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The Maintenance Management Blog

April 25, 2022

8 Maintenance Challenges

I have travelled the country, nay, the world, by car, bus, plane, ship, and semi, visited hundreds of facilities, plants, and industries, talked to supervisors, management, and workers in the field and asked them one simple question: What are your top ten challenges when it comes to maintenance?

Okay, actually, I walked down the hall to a member of our crack support team and asked him. (He's the one who does the travelling.) Unfortunately, I didn't provide the right incentive. I should have brought the chocolate chip cookies instead of the keto bars, so he gave me only eight. Eight is good. Not as good as the nice round number of ten but better than five, which always leaves me wanting a little more.

The following list is by no means the definitive list. If you think of a challenge I've missed, please send it to me. I collect enough, I'll write a sequel with another snazzy title. Something like "8 MORE Maintenance Challenges!"

The purpose here is to highlight these challenges, provide a goal, then a solution. Let's jump right in.

Image: man at machine

1. Too much unplanned downtime

"Holy cow, Bob! Why are these machines always failing and breaking down? This stops the entire production."

A piece of equipment that often breaks down is a huge problem, especially if the entire operation or integral parts of the operation have to halt while repairs are made. What if you're on deadline? Who calls the dealer or customer to explain the delay? Productivity decreases while costs increase.

Unplanned downtime happens. Equipment malfunctions. It's difficult to plan for the unexpected. You need a system on which to rely that would smooth out the occasional rough times.

Goal: Reduce Downtime

2. The wrong parts/inventory on hand

"Holy cow, Bob! The machine's not working, we have the wrong tools for repair, and we're out of stock on the needed parts. On top of that, I see we have too many of these items that we hardly ever use."

A business axiom states that you shouldn't have to much inventory because it's not cost effective. However, don't run out. It could cost you more.

Let's explore this a bit more. Several months ago, Bob purchased 250 widgets from the local Widgets R Us store because they were on sale. Unfortunately, your facility goes through these widgets at a rate of approximately two per year. Simple math tells you not many current employees at the company will be around to order more when supply runs low. Meanwhile, they're taking up space that could be used for the 100 gadgets that you use once a day. The stockroom should be for incoming and outgoing items, not used for long-term storage. (That's what storage units are for.)

On the other hand, Bob neglected to buy more gadgets and used the last one yesterday. Now, you're out. Repairs can't be made, and more delays occur. Can you see how the cost is more than just the price of more gadgets?

Goal: Optimize inventory, reduce stockouts

Image: gauge

3. Limited or ineffective maintenance metrics

"Holy cow, Bob! That machine is overheated. What was the reading the last time you looked at the gauge?"

Machines are similar to humans in that they tend to function inefficiently or stop working if they overheat, cool down too much, run out of fuel, or the timing is off. While our bodies give us warning signs or symptoms (Dude, your temp is 106. How are you still standing?), some machines will have meters and gauges to indicate their 'health.' But how often are they monitored?

Goal: Improve performance management

4. Poor insight into asset and maintenance performance

"Holy cow, Bob! Where have you been for the past two hours? It was only a twenty-minute job I gave you."

Are supposedly simple tasks taking far longer than they should? Are many of the jobs not completed on time? Maybe it's because of lack of parts as mentioned earlier. Maybe the worker spent too much time finding parts. Are there other valid reasons? (What do you mean the tire fell off the truck? Off the axle? While you were driving?)

On time job completion issues delay operations. Maybe it's because of lack of parts as mentioned earlier, maybe something else. (Hopefully not Bob taking an extra-long smoke break out by the propane tanks.)

Goal: Better and clearer coverage of work order completion

5. Inefficient planning, poor labor productivity

"Holy cow, Bob! I thought the instructions were clear enough. This was supposed to be done weekly, not bi-monthly, and you forgot to put the cap back on."

Bob is a good worker, but many times he isn't sure what to do, where to do it, and how to do it. And this is just Bob. How about your other employees? Are they muddling through maintenance with no clear guidelines? Once again, costs are affected because productivity stagnates.

Goal: Improve planning and productivity

6. Machines not lasting their full lifecycles

"Holy cow, Bob! We just bought this machine nine months ago. It should have had another two years of use."

Do you find the overturn of your fleet of vehicles increasing? Other pieces of equipment are doing their best to keep chugging along but not making it nearly far enough before you have to purchase more. How expensive will that become over the years? Will you experience downtime while installing new items or finalizing the new semi?

Goal: Extend equipment life

7. Time from request to repair too long

"Holy cow, Bob! How long ago did you give me the note about the needed repair?"

How do you accept work requests? Text? Memo? Email? Verbally? Do you remember them all? The problem could be serious as in a safety hazard. (The parking lot hasn't been plowed or de-iced? We have guests coming soon.)

Goal: Accelerate service request process

8. Equipment not functioning optimally

"Holy cow, Bob! That machine needs to manufacture ten items per hour. It's making only six."

Is equipment just not up to par? Is it hanging in the double bogey range? (It's a golf joke. Get it?) You want your assets to be at A-1 performance level, but issues delay finding out why they're not. The result is operations are slower. Why? Look at some of the previous challenges. Are they hampering your efforts to get those machines up to speed?

Goal: Optimize system performance

What's the solution to all these challenges?

Rather than kicking Bob to the curb (he really is a good worker), try a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

"But I use a spreadsheet and it's worked fine."

Has it, though? Have those challenges been beaten back until they've grown so large that a limited spreadsheet is not working any longer?

Let's see how a CMMS would help you reach those goals. Take note of how many of these overlap.

Goal #1 – One of the reasons equipment breaks down is it's not properly maintained. Preventive maintenance would reduce the amount of unexpected downtime. Proper and regular inspections, lubrications, fluid/parts replacements. These and more PMs can be listed, detailed, scheduled, and initiated from a CMMS.

Goal #2 – With a CMMS you can create your list of inventory, specify location. With some systems, you can reserve certain parts for specific jobs or create 'kits' of tools/parts for jobs.

With quantities on hand known and automatic purchase requests or purchase orders initiated when a set minimum is reached, you'll be certain the right parts are always in stock. You'll also be able to track which parts are overstocked and whether they're being used. (That way Bob won't be buying more widgets that will sit in a warehouse for years.)

Goal #3 – This is part of the preventive maintenance measures to help extend the life of your equipment. Input regular readings of meters/gauges to give you a record of how the equipment is doing. Is it healthy or needing some TLC?

Image: forklift

Goal #4 / Goal #5 – Does your CMMS have the ability to track work order on-time compliance? Does it provide an area for comments for Bob to write after the job is done? Maybe the delay stemmed from a needed part. (Inventory control was discussed earlier.) Are the work orders clearly understood? Create checklists for step-by-step instructions and safety procedures. Schedule PMs. Designate crews to do complex jobs. Dispatch work orders to specific people. Spreadsheets can't give you a clear position on labor hours and costs.

Goal #6 – See Goal #1. Proper preventive maintenance helps extends the life of vehicles, processors, HVACs, and many other equipment. Does your CMMS track depreciation so you know the optimal time to purchase new?

Goal #7 – A quality CMMS will let you look at work requests, see the priority of each, track dates of submission. What if your CMMS could offer an HTML link so workers who aren't system users could submit work requests? Bob sees that light fixture hanging from one wire. He's too far from his supervisor to report in person. The link would open up a window and the request would be into the system in short order.

Goal #8 – See 1, 3, 6. Proper readings and PMs keep those assets functioning at peak. Regular inspections, timely work requests, and in-stock parts also contribute.

These all can be done with a spreadsheet…I'm kidding. All this and more can be done with a CMMS.

We've had some fun today discussing maintenance, but it is a serious issue. It affects productivity, the bottom line, and the viability of the company. Even Bob approves of a CMMS. Shouldn't you consider dumping the spreadsheet and investing in a better system?

Isn't it time to meet those challenges and achieve your goals? Visit Mapcon.com/MMS.com or call 800-922-4336 to schedule a free demonstration of Mapcon's CMMS.


Stephen Brayton

About the Author – Stephen Brayton


Stephen L. Brayton is a Marketing Associate at Mapcon Technologies, Inc. He graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a degree in Communications. His background includes radio, hospitality, martial arts, and print media. He has authored several published books (fiction), and his short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. With his joining the Mapcon team, he ventures in a new and exciting direction with his writing and marketing. He’ll bring a unique perspective in presenting the Mapcon system to prospective companies, as well as our current valued clients.


Filed under: maintenance, challenges — Stephen Brayton on April 25, 2022