MRO Magazine

Sustainable maintenance practices

How to implement maintenance best practices and keep them in force year over year.

April 14, 2023 | By Peter Phillips

Photo:Blue Planet Studio / Adobe Stock

Photo:Blue Planet Studio / Adobe Stock

It would be impossible to cover every element of a successful maintenance program in one article. However, lets touch on four basic systems that every maintenance department needs to consider when they want a maintenance system that provides a high level of maintenance service and equipment reliability.

These four primary maintenance systems are the fundamental elements to a successful maintenance program. They are nothing new; however, many maintenance departments struggle to implement and sustain fundamental best practices that support the systems.

The four systems are work order management, preventive maintenance (PM), predictive maintenance (PdM), and inventory management.

Work order management
A work order management system needs to have a solid work order flow. The work order needs to be easily tracked from the time it enters the maintenance management system (CMMS) until it is planned, executed, updated, and closed in the CMMS. A work order flow needs to be developed where everyone in the work order process understands their role and responsibility to move the work orders through the system.


Sounds simple, but there are other factors that affect the success of a work order system. Maintenance departments often get overwhelmed by the shear number of work orders that accumulate in the system, day after day, week after week. When developing the work order system other factors influence the system effectiveness. They are:

Number of work orders – Maintenance departments struggle to keep up with the number of work order hours versus the number of available equipment hours, and the number of technician hours in the labour pool. These factors affect the work order completion rate, which is a key performance indicator tracked by maintenance departments.

Focusing on 40 hours of PMs to complete in eight hours of available equipment time (one eight-hour shift). How many technicians working an eight-hour shift will be needed to complete all the PMs?
A simple equation can be used to calculate the number of technicians to achieve a 100 per cent
PM completion.

# of technicians = 40 PM hours divided by eight hours of available equipment time.

In this case the equation calculates five technicians will be needed just to perform the PM work orders. Let’s remember there will be other maintenance to perform in the eight hours including repairs, modifications, and project work. If the technicians focus only on the PMs, the other non-PM work will not get done. If other non-PM work orders are scheduled, the PM completion percentage will suffer. It is impossible to complete the PMs and other work orders in the eight-hour schedule and have a 100 per cent work order completion.

Therefore it’s easy to see how the number of incomplete work orders can start to add up quickly. To help decrease the amount of time needed to complete PM and PdM, maintenance departments need to review their preventive and predictive commitments and calculate the total number of labour hours needed to fulfill their obligations to the equipment. If there are substantially more hours of PM and PdM versus the number of technician hours available, then the completion rate will not be achievable. If hiring more technicians is not an option, the preventive and predictive maintenance systems will need to be reviewed to determine if their schedules and tasks can be adjusted to match labour availability.

The next part of the equation is the available equipment time. If equipment availability is an issue, creative solutions will need to be developed in order complete PMs, PdMs and other work orders. Many manufacturing facilities have difficulty finding work for technicians when the production line is running, (unless there is a lot of re-active maintenance).

PM and PdM routines are often scheduled when the equipment is down. By examining the labour requirements of these two activities, maintenance teams have determined that many of the PM/PdM tasks can be safely done when the equipment is running. Rewriting and separating run time from down time work order activities can achieve two things.
– It reduces the number of equipment available hours needed to perform PM and PdM maintenance.
– It better utilizes technician hours.

The growth of work order backlog causes the number of maintenance hours in the system to grow. These work orders that are passed their scheduled completion date need to be managed to reduce their total number. The work orders in the CMMS need to be continually reviewed to determine if they still need to be done. If they are legitimate, they need to be placed in the work schedule. If there are not enough technician or equipment hours available, it may be necessary to bring in outside contractors to reduce the backlog.

PM and PdM
The next two systems are PM and PdM. They both need to be continually updated and completely reviewed annually. Technicians need to be encouraged to update inspections when completing work orders and to inform the CMMS administrator when there are changes in the equipment so an inspection list can be modified.

The PdM system needs to show results, taking measurements and recording component data takes precious time from other maintenance activities. PdM data must monitor the health of the equipment and prevent component failure, if it does not, the PdM program needs to be reviewed. Many maintenance departments have embraced innovative technology that provides real-time analysis of the equipment and its components. For example, waiting for a monthly vibration report from an outside service is a thing of the past. Modern real time data collection and analysis has become cost effective and can identify impending failures.

Inventory management system
The fourth element is the inventory management system. Part outage or the inability to find a part in the stockroom is an on-going issue for maintenance departments. Part outages result in extended downtime, inadequate repairs, and additional equipment downtime when the part comes into the plant.

Best inventory practices ensure the parts are on hand when needed, and the technician can find the part in a minimum amount of time. The benchmark for finding parts in the stock room is normally 90 seconds. The faster the part is located the faster the equipment is back in service. Organizing a stockroom can be a very labour-intensive undertaking. Most maintenance teams underestimate the resources needed to transform a stockroom into a proficient inventory system. A realistic plan is the only way to build a robust inventory system.

Putting it together
The last challenge is the sustainability of the four fundamental systems. Recently I worked with a fresh baked goods plant in Nova Scotia. Ten years ago, I helped them develop, plan and implement best practices for the four maintenance systems. The company that purchased the plant wanted to know how after 10 years the maintenance team continued to use the best practices. How were the systems sustained year after year?

There are several reasons, the main influence is the maintenance management team. They are dedicated to the systems that were developed and they require the team to follow the best practices everyday. New personnel are introduced and educated in the four systems and how they contribute to equipment health and reliability. Their relentless attention to best practices has attributed to their success.
These four maintenance systems are not new and sustainable maintenance practices are certainly not rocket science. Keeping these systems in play simply requires a commitment to develop, implement and continue to follow best practices year after year.
Peter Phillips is the owner of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd., a Nova Scotia-based maintenance consulting and training company. Peter has over 40 years of industrial maintenance experience. He travels throughout North America working with maintenance departments and speaking at conferences. Reach him at 902-798-3601 or


Stories continue below

Print this page