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Maintenance: Definitions, Benefits, and Application

Learn about the different types of maintenance, its pros and cons, and how each industry benefits from good maintenance practices

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What is Maintenance?

Maintenance, otherwise known as technical maintenance, refers to a set of processes and practices which aim to ensure the continuous and efficient operation of machinery, equipment, and other types of assets typically used in business. Diligence in implementing an effective maintenance program is essential to the successful performance and longevity of machinery, assets, facilities, and entire businesses.

Types of Maintenance

There are different types of maintenance work, each designed for specific scenarios. Knowing the differences between maintenance types helps people determine which ones are the most suitable for their purposes.

Routine Maintenance

This type of maintenance, also referred to as preventive maintenance, is implemented on a fixed schedule and typically includes activities such as inspecting, cleaning, washing, replacing, and checking. It is typically performed in the downtime between shifts or on weekends to avoid affecting productivity goals. Routine maintenance has two objectives; to identify existing issues so they can be corrected ASAP and to prevent possible issues from becoming a reality through consistent care.

Planned Maintenance

Where routine maintenance may happen on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, planned maintenance may be scheduled once per year or as needed. This is because planned maintenance is more time-consuming, expensive, and thorough—often requiring the services of a specialist. In the context of maintaining an air-conditioning unit, routine maintenance is taking out and washing the filters once per month, while planned maintenance is hiring an HVAC professional to check refrigerant levels, possible leaks, and measure airflow through the evaporator coil.

Corrective Maintenance

If during your routine maintenance inspection of a car you discover signs of severe wear-and-tear, you need to perform corrective maintenance. When computer or gauge readings for a machine show unusual, possibly hazardous anomalies, you need to perform corrective maintenance. Corrective maintenance pertains to the repairs and replacements necessary to get an asset back up and running at full power and optimal condition.

Predictive Maintenance

This maintenance type focuses on techniques used to determine the appropriate schedule for planned and corrective maintenance. Its primary goal is to predict, through a variety of testing methods, when a machine will start experiencing severe wear and tear so corrective maintenance can be scheduled without affecting productivity goals and before the machine breaks down.

The Pros and Cons of Maintenance

In general, businesses benefit from good maintenance practices. However, several factors need to be considered before you can determine if maintenance is helping, or hurting, your operation. Below are some of the pros and cons of maintenance.

The Pros

Increase longevity of assets

One of the most common reasons businesses should bother with maintenance practices is to maximize the longevity of assets. Having the patience and dedication to regularly inspect, clean, and care for an expensive asset helps operations maximize productivity and cut costs by preventing expensive repairs and replacements.

Optimize asset performance

A well maintained asset operates at maximum capacity, positively affecting business ROI through efficiency and consistency.

Avoid unscheduled downtimes

Unexpected breakdowns can cause significant problems for any business. Financial losses, unhappy customers, and a disrupted operation can snowball into bigger issues where fallout is inevitable and costly to resolve. Diligent maintenance can help businesses avoid unexpected outages, ensuring operations run smoothly and without any hiccups.

Minimize costs

Most industrial machines used for business operations cost a small fortune to begin with, so it only makes sense to diligently maintain these assets in order to get the most out of them. Failure to implement good maintenance practices will lead to machine breakdown, costing the business more money through avoidable repairs and replacements, as well as lost productivity.

The Cons

Additional expenses

Though good maintenance practices are often more beneficial than not, the bottomline is they still cost money to implement. It is important for businesses to know when to perform maintenance activities in order to avoid needless expenditure through over maintenance.

Lost productivity

Planned maintenance often requires assets to be shut down completely and be inoperative for a set period of time. Lost productivity translates to financial losses and possible disruption of operations if the necessary contingencies were not prepared in advance.

Possible safety risk

Failure to follow proper maintenance protocols such as ensuring that machine assets have been completely depowered before maintenance can cause serious injuries and even fatalities to personnel.

Maintenance vs. Repair

Maintenance and repair work have the same goals, and that is to keep your business running efficiently as designed. Knowing their fundamental differences, however, will help you determine when to utilize maintenance techniques over repairs and vice versa to keep your business productive and profitable without issue.

Maintenance

The goal of maintenance is to make repairs unnecessary.

From the time a business acquires an asset, they should already have a maintenance plan ready for implementation. Routine maintenance techniques like cleaning and regular inspections are often done on a weekly, monthly, and sometimes even daily basis. Cleaning, monitoring and inspecting can be done quickly and often at no cost while still contributing to an asset’s overall health and longevity.

To avoid disrupting services and productivity, maintenance activities are often scheduled on off days. For businesses who operate around the clock, planned maintenance for machine assets can be scheduled in sequence to ensure that productivity doesn’t halt and the expected output is still met.

Through special monitoring tools, businesses can also practice predictive maintenance techniques; using data gathered from asset performance and condition, they can gain insights as to when eventual wear-and-tear will need corrective maintenance to avoid unexpected machine breakdowns.

Repairs

Even with the best maintenance plan and personnel, the possibility of unexpected machine breakdown can never be completely eliminated. When this happens, businesses need to rely on swift repairs to get their assets back up and running ASAP before losses become insurmountable.

Aside from financial losses due to lost productivity, repairs often cost more than regular maintenance,; requiring businesses to pay a huge sum up front for new parts, installation, and the services of a specialist.

As much as businesses need to invest in a good maintenance program, they must have contingencies in place for unexpected downtimes since there is no way to completely prevent them from happening.

Maintenance Practices Across Industries

Good maintenance programs benefit virtually all businesses across different industries; the only difference is how they apply maintenance techniques to achieve their business goals. Below is a list of how different industries apply maintenance practices to maximize their operation.

Aerospace

Good maintenance practices are crucial in the aerospace industry since malfunctions can result in high-fatality disasters. Aircraft maintenance is also legally mandated in Title 14 of the Code of Federal Regulations (14 CFR), which states that the “the owner/operator of a civil aircraft is primarily responsible for maintaining that aircraft in an airworthy condition, including compliance with FAA Airworthiness Directives (AD).”

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the governing body that sets regulatory standards for aircraft safety and maintenance practices in the United States. The FAA published the Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR) which outlines the rules for all activities in the aviation industry. Under FAR, the FAA mandates the following maintenance inspection activities:

  • 100-hour Inspection
    This type of maintenance inspection must be conducted every 100 hours of flight time for passenger aircrafts under 12,500 pounds. For the specified aircraft type to gain airworthiness, it must first be “inspected by a certificated repairman with a maintenance rating, an appropriately rated mechanic, or an appropriately rated repair station in accordance with inspection procedures developed by the aircraft manufacturer or a person acceptable to the FAA.”
  • Annual Inspection
    The FAA requires all aircrafts to undergo annual maintenance inspections regardless of their use, in order to gain legal clearance for subsequent flights. The inspection must be performed by a qualified Airframe and Power Plant (A&P) Mechanic.
  • Progressive Inspection
    An alternative to the 100-hour and annual inspection, an FAA-approved progressive inspection program means a higher-frequency of shorter maintenance inspections spread out across a calendar year. Though a full 100-hour inspection must be performed in the initial stage, the following maintenance inspection sessions can then follow the FAA-approved progressive inspection program.

Freight and Logistics

Sometimes referred to as the “transport industry,” the freight and logistics industry is essential to the successful operation of many other industries since freight services are called upon to transport materials and tools needed for service and production. Some common maintenance practices in the freight and logistics industry include:

  • Fleet Maintenance
    This maintenance type refers to the practice of ensuring that the freight trucks used for delivery are always roadworthy to avoid unscheduled downtimes. Commercial fleet owners often employ in-house fleet maintenance personnel to perform fleet inspections either after a certain mileage threshold is met or after a set time-period has passed. Inspectors would assess the condition of a vehicle and then provide recommendations for repairs, replacements, and other maintenance work they deem necessary before tagging the vehicle roadworthy.
  • Scheduled Ship Maintenance
    In the maritime industry, ship inspectors perform maintenance checks before shipping vessels are tagged seaworthy. Inspections are usually performed after a set number of running hours or a predetermined interval. Ship maintenance is carried out regardless of the ship’s condition, and parts may be replaced before they show obvious signs of critical wear-and-tear to ensure that chances of breakdown are thoroughly minimized.

Computers and IT

With our increasing reliance on computers for both work and our personal lives, it is naturally in everyone’s best interest to maintain them and ensure that they are operating at optimal levels. Below are some common computer maintenance processes:

  • Server Maintenance
    IT professionals conduct server maintenance typically on a weekly or monthly basis to avoid server shutdown which could cause major disruptions in operation. In standard server maintenance, IT professionals physically inspect hardware, check if cooling mechanisms are in good condition, and run tests on software. It is industry standard to keep servers operating 24/7 since booting from a depowered state causes more wear on the server resulting in a shorter lifespan.
  • IT Risk Assessment
    Company servers store plenty of confidential information, and a security breach could spell legal and ethical consequences for stakeholders. IT risk assessments aim to regularly inspect a computer system’s security protocols and update them if necessary to ensure that they are safe from hackers and other unauthorized parties.

Agriculture

Agricultural activities rely heavily on equipment and industrial-grade chemicals to complete. Proper maintenance plays a crucial role to ensure that workers are safe from work-related injuries and operations proceed without a hitch.

  • Equipment Maintenance
    Employers must ensure that the equipment being used by workers are properly maintained to avoid injuries and fatalities caused by equipment malfunction. Additionally, workers must be trained in safe mechanical maintenance practices to avoid hazards such as crushing, entanglement, and electrocution.
  • Facility Maintenance
    Numerous agrichemicals stored in facilities can cause serious and permanent harm to workers when improperly handled. Safe facility maintenance practices must be implemented in order to minimize the chances of harmful exposure to agrichemicals which can cause chemical burns, increased risk of cancer, and permanent damage to vital organs.

Real Estate

Commercial, residential, and industrial buildings require regular maintenance to retain their structural integrity and functionality, avoiding deterioration and eventual collapse. Below are some common maintenance techniques practiced in the real estate industry.

  • Condition Survey
    A condition survey is a comprehensive assessment of a commercial, residential, or industrial building’s physical condition. Construction professionals perform a walkthrough inspection to check for structural damage, failure, and wear/tear before providing recommendations for repairs and augmentations.
  • Building Maintenance
    Where a condition survey focuses on the building’s structural integrity, building maintenance pertains to the practices employed to ensure that the building fulfills its function as a working and/or living space. These include aspects such as HVAC maintenance, electrical maintenance, and plumbing maintenance.
  • Elevator Maintenance
    Good elevator maintenance practices are important not only for the safety of tenants, workers, and other building occupants. It is also a standard compliance requirement for building codes and regulations. Professional elevator inspectors check button functions and ventilation, as well as assess the wear-and-tear of cables and suspension gears to determine if any replacements are necessary to ensure safety.
  • Generator Maintenance
    Regular generator maintenance inspections are recommended to ensure that they can perform at peak condition when unplanned power outages occur. Standard generator maintenance involves visual checks of the diesel generator; leakage checks of the engine, exhaust, cooling, and fuel; and battery testing.
  • Landscape Maintenance
    Also referred to as groundskeeping, landscape maintenance pertains to cleaning, weeding, and pruning activities to keep lawns, gardens, and other decorative spaces outside of buildings in pristine condition. Diligent landscape maintenance helps leave a good impression on potential tenants and buyers, improving business reputation and branding.
  • CCTV Maintenance
    Proper CCTV Maintenance helps building owners identify unit defects and blind spots before they become a problem. Regular CCTV maintenance is important to ensure security data is recorded and uncompromised.

Food and Beverage

The maintenance of food processing machines, utensils, and facilities is the foundation upon which successful food companies and restaurants are built. Below are some maintenance examples from the food and beverage industry.

  • Kitchen Maintenance
    The most important aspect of a food or drink, beyond taste and aesthetics, is cleanliness. Food safety comes naturally through diligent kitchen maintenance practices involving the regular cleaning of kitchen equipment, tools, and utensils. Maintenance personnel must ensure that the entire kitchen, not just food preparation surfaces, are up to cleanliness standards.
  • Chiller Maintenance
    Aside from good kitchen hygiene, another factor that needs to be taken into account is the preservation of food to increase shelf life. Making sure that commercial chillers are working as intended is essential to restaurant operations since it keeps ingredients fresh and ready for preparation and serving. Unexpected chiller malfunctions could lead to food spoilage and big financial losses for a restaurant. Technicians perform chiller maintenance by monitoring temperature levels and ensuring that they stay consistent with the set point, identify possible leaks and condensation, as well as ensuring that insulation is undamaged.

Hospitality

It is easy for unsatisfied customers to voice their displeasure in numerous review websites if they are unsatisfied with your establishment, and customer dissatisfaction can stem from numerous reasons. This can damage your establishment’s reputation, resulting in diminished patronage. To achieve and maintain customer satisfaction and keep customers coming back, hotels and lodges need to keep their establishment in pristine condition through diligent and consistent maintenance practices.

  • Hotel Maintenance
    Regular hotel maintenance duties include high dusting and cleaning floors, carpets, walls, and other surfaces. It also involves checking the bed, mattresses, linens, and curtains for stains and dirt and replacing them every time a customer checks out; ensuring that plumbing, electrical wiring, HVAC, and emergency systems are in good shape; and making sure that stocks are adequate.
  • HVAC Maintenance
    Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems must have a regular maintenance schedule to identify and address critical wear and malfunctions. Preventive maintenance for HVAC systems are usually done bi-annually or before peak usage seasons. Aside from preventing unscheduled downtimes, HVAC maintenance practices aim to lower utility bills by ensuring that units are running efficiently and air quality meets regulatory standards.

Manufacturing

Companies in the manufacturing industry utilize heavy-duty machinery for mass production. To prevent machine breakdowns that disrupt operations, good machine maintenance protocols must be implemented.

  • Machine Maintenance
    To ensure that machinery and equipment are always operating at optimal levels, maintenance technicians perform visual inspections and produce OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) Reports. The OEE Report outlines equipment and machine availability, performance, and output quality to gain insight on possible process improvements and identify corrections that need to be made on the equipment..
  • Factory Maintenance

Aside from maintaining the machines used for production, the work areas and surfaces of factories must also be maintained to minimize slip and trip hazards and increase work efficiency by removing physical obstructions that interfere with work. Factory maintenance personnel conduct 5S audits to improve cleanliness, orderliness, safety, and efficiency while also eliminating waste and preventable work hazards.

Retail

There are multiple factors to be considered when coming up with a winning formula for a successful retail company. Selling high-quality products and having great customer service are some of the more obvious elements. Consistent implementation of good store maintenance practices, however, is just as important in making sure your business operates at full capacity.

  • Store Maintenance
    Sweeping and mopping floors, dusting shelves, and regularly sorting products on display are part of all good store maintenance programs. In food retail, store employees perform walkthrough inspections to check if displayed products are still within “consume by” dates, and monitor chiller and refrigerator temperatures in meat and vegetable sections to make sure they are consistently cooled at recommended set points.

The old adage goes, “to make money, you have to spend money.” This advice does not apply exclusively to a company’s initial setup stage where spending money to invest on equipment, a workspace, and employees are a given. For a business to thrive in today’s competitive landscape, business owners must also be willing to invest money, time, and resources on good maintenance practices.

Author

Juhlian Pimping

SafetyCulture Staff Writer

Juhlian Pimping has been writing about safety and quality topics for SafetyCulture since 2018. Before writing for SafetyCulture full-time, Juhlian worked in customer service and wrote for an Australian RTO.