What is machine maintenance?

Machine maintenance is the work that keeps mechanical assets running with minimal downtime.

Machine maintenance can include regularly scheduled service, routine checks, and both scheduled and emergency repairs. It also includes replacement or realignment of parts that are worn, damaged, or misaligned. Machine maintenance can be done either in advance of failure or after failure occurs.

Machine maintenance is critical at any plant or facility that uses mechanical assets. It helps organizations meet production schedules, minimize costly downtime, and lower the risk of workplace accidents and injuries.

Types of machine maintenance

There are nine types of machine maintenance. Each one has its pros and cons (except reactive maintenance, which is all cons), and can be mixed and matched with assets to create a balanced maintenance program.

Reactive maintenance

Reactive maintenance refers to repairs done when a machine has already reached failure. Since it’s unexpected, unplanned, and usually leads to rushed, emergency repairs, It’s often called “fighting fires.”

Run to fail maintenance

Run to fail maintenance is very similar to reactive maintenance. It involves letting a piece of equipment run until it breaks down. However, run to fail is a deliberate choice, whereas reactive maintenance is not. A plan is in place to ensure parts and labour are available to get the asset up and running, or replaced, as soon as possible.

Routine maintenance

Routine maintenance consists of basic maintenance tasks, such as checking, testing, lubricating, and replacing worn or damaged parts on a planned and ongoing basis.

Corrective maintenance

Corrective maintenance is any work that gets assets back into proper working order, although it’s most commonly associated with smaller, non-invasive tasks that fix a problem before a complete failure occurs. For example, realigning a part during a routine inspection.

Preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance refers to any regularly scheduled machine maintenance intended to identify problems and repair them before failure occurs. Preventive maintenance can be split up into two predominant types: Time-based preventive maintenance and usage-based preventive maintenance.

Time-based preventive maintenance are tasks scheduled at a certain time interval, such as the last day of every month or every 10 days. Usage-based preventive maintenance is when work is scheduled based on the operation of equipment, such as after 500 miles or 15 production cycles.

Condition-based maintenance

Condition-based maintenance depends on monitoring the actual condition of assets in order to perform maintenance when there is evidence of decreased performance or upcoming failure. This evidence can be obtained through inspection, performance data, or scheduled tests, and it can be gathered either on a regular basis or continuously, through the use of internal sensors.

Predictive maintenance

Predictive maintenance builds on condition-based maintenance, using tools and sensors to track machinery performance in real-time. This enables the identification of potential problems so they can be corrected before failure occurs.

Prescriptive maintenance

Prescriptive maintenance automates the maintenance process even further through the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). With a prescriptive maintenance strategy in place, sensors track machinery performance in real-time and uses AI to let you know what maintenance work needs to be done and when.

Learn what goes into choosing the perfect maintenance strategy for your assets

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Four ways to improve machine maintenance

There are four main areas to focus on when aiming to improve machine maintenance at your facility: Planning, precision, protection, and measurement.

1. Planning

Having a machine maintenance plan in place will ensure that parts, equipment, and labour are available when they’re needed, and that there is a strategy in place to use those resources effectively.

Many maintenance plans will include both planned and scheduled maintenance, which will identify problems before failure occurs, and planned unscheduled maintenance, which ensures that failures are repaired, and assets are returned to working order as quickly as possible.

2. Precision

Establishing a precision maintenance strategy will ensure that maintenance tasks are performed consistently, accurately, and according to industry best practices.

In order for precision maintenance to be effective, you must ensure you have these four elements:

  1. Workers must have the training and skills to perform maintenance tasks quickly and accurately
  2. Tools and equipment that are needed to perform maintenance tasks must be available
  3. All maintenance materials, such as lubricants and spare parts, must be high quality and free from contamination
  4. Maintenance plans and workflows must be accessible and easy to follow

3. Protection

A key part of improving maintenance involves keeping workers safe. Workers must have adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and be trained in how to use it correctly.

There are a few important tasks to keep on top of when you’re looking to improve safety:

  • Frequent checks to ensure guards or barriers are in use and are not damaged
  • Inspections of electrical equipment, power cords and switches to identify exposed wires
  • Regular workplace safety training for every employee

4. Measurement

The final piece of the machine maintenance puzzle is measuring asset performance. Without data, condition-based, predictive, and prescriptive maintenance plans will not work. Accurate data about how your machinery performs lets you choose the right maintenance strategy, which will lead to better, more reliable performance.

Check out our short guide to building a preventive maintenance program

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Why is machine maintenance important?

Machine maintenance affects every asset and every employee who uses those assets. That’s why it’s essential to develop a strategy to keep equipment working. Depending on the assets you use, your most effective strategy will include several types of maintenance. Determining the perfect balance isn’t always easy and will definitely take some time, but you’ll be paid back with healthier equipment, a more productive team, and fewer cost-inducing inefficiencies.

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