Today, maintenance is at the center of any industrial activity and is a major challenge for the productivity and competitiveness of companies. In the past, it was limited to simple repair or troubleshooting operations on an ad hoc basis. Today, industrial maintenance is a much broader field whose performance has a considerable influence on the productivity of plants.
However, the issues, methods and tools available to professionals are still too often unknown. These tools have greatly evolved over the last few years thanks to technological advances and new maintenance management solutions now make it possible to considerably facilitate the work of field teams while allowing managers to improve their organization and decision making.
In this short guide to industrial maintenance, we will present:
Definition of industrial maintenance
In its essential definition as stated by the French national organization for standardization (AFNOR), maintenance is an activity that consists in maintaining or restoring an asset in a specific state that allows it to provide a specific service.
In general, industrial maintenance includes actions of :
- control and verification.
What is the role of maintenance?
The role of maintenance is becoming more and more important in the activity and productivity of companies. Today, maintenance activities are not only aimed at repairing equipment (corrective maintenance) but also at anticipating breakdowns and malfunctions (preventive maintenance). Thanks to new technologies, in particular electronic sensors and new CMMS solutions, it is even possible to predict breakdowns and carry out interventions before they occur (predictive maintenance).
The objective of maintenance is to keep production tools in safe working order while reducing production costs. To meet the growing economic challenges, it is a source of optimization and even profits.
The role of a maintenance department is therefore broader than before, and managers and technicians are involved in structural projects that must integrate many parameters such as cost and deadlines, quality, safety or the environment.
What are the different types of industrial maintenance?
There are two main types of industrial maintenance:
- corrective maintenance, which can be palliative or curative;
- preventive maintenance, which can be systematic, conditional or predictive.
This term refers to the interventions carried out on an equipment or a machine in case of a failure or a breakdown. It can be :
- palliative, when it is a temporary fix to allow the equipment to continue to perform a required function partially or completely;
- curative, when the equipment is permanently repaired and returned to its original condition or to a condition that allows it to perform its function.
This type of maintenance consists in intervening on an equipment or a machine before a failure occurs to prevent breakdowns. There are three subtypes of preventive maintenance:
- systematic preventive maintenance;
- condition-based maintenance;
- predictive maintenance..
Systematic preventive maintenance
This is the most common type of preventive maintenance. It refers to interventions carried out systematically on the basis of a fixed time period or on the basis of a periodicity of use (operating time, number of movements carried out…). It often meets the specifications or recommendations of the manufacturer of the equipment involved but can be adjusted by the user according to his experience.
If we take the example of a vehicle, an oil change every year or after every 10,000 kilometers is considered systematic maintenance.
Condition-based preventive maintenance
These interventions are based on a condition that can be measured. It is therefore carried out according to readings or measurements, or controls (carried out by a technician or using sensors) giving information on the state of degradation of the equipment: vibration analysis, oil level, infrared thermography, etc. Relevant indicators are defined to anticipate breakdowns.
Back to the car example: changing the brake pads when the corresponding indicator lights up is a conditional preventive maintenance intervention.
It is a form of condition-based maintenance carried out on the basis of forecasts extrapolated from the analysis and evaluation of the parameters of the degradation of an asset. It is based on the anticipation of the crossing of a predefined threshold which informs on the state of degradation of the equipment before a dysfunction or a breakdown occurs.
Why develop preventive maintenance?
There are different reasons to implement a preventive maintenance strategy:
- for regulatory reasons: some pieces of equipment must undergo preventive maintenance because of the standards to which their use is subject;
- for safety reasons, due to the criticality of the equipment and the unacceptable consequences of a potential failure;
- for economic reasons: an efficient preventive maintenance strategy reduces costs compared to corrective maintenance;
- for practical reasons: some pieces of equipment are only available at certain times for inspection and maintenance.
Improvement maintenance is less well known and often considered as a “related activity”. It refers to a set of technical, administrative and management measures aimed at improving the operational safety of an asset by modifying the original design but without changing its required function.
The goals of improvement maintenance can be to reduce energy consumption, increase the lifetime of the components, improve maintainability, increase the performance of production, etc.
The improvement maintenance interventions take the form of renovation, reconstruction or modernization actions.
What are the 5 levels of maintenance?
There are 5 levels of maintenance, according to the Afnor classification. Each level corresponds to a degree of complexity of interventions:
- Level 1 maintenance includes simple actions to be performed on easily accessible equipment;
- Level 2 maintenance corresponds to low complexity interventions with simple procedures to follow;
- Level 3 maintenance refers to complex interventions that must take into account the equipment as a whole and be performed by specialized technicians;
- Level 4 maintenance involves complex and important operations, which require one or more specialized technicians, supervised by a manager;
- Level 5 maintenance corresponds to actions similar to manufacturing actions (reconstruction, compliance, etc.) that can only be carried out by the equipment manufacturer or by a service provider approved by him.
Industrial maintenance management
What are the goals of maintenance management?
The objective is to maximize the activity of machines, equipment and installations, while minimizing the risks of failure and the costs of maintenance and repair. It is therefore based on three main principles:
- reliability ;
Maintenance management methods
Numerous maintenance management methods have been developed since it was recognized as an essential activity for the smooth running and productivity of a company. The best known are :
- TPM, ou Total Productive Maintenance;
- Pareto analysis;
Management of maintenance interventions
It is a major lever for improving the productivity of any industrial company. Managers and decision makers can act on many parameters to optimize the management of maintenance interventions.
What are the management tools for industrial maintenance?
Maintenance management tools have evolved significantly over the past 40 years, from the use of paper notebooks to next-gen mobile CMMS software.
A mobile application for industrial maintenance management
The appearance of “intervention books” or “intervention sheets” was a start in the desire of teams to record all their operations to better manage their activity. Subsequently, many companies replaced these paper documents with Excel, which allowed better processing of information and limited the risks of losing information. Finally, software specifically designed for maintenance management has been developed and offers dedicated functionalities, allowing the emergence of a true computerized maintenance management system, or CMMS.
If all these tools still coexist today in the industrial sector, a new generation of CMMS solutions is about to replace them. These software or applications have the great advantage of being specifically designed for maintenance management without suffering from the major defects of the first CMMS. These were both very expensive and very complex to use, which led many companies to go back to Excel or to give up on installing a CMMS.
What are the different professions in industrial maintenance?
The sector includes a large number of professions and training courses, but industrial maintenance professionals can be divided into three main categories: technicians, managers and engineers.
The main objective of the industrial maintenance technician is to avoid breakdowns on machines and therefore production interruptions, by applying preventive maintenance. In many companies, however, he/she must also perform a lot of corrective maintenance.
In practice, the maintenance technician’s job requires a certain versatility since he or she must be able to change a defective part, modify settings, handle a computer program that drives machines or use CMMS software.
The main mission of the maintenance manager is to optimize the maintenance of the means of production. He/she supervises the maintenance of machines and equipment in an industrial facility. He/she may participate in interventions if necessary, but is mainly dedicated to optimizing the maintenance of the means of production. He/she organizes the methodical monitoring of equipment, works on improving industrial production equipment and adapting it to organizational and technological changes.
Its main goals are to avoid production stoppages as much as possible, to prevent and manage breakdowns and to improve the maintainability of the production tool.
Industrial Maintenance Engineer
The maintenance engineer implements corrective or preventive maintenance strategies to guarantee the proper functioning of production equipment. He/she manages the maintenance activity, analyzes data and proposes technical improvements for equipment or installations, controls the quality of the equipment and the interventions carried out and implements regulatory controls.
He designs methods to adjust maintenance to the needs and resources of his company. He relies more and more on Big Data and artificial intelligence to exploit the data provided by measurement tools and sensors. He also uses the history of interventions and breakdowns to better organize maintenance within one or more plants.
In addition, the maintenance engineer works on improving the machinery to improve the quality of production and reduce production costs. He can also work on the modernization of work tools to improve their performance and make them safer.