Too many facilities choose to operate at the mercy of their equipment, running for as long as possible until the system fails instead of performing routine, planned maintenance. Abiding by the phrase “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” many plants around the world consciously decide to run to failure (RTF) and even more simply don’t plan effective preventive maintenance. Reactive, unplanned maintenance can have a huge impact on your bottom line and leave the operational and financial stability of your plant in doubt.

Reactive, running to fail, maintenance leaves your facility in a costly limbo.

If you’re not planning for and controlling when your plant’s equipment is shut down for maintenance, you can’t plan for anything else. You cannot create accurate production forecasts because it’s impossible to know how long unmaintained machinery will run before it inevitably fails. Without proper planning, the financial viability of your facility will always be uncertain. Will you be able to produce enough finished goods to pay the bills this month? RTF maintenance leaves that almost entirely up to fate.

Running to fail racks up loss

Planning in general seems to be outside the standard operating procedure for facilities operating in RTF modes. These facilities also tend to employ very little inventory planning when it comes to spare parts. Since they don’t have a good idea of the state of their various equipment, they can’t efficiently stock specialized replacement parts. This results in two scenarios: spending a ton of money on expedited shipments of spare parts (while the plant racks up costly downtime), or wasting even more resources stocking the inventory shelves with an entire 2nd plant’s worth of parts.

A lack of regularly scheduled maintenance also means that your maintenance team will more often than not be waiting idly for something to do. That’s a lot of wasted man hours, resources that your team could better spend performing preventive maintenance instead of waiting for a breakdown and scrambling in response. Even with a repair crew on the job, there’s no telling how long a breakdown will last.

How much does an hour of downtime cost your facility in lost production? How many hours can you wait for a replacement before you start losing money? If it turns out the needed replacement is an expensive gearbox only manufactured in Germany, those expensive hours could stretch into days, if not weeks. A temporary fix now could result in even worse breakdowns in the future, causing secondary failures through a cascading effect. How many of these incidents can you absorb before going out of business? Unplanned maintenance is detrimental to your plant and an anchor on your bottom line, but it’s possible to avoid the uncertainty of running to fail by creating an effective maintenance plan for your facility.

The pathway to preventive maintenance

There’s no such thing as a perfect plan. All of the predictive data and impeccable preparation in the world can’t account for every possible scenario. But don’t let that stop you from getting started with your own plan. There are tools at your disposal to help you start, including maintenance schedules provided by equipment manufacturers and reliable, user-friendly CMMS software such as MVP Plant. These assets, along with the knowledge of your maintenance team, will get you on track to slowly but surely start scheduling and planning your work. The more downtime you schedule, the more you will know how much uptime for production you will have. At first you might be able to plan 10% of your work, then 20%. Once the ball gets rolling, momentum will build and you’ll soon find yourself on the positive side of that age-old question: are we running the plant, or is the plant running us?