Planned preventive maintenance remains a popular maintenance strategy because it is beneficial, and not overly complicated to implement and monitor. However, preventive maintenance does have a few drawbacks.

One of the most common complaints is the incidence of unnecessary or excessive maintenance. In such cases, you will find maintenance staff occupied for much of the working day with activities like continuous inspections that may not even be required.

Even more troublesome than needless inspections is the issue of having to shut down assets – usually during peak production times – for one planned maintenance work or the other that may not be necessarily required yet.

Is there a better way to plan these “planned interruptions?” We discuss that below:

Tips for Managing Planned Downtime

What Is Planned Downtime?

Planned downtime is time set aside for equipment maintenance and during this period, the asset(s) must be shut down. The essence is to avoid unplanned downtime due to unexpected equipment failures that are typically very costly to rectify.

Shutting down an asset may not sound like such a big issue but it becomes one when, for instance, the equipment in question is a critical asset that is part of a fast-moving manufacturing system.

A common way companies get around this is to schedule such down time for the night shift when the machine will not be not used anyway. But this option can only work when the production cycle is not a 24/7 and the technicians are accustomed to running night shifts. In other words, these solutions won’t always solve the problem.

How To Manage Planned Downtime

1) Understand your peak periods

Depending on the kind of operations you run, there will likely be periods during the year when activities slow down. Predetermined when each machine runs the most and decide when maintenance interruptions will have the least effect on your daily activities and bottom line. This could be at night, during holidays, etc.

The aim is to monitor when things slows down / speed up so as to plan ahead.

2) Use a CMMS to reduce unnecessary maintenance

Using a CMMS will save you a lot of time and effort in this regard. A CMMS will help you:

  • quickly extract all equipment maintenance history for every asset
  • track work progress
  • record machine performance
  • track the usage of all inventory and spare parts
  • schedule and oversee the entire maintenance schedule
  • space out the frequency of work
  • reduce the length of downtime by ensuring all resources are available.

3) Have documented and clear instructions

You can streamline your maintenance operations faster with documented and clear instructions for every task. Documents such as a standard operating procedure (SOP) are indispensable for guiding your team during maintenance operations. SOPs are particularly valuable for activities that are repeated often.

Once technicians have a guide or follow, they can work faster, safer, and get the machines back to operation in less time.

4) Identify your unique bottlenecks

Every organization has its unique maintenance issues that are not likely to disappear completely. Some of common bottlenecks include issues like:

  • poor safety culture
  • frequent materials and spare parts delivery delays or poor inventory management
  • managing older assets that demand a lot of attention and break down frequently
  • excessive much reliance on reactive maintenance
  • younger or inexperienced technicians, etc.

Fortunately, these problems can be handled and their negative impacts reduced with some proactive strategy and foresight.

For example, if you identify inexperienced technicians as a major issue, try pairing them up with their more experienced colleagues, make sure they have access to your SOP and understand it, then keep training frequently.

Where your own concern is aging assets, you will still need to keep paying special attention to the assets. But you can make the process easier by tracking asset history to identify common breakdown patterns and ensure these problems are addressed during each planned downtime period, schedule additional inspections that may not require the asset to be shut down, or just opt for installing sensors that perform condition-based monitoring. Eventually, you may have to consider replacing the assets completely.

When Should You Schedule Planned Downtime?

After considering every factor discussed above, there is clearly no one-size-fits- all answer for every organization. You may consider night-time, on weekends, before/after major holidays, before expected severe weather – the list goes on.

In essence, you will need to carefully consider all the pros and cons to arrive at the best and least disruptive time to schedule planned downtime at your facility. It’s also a good idea to simulate shutdown on your critical equipment from time to time to get a clearer picture of exactly what risks you should be anticipating. The key is planning ahead.