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Industrial maintenance is a collection of timed, targeted actions aimed at maximizing value from organizational investments in assets and equipment by increasing productive uptime through improved reliability. 

But what does that mean in plain English? And what does industrial maintenance mean for you? 

Definition of industrial maintenance 

In plain English: industrial maintenance is the work the maintenance department does to keep assts and equipment up and running so that the overall organization gets its money's worth. 

Benefits of industrial maintenance 

When you carefully plan, schedule, and track a maintenance program, you can save a lot. 

You save the overall organization money by helping it avoid costly unscheduled asset and equipment failures. Because when an asset goes down, costs can quickly pile up. 

For example, an asset halfway through a production line stops working. Because the whole line is now idle, the organization is paying all the operators to stand around, waiting. There are also the costs of the parts, people, and materials required for the repairs. 

And those are just the immediate costs. Later, to catch up with the production schedule, the organization might have to run extra shifts, paying overtime rates. On top of that, poor maintenance leading to frequent breakdowns shorten an asset's useful life, forcing the organization into an early, costly replacement process. 

You can also save yourself a lot of frustration by making your day-to-day maintenance work more predictable. 

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When you can schedule everything in advance and maintenance isn't about just running around putting out fires, life becomes a lot less hectic. You know ahead of time what's going to get done and who's going to do it. Also, you know what they're going to need for parts and materials, so you can more easily control your inventory. Everyone has what they need when they need it. 

Common maintenance strategies 

Because there are so many different types of assets and equipment, there's no one perfect maintenance strategy. Looking after the motor in an industrial freezer is different than making sure the ramps in the parking garage are free of cracks. You avoid different problems using different techniques. 

And it's not only because there are different types of assets. Depending on your general industry or specific operation, there are differences in asset criticality, which is a measure of relative importance. For example, a forklift might have a high criticality in a warehouse, where drivers use it every day, but a low criticality in a municipal water treatment plant, where it's only ever used a few times a week. 

Here are some of the more common strategies for industrial maintenance. 

Run-to-failure 

Although it tends to have a bit of a well-earned bad reputation, run-to-failure maintenance is often your best choice. 

The good: When you use it for the right types of assets, you save money because you're able to get every last drop of value out of your investment. 

But you have to make sure you're using it with the right assets and equipment  

You need to be able to check most of the following boxes: 

  • Cheap to buy 
  • Easy to carry in inventory 
  • Hard to inspect 
  • Expensive to repair 

The best example of this is a light bulb. 

The bad and the ugly: For all other assets and equipment, run-to-failure ends up costing a lot of money and heartache. Because you're waiting until things break before you fix them, the maintenance team spends all its time running around putting out fires. 

And many of those fires are big, expensive. 

Preventive maintenance 

With preventive maintenance, you switch from reactive to proactive. Instead of passively waiting, you're actively using scheduled inspections and tasks to find and fix small issues before they have a chance to grow into big problems. Instead of replacing a seized engine, you're periodically checking and replacing the oil. 

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Preventive maintenance saves you money because you're more likely dealing with smaller, simpler maintenance tasks instead of large, complicated repairs. 

Predictive maintenance 

With preventive maintenance, you set up a schedule of future inspections and tasks. With predictive maintenance, you use specialized sensors to collect a continuous stream of data you feed into a sophisticated computer program that tells you when to perform maintenance. 

Basically, you're using cutting-edge technology to create a working old-school magic crystal ball. 

There are many benefits to being able to see the future, but it can cost a lot of money. Sensitive sensors, specialized training, and complex software all require large investments of time and money. Predictive maintenance only makes sense for expensive, critical assets and equipment. 

Industries that benefit from industrial maintenance 

Industrial maintenance is popular in many different industries, especially any that are asset heavy. 

Manufacturing 

When your entire reasons for being in business is taking raw feed material and pushing it through assets and equipment to produce products, even small, unexpected failures have direct impacts on your bottom line. Maintenance teams in manufacturing ensure the line stays up and running. 

Health care 

Many of the people at health care centers are physically fragile, so it's critical for maintenance teams to keep both the physical infrastructure and the medical equipment running properly. Everything from the elevators that transport patients on gurneys to the bedside oxygen concentrators need constant care. When seconds count, medical staff need to know they can rely on their lifesaving equipment. 

Hospitality 

When your industry promises to deliver everything from the comforts of a home away from home and a total escape daily life, everything needs to look and work perfectly. No one wants to swim in a pool with a broken heater and then return to their room only to discover the AC isn't working. Maintenance teams work with a variety of asset and equipment types, from hallway ice machines to industrial freezers, from fire suppression systems to kitchen deep fryers. 

Municipalities 

At hotels, everything is focused on guests having a good time. For local governments, the challenges are a bit wider: everything from meeting the basic needs of life and work to recreation. Local governments are responsible for running water treatment plants, traffic lights, and community swimming pools and skating rinks. And not only are the assets spread out over a large area, but operating budgets are also stretched, too.  

Industrial maintenance qualifications and certificates 

There are many professional organizations and certifications for industrial maintenance professionals.

Certified Maintenance & Reliability Technician (CMRT) 

Managed by the Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals (SMRP), it's a comprehensive certification covering general maintenance management, covering maintenance practices, preventative and predictive maintenance, troubleshooting and analysis, and corrective maintenance. 

Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) 

Also from the SMRP, this one covers business and management, equipment reliability, manufacturing process reliability, organization and leadership, and work management. Accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). 

Certified Facility Manager (CFM) 

International Facility Management Association (IFMA) trains workers on the technical specifics of facility maintenance and also leadership and operational concepts. The organization offers a wide variety of educational opportunities.

Facilities Management Professional (FMP)

IFMA offers this degree program for facility management professionals who want to improve both hard and soft skills. The four modules cover finance and business, operations and maintenance, leadership and strategy, and project management. The organization promotes it as the "must-have credential for facility professionals."

Essentials of Facility Management

Another program from IFMA, this one is better suited for professionals closer to the start of their careers in the industry. The ten modules cover the basics of FM, helping build a strong foundation in key concepts.

Certified Plant Engineer (CPE) 

Association for Facilities Engineering (AFE) provides training and certification for facility maintenance, electrical, civil, and mechanical engineering, OSHA safety, and energy management. 

ProFM Credential

The ProFMI Commission, which include Stormy Friday and Stan Mitchell, offers this credential that covers the "24 things every FM professional should know," including operations and maintenance and how to manage assets, risk, and business.  

Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters also offer a wide range of certificate programs and workshops. 

Recent developments in industrial maintenance 

Just like every other organized effort, maintenance used to run on a combination of grit and paperwork. Maintenance professionals planned and tracked projects on paper, manually copying and sharing data. 

The results were impressive. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, including the Great Pyramid of Giza and Colossus of Rhodes were all built and maintained using traditional manual maintenance tracking methods. 

But for all those successes, there are many more frustrating failures. In the end, trying to track maintenance on paper is slow and unreliable. It's too easy to lose data, and even if you can keep it safe, it's hard to share it. When computers became more widespread and many departments switched to spreadsheets, they solved some of the common problems by introducing new ones. Now, instead of losing data, maintenance departments were producing too much of it, without reliable systems for keeping it up to date. 

Modern industrial maintenance is powered by data. Maintenance professionals use new technologies to capture, safeguard, share, and leverage data into actionable insights into their operations. 

Drones

The light at the top of the Empire State Building has just gone out. But instead of sending a tech out to check, you can now fly a drone for a faster, safer visual inspection. It's faster because you don't have to prepare any special safety equipment or call in your most experienced and bravest tech. It's also much safer; if something goes wrong, you can always just replace or repair the drone.   

Sensors

Drones work well with scheduled inspections, but for some assets, it makes more sense to have a continuous stream of data. Here, you can attach sensors to your assets to check for: 

  • Temperature 
  • Vibration 
  • Humidity 
  • Pressure 
  • Gas 
  • Security 

In some cases, the sensor warns you once it goes above or below preset perimeters. For example, a freezer goes above a set temperature or a pipe below a set pressure  

But in others, the sensor sends a stream of data to sophisticated software that uses it to make predictions about when the asset will most likely fail. 

Digital twins

The challenge with predictive models is collecting the right data. How do you know the signs of an impending failure? You need the asset to fail before you know what it looks like right before it fails. And you would need it to fail in every possible way so you could know what it looks like before each type of failure. 

With something small and cheap, it might be worth breaking it over and over to get this data. But with something big and expensive, it's just not possible. 

Unless you have a near-perfect digital copy of the asset you can endlessly manipulate, break, and rebuild. Digital twins, versions of the assts that live inside computer memory, help maintenance professionals capture the data they need to build out the predictive models they can then apply to the physical original. 

Industrial maintenance and preventive maintenance software 

Although these new technologies and applications are exciting and gaining some level of popularity, the associated costs make them impractical for many maintenance departments. In many cases, departments only need a good preventive maintenance program, and for that, the best solution is modern preventive maintenance management software. 

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You can set up, schedule, and track a PM program all from the same cloud-based platform, confident that your data is safe, secure, and accessible from one database. Modern preventive maintenance solutions also help centralize and streamline work order management and MRO inventory controls. 

CEO summary 

Industrial maintenance is how organizations ensure they maximize returns on their investments in assets and equipment by avoiding costly downtime and repairs. Because there are so many different types of assets, and each one can have a different level of importance, there are different maintenance strategies, including reactive to proactive and even predictive. Although everything used to be done on paper, maintenance departments can now leverage cloud-based computing to keep data safe, secure, and accessible. Recent developments include the use of drones and sophisticated digital twins, but because of the associated costs for implementation and upkeep, many maintenance departments can meet all their needs with modern preventive maintenance software.  

Let's get you to the next step 

Ready to learn more about industrial maintenance and preventive maintenance software? 

Hippo is here to help you make it happen with the right preventive maintenance solution, including answering your questions about maintenance strategies (and everything else related to maintenance), helping you book a live software demo, or even setting you up with a free trial

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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