Maintenance Strategies

Written by Nicholas Kamuda
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Since the 1970s, physical asset maintenance strategies have become increasingly important to modern business practices. As assets develop into complex mechanical and computerized hardware and software, the potential failures of those assets affect more and highly varied aspects of business, from service standards to environmental safety. The cost of effective maintenance strategies is also rising, making maintenance a top cost control priority for many businesses.

Maintenance strategies have likewise evolved into complicated operational systems. Prior to the paradigm shift that occurred in the late 70s, many maintenance techniques were based around simple preventive and condition-based tasks. Most of these tasks were constructed around a single model for conditional probability of failure--a model that was generalized and applied across-the-board to all types of physical assets.

That model dictated that most equipment follows a predictable operational life that consists of a brief period of "infant mortality" (high probability of failure in the beginning) followed by an extended period of relatively little failure, and capped off by a "wear-out zone" in which an asset was likely to fail often. To combat this failure pattern, overhaul and part replacement maintenance strategies were developed to "extend" the operational life of the asset.

RCM and New Maintenance Strategies

New evidence suggest that not only do modern assets rarely follow this failure pattern (approximately 4% in the MSG surveys of the 1970s), but that overhaul-style proactive maintenance may actually reduce the reliability of otherwise stable assets or systems. New maintenance strategies, such as RCM, target the consequences of a failure, rather than the failure itself, and recognize that operational age rarely corresponds directly to asset reliability. By implementing maintenance strategies that are designed to prolong the functionality of an asset, RCM insures that assets provide the largest returns for their expected lifetime.

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