For asset-intensive businesses and organizations, the upkeep of expensive and critical equipment constitutes a major part of their overall strategy. It is not surprising, that what is now called precision maintenance, originated as a set of techniques that were devised by a scientist named Wernher Von Braun at NASA. For Braun, precision maintenance was about reducing the degree of vibration of critical assets. He discovered that a 20% reduction in vibrations doubled the lifespan of bearing parts

Since then, precision maintenance has evolved to encompass many more aspects of equipment maintenance than reducing their vibration levels. See what it is, why it’s needed, and how you can start a precision maintenance program at your organization.

What is precision maintenance?

Precision maintenance is a framework that brings consistency, reliability, predictability, and efficiency to these maintenance processes. It is a philosophy that encourages businesses to employ best practices across their maintenance strategy. 

Maintenance processes are carried out to improve the uptime of assets, eliminate unprecedented downtime, maximize equipment performance, and its ROI. Precision maintenance focuses on the people, culture, tooling, and materials aspects of these maintenance processes. 

Precision maintenance must be adopted by every asset-intensive business – especially those that operate in oil and gas (O&G), construction, cement, materials and chemicals, and heavy industrial sectors.

Why do you need precision maintenance?

When maintenance processes are carried out, their outcomes depend on a number of factors. These include, but are not limited to:

  • The environment in which the process was carried out.
  • The experience and skill level of the maintenance technician.
  • Quality of spares and materials that were used during a repair.
  • Availability and reliability of the asset’s maintenance history.

If the organization’s maintenance strategy doesn’t account for these factors, they turn into variables. As a result, the outcomes of scheduled maintenance may differ across each iteration, and may be influenced by each of the above mentioned factors. This lack of consistency and predictability can derail process planning, maintenance cost estimates, and other operational aspects of a business.

By employing precise standards into the maintenance culture, businesses can achieve near-zero variability in their maintenance processes. Moreover, focusing on these aspects also encourages maintenance teams to adopt KPIs that enable them to continuously improve their maintenance processes.

Business benefits of precision maintenance 

Take a look at some of the key benefits of adopting a precision maintenance plan:

  • Achieve the same level of outcomes irrespective of the technician’s skill level or experience.
  • Bring predictability and consistency into the outcomes of the overall maintenance strategy.
  • Work with high-fidelity operating cost estimates and revenue projections.
  • Maximize asset reliability and lifespan, and consequently, minimize cost of production.
  • Minimize materials footprint, energy consumption, and GHG emissions.

How to start a precision maintenance program

Because precision maintenance is a framework that addresses inefficiencies underpinning your maintenance culture, there will be multiple ways to implement a precision maintenance program at your organization. But precision maintenance requires organizations to have the following key components in place:

  • Predictive maintenance: One of the first steps to implementing precision maintenance is to optimize maintenance schedules for each piece of equipment. Therefore, a quality preventive or predictive maintenance platform is a baseline requirement of precision maintenance.
  • Technician training: Precision maintenance requires technicians to follow standard operating procedures with high precision, down to the T. Therefore, undertaking technician training and certification programs will result in better outcomes.
  • Process documentation: This gives maintenance managers a reliable history of the maintenance work that has been carried out in the past, and the outcomes it has yielded. It can also be used to train newly implemented, AI-based tools.
  • Tooling and materials: Using high-quality consumables and spares maximizes the efficacy of repairs and post-maintenance performance. Digital tools with an intuitive UI empower better collaboration and enable teams to keep maintenance procedures up to date.

Finally, precision maintenance also relies on an effective asset management strategy. This can be especially crucial in situations where parts associated with frequent wear or high lead times are involved in the maintenance process. In addition, maintaining a clean and optimal operational environment for each asset is also necessary to maximize its lifespan.

Take a look at a typical roadmap to start a precision maintenance program.

Step 1: Undertake a requirements assessment

This will enable you to identify the gaps between your current maintenance strategy and your target state. These gaps could result from the existing skill levels of your technicians, lack of tools, or absence of an effective CMMS system

Step 2: Implement a predictive maintenance platform

By optimizing maintenance schedules for each piece of equipment, your maintenance teams will be well-positioned to address the cultural inefficiencies underpinning your maintenance processes and schedules. Adopt an industry-leading predictive maintenance platform like UptimeAI to optimize your maintenance schedules and machine uptime.

Step 3: Adopt KPIs to measure precision maintenance outcomes

In addition to measuring KPIs like MTTf and MTTR, focus on the effectiveness and consistency of your maintenance outcomes – for example, vibration effectiveness, planning effectiveness, and inventory effectiveness. Implement the tooling that will help you measure and log these KPIs.

Step 4: Adopt a continuous improvement culture

Establish clear lines of communication when you start a precision maintenance program – make sure that the key objectives and expected results are understood by everyone. Empower your technicians and maintenance managers with the tools and training that will help them achieve these outcomes, and conduct progress reviews to ensure that your team is on the right track.

Summing it up

Precision maintenance is a holistic approach to improving the outcomes of your asset maintenance strategy. While predictive maintenance will help businesses optimize maintenance schedules by helping them identify the most optimal maintenance timeframes, precision maintenance will plug the cultural gaps that could detract the ROI of your maintenance strategy. Therefore starting a precision maintenance program is a major undertaking – but one that will set an asset-heavy business up for success in the long run.

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