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The Evolution of Maintenance Practice

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Maintenance, as a profession and as a corporate practice, has evolved a lot in the last 50 years. As a profession, maintenance isn’t just the domain of trades-people. It also includes engineers and planners to manage maintenance practice. In world-class companies, maintenance is now seen as an integral part of business operations because it can have a significant impact on corporate profitability.

Over the last 50 years, the techniques for performing maintenance have also significantly changed. While maintenance used to be reactive to breakdown, maintenance in world-class companies is now an activity that is much more proactive.

Maintenance Generations

N.S. Arunraj and J Maiti, writing in the Journal of Hazardous Materials, summarized the generations of maintenance practice since World War 2. These generations are reproduced below. The early generation had a focus on corrective maintenance with some basic routine maintenance such as lubrication. From that starting line, subsequent generations of maintenance professionals have added more and more proactive maintenance elements to their maintenance strategy.

First Generation
1940 – 1955

  1. Fix it when it broke
  2. Basic and Routine maintenance
  3. Corrective maintenance

Second Generation
1955 – 1975

  1. Planned Preventitive maintenance
  2. Time-based maintenance
  3. System for planning and controlling work

Third Generation
1975 – 2000

  1. Condition based maintenance
  2. Reliability-centered maintenance
  3. Computer aided maintenance management and information system
  4. Workforce multi-skilling and team working
  5. Proactive and strategic thinking

Current Generation

  1. Risk-based inspection
  2. Risk-based Maintenance
  3. Risk-based life assessment
  4. Reliability-centered maintenance
  5. Condition based monitoring
  6. Computer aided maintenance management and information system

Improvements in maintenance practice

Planned preventative maintenance was the first to be added to the practices of the first maintenance generation. Then, with new technology and developments in failure theory, predictive maintenance was also included in world-class maintenance activities.

With these new maintenance activities came new strategies for applying them to the workplace. The most dominant of these was Reliability Centered Maintenance, which was developed for the aircraft maintenance industry and the rapidly adopted by other industries too. These new strategies provided a structure for determining which maintenance activities should be used, and when.

Most recently, the maintenance profession has begun to consider the total cost of asset ownership as being within its jurisdiction. Ideas such as Evidence based asset management, Risk-based maintenance, and Total Productive Maintenance, have contributed to this.

Liliane Pintelon and Alejandro Parodi-Herz also put forward a similar idea of maintenance progression. They suggest phrases that are representative of the status of maintenance within a company. For the early generation, maintenance was a “necessary evil”. This relationship had evolved significantly for the most recent generation where maintenance is a “co-operative partnership”.

Achieving world-class maintenance practice

Unfortunately for many companies, the fact is their maintenance is still seen as a “necessary evil”. For those companies, their maintenance has not stayed in touch with world-class maintenance practice. To progress, one of the first steps is to change the corporate culture so that maintenance is a co-operative partnership that can significantly contribute to profitability and customer satisfaction.

The maintenance department itself will have to up-skill and adopt new practices before the corporate culture will change to view maintenance as the important business function that it is. For the maintenance department, up-skilling will mean new techniques are learnt to predict and prevent equipment failures. The new practices will include a more involved relationship with the production and management teams as well as adopting software tools that will facilitate a world-class maintenance practice.

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