Racking up the ‘maintenance credit card’ – the interest rate is too high!

Rob Russell, Co-founder and CTO, Senseye

The 'maintenance credit card' fallacy

We’re living in uncertain times. Businesses everywhere have had to cut costs and figure out new ways of working in order to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’ that emphasizes remote work and automation. As industrial companies look to save money, asset maintenance is often one of the first areas to experience budget cuts resulting in the assets being made to sweat with little or no maintenance – sometimes referred to as ‘the maintenance credit card’.

But the maintenance debt this leaves can incur a worryingly high level of interest that must, at some point, be paid in full. By neglecting maintenance, companies introduce business risks including highly stressed assets, the erosion of in-house knowledge and expertise and, perhaps of greatest concern, a level of maintenance burden from which they might never recover.

There is an alternative to this risky, high-interest approach, however. A predictive maintenance (PdM) project with a guaranteed return on investment, such as Senseye ROI Lock®, can reduce costs while keeping assets in a healthy condition whilst significantly reducing business risk.


Secondary damage and unplanned downtime

I’ll begin by looking at the risks inherent in delaying traditional preventative maintenance. Yes, cutting maintenance from a company’s budget will save money in the short term, but the longer it is put off, the more the company’s assets are going to degrade, and the bigger the maintenance jobs are going to be when the time eventually comes to carry them out. What’s more, leave it too long, and there’s a risk that the whole business could grind to a halt if a critical machine should fail.

It represents a huge business risk as far as a company’s assets are concerned. Allowing everything to run through to failure will result in secondary damage in addition to the initial, not unsubstantial, degradation. If a bearing is left to fail in a motor, for example, its failure may go on to seize the driveshaft and break teeth in the gearbox which will then need to be scrapped. It goes without saying that the maintenance and spares needed to remedy a level of secondary damage like that can result in significant additional costs.

Then there’s the increased risk of unplanned downtime, not necessarily through lost product but in lost productivity time, something few businesses can afford in the current climate. Maintainers need as much information as they can get on the state of their assets in order to keep production lines running, especially in industries that are not affected by global slowdown. Any downtime is an unwanted cost at a time when it’s critical for these businesses to keep a steady throughput. This lost productivity time might not seem initially important but will certainly have a troubling effect on maintenance efficiency and spend.


Spiraling costs and eroding knowledge

Looming unseen are the longer-term dangers of parts or even entire machines being damaged beyond economical repair and written off – their service lives dramatically shortened by being pushed hard whilst not receiving a needed level of maintenance. Many of these machines will have required huge capital outlay - after all, it’s likely most people would have expected to own and use them for decades. In such cases, though, trying to reduce associated opex will have inadvertently resulted in a huge impact on a company’s capex.

And the costs will continue to build, until they’re out of control. By carefully sweating its assets, a business will - eventually - find a way through this tricky situation. By that time, however, it will have built up a mountainous maintenance bill across all of its machines. Rather than a steady throughput of ongoing maintenance, it will have created a massive bow-wave that’s going to come crashing down on top of it. With costs that high, it’s impossible to know where to even start addressing the situation.

Finally - and especially pertinent in current conditions - cutting budgets can lead to maintenance teams having reduced working hours, being redirected into other areas of the business, or even laid off.  Unable to keep up with necessary certification and ‘on the job’ training, their connection with a company’s machines will begin to fade. If and when these teams are reinstated, there’s a risk that their knowledge of those machine’s respective states will be obsolete.


Time to take stock

Given the risks and the costs outlined above, it’s surely worth considering an alternative. Indeed, this is the perfect opportunity for companies to rethink their asset maintenance strategies in favor of efficiency optimization.

The safest - and most cost-effective - way to support healthy operation during a time of minimal budgeting is to employ effective online remote conditioning monitoring and predictive analysis, thereby enabling predictive maintenance. Now is the time to start reducing dependency on preventative maintenance, only carrying out maintenance that is needed, when it’s needed.

This does, of course, represent something of a risk in itself. It’s understandable, therefore, that many companies will ask for substantial evidence of the cost-savings that can be achieved before taking that all important step to reducing preventative maintenance. It’s for this reason that Senseye offers its customers a guarantee which allows them to introduce predictive maintenance with complete confidence that doing so will have a measurable and well defined impact on budgets. These are unusual times, after all, and we need all the certainty we can get.

As well reducing a company’s maintenance burden - and the attendant costs - Senseye ROI Lock® guarantees a reduction in unplanned machine downtime and it’s part of the standard Senseye PdM product offering. Senseye ROI Lock® is provided in partnership with a Tier One reinsurance company with AA- rating. For more information, and to download the ROI Lock brochure, please click below, it’s far safer than just reducing your maintenance!

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