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Past, Present, and Future of Maintenance

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The concept of a "Maintenance 2.0" approach eliminates information and process silos. No longer does it make sense to isolate the critical activity of maintenance management from the rest of operations.

Manufacturing operations and maintenance management systems are now becoming highly collaborative as well, offering feedback loops where information and processes can be exchanged and acted upon

"Maintenance processes cannot be effective if established in a siloed fashion. It is important to have both maintenance and operations groups working closely together to optimize both operations and maintenance processes. This will be a key step in achieving the top two goals of minimizing downtime and maximizing asset utilization." - Matthew Littlefield, Senior Research Analyst, AberdeenGroup'

"Everyone here at Hitachi is very glad we made the change [to a Maintenance 2.0 solution] with Apriso's FlexNet. To sum it up, FlexNet offers much more flexibility... to changing PM schedules, due dates, and assignments, while at the same time [it] is much more user-friendly. FlexNet's [Maintenance 2.0] approach gives us the ability to record both the preventive and reactive maintenance history on equipment. This is important, because it gives us a more complete look at what has happened to a piece of equipment, contributing to increased efficiency and improved uptime." - Kristi Dean, Production Engineering, Hitachi Computer Products (America), Inc.

PAST Maintenance management systems evolved from a need by manufacturers to improve labor efficiency while reducing costs. Traditional paper records were too costly to prepare - valuable "wrench time" was lost while mechanics filled out an extensive paper trail. Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) replaced much of the need for paper-based tracking, enabling management to quickly create reports to monitor useful performance metrics such as Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF) and Mean Time to Repair (MTTR).

PRESENT Today, many manufacturers are finding that maintenance management can be further optimized when part of a broader solution for manufacturing operations management by synchronizing with production, warehouse, and quality operations. These systems provide a better approach to preventing machine breakdowns by anticipating when maintenance is required, based on a broader scope of leading indicators, such as a production change requiring raw materials from a third-party warehouse.

FUTURE In the future, I anticipate fewer maintenance actions, based on steady quality improvements and equipment capable of fixing itself. Location-aware applications could trigger signals to mechanics as they walk by, indicating an action should be performed. Borrowing from gaming technologies, future maintenance applications might enable mechanics to peer into sensor-enabled equipment to manipulate speeds, temperatures, and more without ever wielding a wrench or screwdriver.

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Now is the Timef or Maintenance 2.0

Today's global economy has put manufacturers under extreme competitive and financial pressure. In spite of the gradual recovery in the manufacturing sector, marked by higher-than-expected quarterly results and increased guidance from many in the industry, the soaring costs of fuel and raw materials continue to put pressure on manufacturers to work smarter and more efficiently.

These pressures have had a ripple effect on the industry, leading some firms to make short-term trade-offs by deferring machine maintenance and upgrades. In somecases, management has cancelled or delayed equipment purchases. This may ultimately negatively impact long-term operating performance. Ironically, delaying equipment replacements or upgrades has only made the vitality and ongoing efficiency of existing equipment even more critical. Greater attention must now be applied to maintenance programs in order to sustain these aging and increasingly important assets. Yet, quite often, staffing levels have been reduced in search of cost reductions and improved productivity. Increasing demands have been placed on the remaining employees, creating an almost perfect "storm" for disaster.

While challenging business conditions have affected most operational areas, maintenance, which is typically viewed as a cost center, has been particularly hard hit. The importance of efficiently maintaining and utilizing aging equipment-specifically, maximizing uptime to meet production demands without increasing costs-is crucial to the efficient performance of the manufacturing process and the overall health of your business.

Increased Risk Necessitates a New Approach

The concept of a "Maintenance 2.0" approach eliminates information and process silos. No longer does it make sense to isolate the critical activity of maintenance management from the rest of operations. Industry leaders understand the value of synchronizing maintenance activies with production, quality, warehouse, and labor operations for substantial performance and cost advantages. Also, this type of approach can help you reduce the risk of production downtime or costly, unplanned equipment repairs. Coordinating preventive maintenance with production schedules reduces ad-hoc reactionary scrambling to smooth out production schedules. Avoiding notification delays of unplanned repairs can reduce your mean-time-torepair, getting production back online as fast as possible. On-time delivery performance can be improved, and the reduction in performance variation results in lower requirements for safety stock.

With all the potential benefits of having a more collaborative solution, one might ask why there hasn't been widespread adoption of this strategy. Why do most manufacturers still rely on legacy, traditional maintenance management applications that operate in a silo?

Legacy Maintenance Systems

Are Not a Top-of-Mind ConcernOne reason why maintenance system upgrades might not have been as active over the past couple of years is the fact that other issues simply necessitated greater attention, such as identifying which factories to close or how to make payroll when sales dropped by over fifty percent. In other words, there are only so many "fires" one can extinguish, and over the past couple of years there have been quite a few of them. Thus, maintenance system upgrades were just not a top-of-mind concern. If factory equipment is idle, and you're trying to soak up excess production capability, who cares if the maintenance is current on a machine or tooling?Another reason I have heard to defer a maintenance system upgrade is the big wave of Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) implementations that occurred over the past decade. CFOs embraced the concept of wringing greater value out of existing capital assets. However, many of these systems proved to be too expensive, too complicated or simply too cumbersome to deploy quickly and effectively on the shop floor for tracking work order progress and labor usage.

The end result?
Many software licenses were purchased, but not all were implemented. Those that were able to complete the installation process struggled to improve or upgrade their solution to match improved processes. Over time, the system no longer matches and supports the processes that are actually used on the shop floor.

Figure 1: Dashboard

Too often maintenance systems, like the maintenance departments that purchased them, have run isolated from production and quality operations and systems. Maintenance management systems have typically been deployed on a plant-by-plant basis, with local staff assigned to monitor and provide fixes as needed. There is a long history of purchasing computerized maintenance systems as point solutions with a single plant in mind.

This traditional approach used to work just fine. As long as each plant's output quotas were achieved, everyone was happy, or as some have put it, we were "on the happy path." Production continued in a predictable manner, and equipment maintenance could be reasonably managed on a plant-by-plant basis.

What Changed?

There have been several significant shifts in manufacturing operations today, due in part to new global competitive threats and the global economy's recent challenges that began a few years ago and is either gone or still lingering on, depending upon your industry and geographical focus.

Once it became apparent the "financial crisis" of 2007 and beyond was going to be significant, many manufacturers chose to shutter plants and lay off employees. This act of self-preservation was prudent and predictable; those that effectively cut costs quickly have positioned themselves for long-term survival. What is happening now is that the recovery has quickly pushed production levels back towards full capacity, given all the plants that were closed. Extra shifts are being manned, and outsourcing contract agreements are under consideration to address increased demand.

While manufacturing output has clearly increased over the past couple of years, what has lingered is a memory (some would argue a scar) of the painful decisions and adjustments that were made. Plant managers and those involved in forecasting and planning production schedules suffered on a global scale trying to best manage through the ordeal. As a result, there is a lingering fear of hiring or investing too quickly, in case further reductions are once again required. Manufacturing flexibility has become a key component of production scheduling, as well as nearly every other manufacturing process. The business with the most flexibility stands the greatest chance for survival in today's current uncertain times.

Maintenance 2.0 - Improving Flexibility in Maintenance Operations

It is the driving need for greater flexibility in manufacturing operations that is now impacting manufacturing systems purchases, including those systems managing maintenance operations. A Maintenance 2.0 solution can address these concerns due to its iterative nature and ability to change and adapt as often and as quickly as necessary. Speed of change is the new competitive weapon to keep costs down while still capturing sales opportunities and market expansions.

Let's take a closer look at what a Maintenance 2.0 solution might look like.

Recall the "Web 2.0" transformation that began in 2004 to understand what the 2.0 designation means. Quite simply, it is the ability to provide a feedback loop: two-way communications versus one-way. Websites that just posted articles and content with no opportunity for readers to respond are 1.0 websites. Blogs and most of today's news sites, however, all offer abilities to post replies, creating a feedback loop of interactions between the authors and their readers, as a 2.0 website.

Manufacturing operations and maintenance management systems are now becoming highly collaborative as well, offering feedback loops where information and processes can be exchanged and acted upon, as a 2.0 type of information exchange.

A Maintenance 2.0 approach means that your maintenance management system no longer operates in a silo. Maintenance orders are instead triggered by actual production volumes, product design changes, or even quality issues that might begin to trend out of compliance, forcing an immediate equipment inspection or repair, regardless of whether it was scheduled. This iterative flexible approach means that maintenance schedules can be frequently updated or changed, becoming highly dynamic and capable of better supporting their production environment. See Figure 1, showing a sample of what a user interface might look like where maintenance performance can be measured as part of a collaborative operations dashboard.

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How Do You Achieve 2.0 Levels of Flexibility?

Not every system is capable of responding quickly to change or adapting a series of complex maintenance operations "on the fly." Fortunately, new advances and technologies are making this agility possible. A great place to start is with a system based on Business Process Management (BPM) application architecture. Quite simply, these types of applications are built on a series of business process that can be readily changed as often as necessary. Note that I am not talking about threading disparate applications together with BPM. Instead, I am talking about actual applications that at their core are really just a collection of business processes.

This technology becomes even more powerful when expanded to run all of your manufacturing operations. For example, production, quality, warehouse, time, and labor and maintenance operations could all be run from a series of BPM applications, each with business processes intersecting with manufacturing operations in a virtually infinite manner.

Benefiting From Flexibility in Maintenance Operations

As I mentioned earlier, legacy plant maintenance systems have long suffered from running isolated from production, quality, and warehouse operations. This structure can lead to operational disruptions and disjointed responses to unexpected breakdowns. Further, isolation of maintenance from operations impedes root cause analysis because it is more difficult to correlate performance, quality, and equipment information.

A flexible, BPM-based system operates much differently. This type of system is capable of frequent changes and can be operated as part of a greater "whole" operations environment that might include other manufacturing operations. By operating as part of a collective "whole" that runs the entire manufacturing enterprise, greater efficiencies can be harvested from maintenance operations. Replacement parts can be managed more efficiently. Times to schedule repairs or work orders can be better coordinated based on knowledge gained via visibility to other operations across your organization.

Embed Maintenance in Support of Continuous Process Improvement

The simple act of better scheduling equipment repairs is only the tip of the iceberg of the potential benefits possible when improving collaboration and flexibility around your manufacturing operations.

One of the most important ways to improve uptime while minimizing maintenance costs is getting more "wrench time" from your existing maintenance staff. Identifying and eliminating non-value-added tasks, a form of waste, improves maintenance process efficiency while opening up more time for value-added tasks, thereby increasing your labor efficiency.

Continuous improvement initiatives, such as Lean and Six Sigma, are used by many organizations to remove waste and improve maintenance process efficiency. The challenge is that traditional maintenance applications are typically ill-equipped to quickly and easily adapt to new maintenance processes or improvements. Legacy maintenance applications are essentially "hard coded" applications that have implicit maintenance processes embedded in them, providing a considerable obstacle to performing a change to any process or routine.

A Maintenance 2.0 system is specifically built for change. Flexible systems based on a BPMbased architecture can provide a form of value stream mapping to model the sequence of steps required for a maintenance activity. With BPM, each step in a maintenance procedure can be visually mapped, specifications and maintenance manuals can be linked, parts and materials can be quickly identified, and skills and certifications required for the job can be validated as work assignments are made.

A Maintenance 2.0 system can direct a maintenance engineer through the departments' standard operating procedures, including notification and signoffs, to track labor usage and updates systems for parts used, equipment lineage, and work order progress. This process can be easily changed without really impacting the operators (they may not even know that the process has been changed) as long as they continue to perform their duties as directed through their custom user interfaces.

More importantly, a Maintenance 2.0 system empowers maintenance organizations to quickly and easily update their maintenance processes as improvements are identified. Process changes that remove non-value-added activities, such as travel time to the job, or time spent gathering parts and tools or filling out paperwork, means more time is available for the technician to do preventive maintenance.

Examples include enhancing the processfor a regularly scheduled lubrication of motor bearings or giving visibility to all tasks that an engineer is qualified to complete within a predefined period of time or specific area of a plant.

Evaluating ways to eliminate non-value-added time means more preventive maintenance can be done within the same level of staffing.

Notably, many plants achieve only 25-30% wrench time. Best-in-class organizations can achieve wrench time of 50-60%. Maintenance 2.0 empowers continuous improvement initiatives that can help you to increase your percentage of wrench time, resulting in lower costs and increased uptime.

The Role of ERP in Maintenance Management

By taking a Maintenance 2.0 approach with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system(s), it is possible to better coordinate plant maintenance activities while removing overlapping or duplicative functionality. In other words, when processes can be easily created, shared, or changed, it becomes a whole lot easier to navigate through the complex integration requirements of implementing or maintaining an ERP deployment. A dynamic system that can easily remove redundancy or overlap will function with greater effiency and cost less to maintain, once again leading to increased equipment uptime, improved compliance, and lower manufacturing costs.

Examples of areas where there is typically too much overlapping of functionalities with ERP systems include areas such as spares procurement, work order scheduling, costing, and inventory management.

Not Just a Theoretical Discussion

One example of a manufacturer that has embraced a Maintenance 2.0 approach for their maintenance management operations is Hitachi Computer Products (America), Inc., which recently implemented Apriso's FlexNet Maintenance as their Maintenance 2.0 solution.

Working with Apriso, Hitachi put in place a new maintenance management solution based on FlexNet's BPM architecture. Their "Maintenance 2.0" system has gone beyond a "stovepipe" perspective of maintenance managementby enabling greater coordination and collaboration across all of their manufacturing operations.

By reducing non-value-added activities, such as gathering spare parts and tools or filling out requisitions, engineers can now get more wrench time, enabling more preventive maintenance without increasing staff, and reducing time spent only on break-fix operations.


As the manufacturing industry continues to drive cost reductions, improved efficiency, and greater quality, a Maintenance 2.0 approach enables improved operational performance by synchronizing maintenance processes with production, quality and warehouse operations. Greater visibility, control, and synchronization of maintenance processes on a global scale means that equipment performance can be better understood. Broader context for root cause analysis means faster resolution of problems, resulting in improved uptime, lower costs, reduced mean-time-to-repair, and increased asset longevity.

Further, a collaborative, BPM-based solution for maintenance management helps support Lean operations and continuous improvement while providing a more simplified work environment for maintenance engineers and technicians. It enforces standard operating procedures across the enterprise to improve regulatory compliance and safety while minimizing operational impact and costs.

Implementing a Maintenance 2.0 solution on a global manufacturing platform helps maintenance organizations to both operate more effectively and reduce costs without compromising safety or productivity. In these challenging economic times, that's a change most manufacturers can live with.

Jordan Berkley

Jordan Berkley is responsible for providing strategic direction for product management of Apriso's FlexNet application suite. Mr. Berkley has over 15 years of business development, product management, and sales experience, from an end user and IT solution provider's perspective.

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