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The 4 Basic Maintenance Modes

The right maintenance plan can save plants both cost and downtime, thereby improving efficiency and allowing companies to keep their operations running smoothly. Be they generators inside a power plant, or assembly machines within a factory, these tools are vital to the American economy. But because these facilities are so reliant on their proper function, when a machine comes offline, it can lead to expensive repair costs and slowed operations.

This means there needs to be an effective maintenance program in place to ensure that machines are running at their best. However, not all programs are equally effective. Each maintenance program needs to balance the cost of the plan itself, and the expense of keeping the machines functioning. Two of the most common programs in today’s plants are Reactive Maintenance and Preventative Maintenance. The ideal maintenance program is able to use a medley of different maintenance modes to make sure that plants are operating efficiently and effectively.

Reactive Maintenance

A Reactive Maintenance plan is one that essentially operates on the run-to-failure strategy. This is a very hands-off approach to machine maintenance and while it keeps routine maintenance costs low, such a program can be costly in the long run.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy notes that the two major advantages of Reactive Maintenance are minimal maintenance costs and the need for fewer staff members. However, this is as far as these advantages go.

Costs arise in a number of areas using this approach. When a machine fails without warning, it creates downtime within the plant, which can get quite expensive. This also drives up labor costs to get the apparatus back up and running, especially if a worker has to do overtime.

The repair and replacement of equipment also becomes an issue, and in some cases, back-up equipment is necessary to keep the plant running. Ultimately, this is an inefficient use of staff as it means that workers need to stop what they’re doing to attend to the problem.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive Maintenance requires more on-going effort, but when executed properly, it can reduce overall costs in both the short and long term. While there is still a risk of machine failure occurring, a plant has a far greater chance of catching and correcting issues before they become major problems when using this strategy. This requires more labor to perform tasks that may seem unnecessary, but as previously stated, this extra effort pays off in the long run.

Preventive Maintenance involves maintaining machines by tending to them at specified time intervals, in the same way one would bring in their car for an oil change every 3,000 miles. This can help make sure that certain machine elements, such as lubrication, are always fresh and not wearing down.

The primary advantage of a Preventive Maintenance plan is cost effectiveness when it comes to the most expensive maintenance processes. It can save energy as well, because the machines will be operating at their most efficient. Preventive Maintenance can extend the life cycle of a machine and prevent having to purchase larger and more expensive replacement parts. Overall, such an approach generates an estimated 12 to 18 percent in savings over Reactive Maintenance strategies, according to the EERE.

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive Maintenance involve routinely inspecting machines with various developments including infrared and ultrasound technology. NASA reported that this maintenance mode works to eliminate unexpected breakdowns and scheduled maintenance down time that would otherwise be used to inspect a machine piece by piece.

Predictive maintenance operates effectively the same way that a check up at the doctor does, using sophisticated technologies to gather information on the health of a machine. This can help anticipate where possible instances of wear and tear may occur and predict a failure before it happens. According to NASA, this maintenance mode alone can reduce maintenance program costs by 50 percent.

UE Systems’ Ultraprobe uses ultrasound technology to help detect faults and part breakdown in  machines that would otherwise be difficult – if not impossible – to detect. The Ultraprobe comes in a variety of models depending on your machine and maintenance needs.This way, you limit costs and prevent machine failures to keep your plant up and running.

Proactive Maintenance

Proactive Maintenance differs from the other three maintenance modes because it addresses much more systemic elements of a maintenance program, rather than examining the machine itself. This approach is much more diligent and looks to control the problems that can lead to machine wear and tear as opposed to the deterioration itself.

Machinery Lubrication reported that a Proactive Maintenance strategy will look to monitor and correct the root causes of failures, like contamination. Though this requires some due diligence, it is a less expensive maintenance strategy than the former three.

There is a variety of techniques that are used to enact a proactive maintenance solution. For instance, making sure to train workers in the best practices for machine operation or using a chain of reliable suppliers for machine elements like lubrication and parts are great ways to help improve maintenance systems.

A balanced approach

Ultimately, the best machine maintenance plan is one that balances elements of each of these modes. EERE notes that reliability-centered maintenance programs are found across the top performing industrial facilities in the country. These programs are largely less than 10 percent reactive, between 25 and 35 percent preventive and between 45 and 55 percent predictive.

Obviously, Proactive Maintenance is missing from this breakdown, but this could be because it is more of an approach-based strategy, rather than one that addresses machine maintenance directly. 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.

The end goal of a maintenance program is making sure that facilities are constantly up and running. As a result, it is important to make sure that these plans account for the machines and facilities that are unique to a plant and its operations.