Maintenance approaches top facilities managers use

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Fixing things as quickly as possible when they break is important, there’s no doubt about that. But few realise that it is costly to solely practise a reactive approach to facility maintenance. It hogs staff resources that are constantly in ‘firefighting mode’.

A good preventive maintenance program can preserve assets and keep equipment running optimally with maximum longevity, not to mention, it is more efficient and also cost-effective. However, there are drawbacks to this blanket approach to maintenance. Hence, facility managers often strive to combine the two approaches, reactive and preventive, for a more synergistic line of action to keep things running as efficiently as possible. Studies show that preventive maintenance can save as much as 12 to 18 per cent compared to reactive methods. Designed to prevent breakdowns, the preventive approach treats all things equal. From a preventive point of view, replacing a filter on an air handler is as important as a temperature sensor in a chilled water system. However, in reality, failure of said elements have very different consequences — failure of the latter could be catastrophic in facilities with data centres.

With the above as an example, we see that neither approach to maintenance will sufficiently foresee the failure of equipment. While a combination of the two is a marked improvement, more can be done to maximise efficiency.

Some in the industry mistakenly interchange ‘preventive’ and ‘predictive’ — they are distinctly different attitudes to maintenance. Instead of relying on pre-determined calendar schedules (the preventive method), predictive maintenance is based on the principle that a proactive approach is better than a reactive one, not to mention more efficient at targeting problem areas. Predictive maintenance comprises tasks designed to predict when breakdowns, failures and unplanned outages could occur, and studies show that this approach can save as much as an additional 8 to 12 per cent more than preventive measures. When combined with analytics, the predictive approach is by far the most efficient and cost effective — efficiently prioritising equipment that demand the most attention, streamlining operations and providing quantifiable returns on investment in a relatively short period of time.

What then is stopping building owners/operators from adopting predictive measures and analytics? One popular perceived disadvantage is cost. Earmarking funds to implement and support new software platforms to capture data on the actual condition of systems and equipment acts as enough deterrent for smaller facilities. While the start-up cost is admittedly not negligible, the returns on investment for predictive maintenance is realised several times over in the medium to long term. Nevertheless, this is the biggest hurdle when changing organisational attitudes towards fresher perspectives on maintenance methods.

The addition of analytics resolves the issue of resistant senior management who may prefer short-term cost savings of reactive maintenance. Expected ROI of a smart service plan can be calculated directly from captured data from facilities, and thus its implementation can be justified to upper management. But the hitch here is that data analysis capabilities to support smart service plans are not easy to build internally. There are solutions however to meet this challenge, and these are discussed in greater depth in a white paper by Schneider Electric’s Robert Hemmerdinger. He delves into the pros and cons of all three approaches and shares insights on how to emulate top-performing facilities which utilise a three-pronged approach which in the long run is the most cost-effective method of maintenance.

For more in-depth information on the pros and cons of the different maintenance approaches, download the Schneider Electric white paper: Predictive Maintenance Strategy for Building Operations: A Better Approach.


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