conditions. The purpose of proactive maintenance is to see machine failures as something that can be anticipated and eliminated before they develop. Creating a proactive maintenance program helps organizations find hidden inefficiencies.

The proactive maintenance approach makes it possible to perform maintenance only when necessary based on gathered maintenance data. More systematic elements of a maintenance program are addressed, rather than machines themselves, when organizations implement proactive maintenance. This program allows organizations to become empowered to:

  • Identify the root causes of machine failure
  • Resolve problems before they become failures
  • Extend the life of machinery and reduce downtime as a result of machine failure

Collecting initial data, tracking ongoing trends and analyzing data to take action after fault indications are found are the cornerstones of proactive maintenance. Many proactive maintenance programs are supported by a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), integrated data, condition monitoring, and connected tools and sensors, and there are a few approaches and keys to implementation success:

  • A focus on failure modes
  • Buy-in from leadership
  • Technologies selection
  • Skills enhancement

Proactive maintenance vs. reactive maintenance

Even though proactive maintenance methods require more of an investment in time and money, the results are typically more cost effective and more efficient, and they can extend the life of assets. This approach often reduces downtime and directly impacts overall productivity, as well as the company’s profitability. It is a more complex approach that works to solve problems at their root, helping to avoid the deterioration of the asset.

Where do preventive and predictive maintenance fit in with proactive maintenance?

The best maintenance programs use a variety of maintenance methods to ensure the highest level of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. Top-performing organizations typically have programs that are less than 10% reactive, between 25% and 35% preventive, and between 45% and 55% predictive maintenance.

Predictive and preventive maintenance approaches work together to influence proactive maintenance, as it is more of an approach-based strategy rather than an individualized program for asset maintenance. A proactive maintenance plan can help make these programs operate more efficiently and limit some of the major expenses that can emerge from putting a plan into action.

How much can you benefit from proactive maintenance?

Critical equipment can fail at the worst time, rack up downtime and drain a maintenance budget. With a mature maintenance program, organizations can identify potential faults before they disrupt service, which can mean dramatically reducing unplanned outages and associated costs. Although proactive maintenance requires in-depth planning, top level buy-in and investment, it ultimately helps organizations avoid over or under maintaining assets and offers a balance of costs, reliability, up time and asset health.

To compete in the global marketplace, it is important for organizations to recognize the impact of maintenance on the business and its customers. With a program that focuses on establishing, tracking and analyzing data on critical equipment, greater gains become possible. The unpredictability of reactive maintenance and breakdowns does not allow for improvements in key performance indicators, business drivers or the needs of a maintenance department.

How does proactive maintenance work?

The transition to proactive maintenance can be challenging, with issues of culture change, budget, lack of training resources, and full-time employees to learn and perform analysis. There are a few ways to help organizations get started, including:

  • Focusing on failure modes: Prioritization of plant systems and failure modes with impact on capacity and availability
  • Receiving buy-in from leadership: Business decision of where to invest maintenance resources and technologies
  • Technologies selection: Infusion of available maintenance technologies with wireless capabilities
  • Enhancing employee skill set: Increase in the core competency of the maintenance team

How to achieve successful proactive maintenance

The keys to successfully implementing a proactive maintenance program include methodical approaches to a new program start up plan, technology selection and data management.

Here are the four pillars to successful proactive maintenance:

  • New program start up: It is critical to set a jump-off point and a vision for the future of the program. Best practices for organizations involve outlining goals, creating a startup plan and identifying ways to achieve buy-in from staff. Staff buy-in and acceptance can be found from demonstrating how the new program will make their jobs easier. With proactive maintenance, explaining how — with the power of tracking and leveraging data — technicians will not need to perform as many preventive maintenance tasks and will have more time to focus on new initiatives. Organizations looking to implement proactive maintenance can also perform a criticality survey and failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) and develop consulting support to ensure program success.
  • Technology selection: Different assets require a mix of technologies, including mechanical, electrical and process. For example:
    • Screening tools – thermal imagers, oil analysis
    • Troubleshooting tools – electric testing, process tools
    • Diagnostic tools – vibration tester, corrective tools
  • Data management and integration: A key method to staying on track with goals is data management supported by a CMMS or SaaS software to support data capturing and analysis. With the data organization collected, organizations can monitor and track timely completion of critical work and impact on up time.
  • Integrated tools & sensors: Combined with a CMMS, condition monitoring software enables maintenance managers to remotely monitor multiple assets. It also allows for producing asset alarms and multiple data graphs per asset with correlating current, voltage, temperature, vibration and power quality monitoring.

For example, a proactive maintenance best practice workflow from baseline readings to analysis can look like this:

Baseline with infrared cameras, quickly measure and compare height signatures of each piece of equipment on the inspection route without disrupting operations.

  • Monitor and measure bearing temperatures in large motors or other rotating equipment
  • Identify hot spots on electronic equipment
  • Identify leaks in sealed vessels
  • Find faulty insulation in process pipes or other insulated processes
  • Find faulty terminations in high power electrical circuits
  • Locate overloaded circuit breakers in a power panel
  • Identify fuses at or near their current rated capacity
  • Identify problems in electrical switchgear
  • Capture process temperature readings

Trending with infrared cameras, the process includes:

  • Scheduling route-based thermal measurements of all critical rotating equipment to capture overheating problems
  • Providing a detailed report of thermal images captured during regular preventive maintenance and review with the maintenance team

The advantage of this method includes avoiding costly downtime by:

  • Capturing hot spots during regular PM routes
  • Extending the life of equipment
  • Eliminating a misdiagnosis
  • Integrate/upload thermal reports in data management software
  • Software allows to keep track of assets and review conditions over time

Analysis, which can be underscored by software to increase consistency across multiple team members, ensures more reliable data capture and decreases downtime spent on data collection. Best practices incorporate:

  • Use dashboards to compare against baseline and different types of measurements
  • All baselines and measurements saved to a central database

Proactive maintenance success story

In a May 2017 poll among 600 leading companies across a variety of industries, 52% of attendees said they used PM technologies a little, but wanted to do more with the data. A common theme among top companies today is a desire to incorporate more proactive maintenance. For example, a global provider of polymer-based materials and solutions developed a standardized “global configuration” for its CMMS, and its reliability program was rolled out in five waves. A project timeline was established and included a week of training, a site-specific Lean Six Sigma/DMAIC project and implementation of CMMS — all culminating into an overarching proactive maintenance program.

As a result, the company was awarded an Uptime Award for “Best Emerging Maintenance Reliability Program.” It also reached targeted maintenance expense reductions in the first full year of operation (a large part due to global transparency of parts inventory) and improved its proactive approach to maintenance, producing a wave of preventive maintenance initiatives. Most importantly for its customers, the initiative has contributed to the company’s ongoing improvements in response time, reliability and quality.

To learn more about the importance of proactive maintenance, view this webinar on the evolution of proactive maintenance.

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