Preventative Maintenance On a Budget

| Anita O'Brien

Preventative Maintenance

Are you being asked to do more with less?

If you are, you are not alone. But sometimes, the cuts made to reduce expenses can inadvertently raise costs when they cause unplanned downtime and lost productivity. That’s especially the case when it comes to preventative maintenance. 

I encounter more people that are having issues because of resource crunches than you can possibly imagine. It seems like there are fewer resources, smaller budgets, and higher expectations everywhere you look. So, what can you do to save your sanity? Well, first step back and think about what you are being asked to accomplish. What are those higher expectations? 

Let’s look at how we helped one customer solve their downtime issue without ballooning their budget.

Sacrificing Preventative Maintenance Leads to Downtime

There are a lot of different drivers that could be affecting why you aren’t achieving your goals. For one of our customers, when we sat down and tried to get to the root cause of the problem, one item kept rearing its ugly head. Though it seemed like lines were frequently going down for a variety of reasons, the bottom line was that if preventative maintenance had been completed, they could have avoided the unnecessary downtime. 

Taxed Resources 

“Was the preventative maintenance written?” I asked our customer.


“Was there a schedule for completion?”

“Yes,” they confirmed.

“Were they getting done on schedule?”

“No,” they admitted.  

So, I questioned, “OK, why?”

Well, this facility went from having a staff of 28 maintenance people down to nine. They did their best, but they also had to be reactive to issues going on in the plant which led to falling behind on their preventative maintenance schedule. And the vicious cycle just kept repeating itself. 

Finding a Supplemental Solution

OK, at first glance, it’s an easy solution. They need to hire more maintenance staff to get ahead of this. Well, that headcount was not going to get approved. My next thought was, let’s see if they can pull from another department. But in this customer’s company, maintenance was not the only department that had been cut back, so getting resources from within the plant was not an option.

To find a workable solution, we needed to answer two questions:

  • How could they get caught up on preventative maintenance?
  • How could you supplement their existing staff without having to add additional headcount?

That lead to more discussion.

“Would it be helpful if you could have a resource who was familiar with your equipment come in and supplement your staff on an as-needed basis?” I asked.

“Yes,” he admitted. “But we can’t even find people when we do have openings, never mind temporary people with a skill set that we could use as needed.”

“What if I told you I had trained resources on call that assist customers like yourself on planned and unplanned schedules throughout New England and New York, and you only paid for them as you needed them and only for the time they were needed?”

On-Site Resources On An As-Needed Basis

This idea piqued our customer’s interest, and he went to grab the production manager to further the discussion. The production manager wanted to know how this was different than just hiring someone else, which they had already been denied. I moved the conversation to their budget, and eventually got to a point where the production manager challenged me and said, “Let’s try this and see if your resource can really help us.”

After discussing the timeframe and the talent requirements, we moved forward with dispatching a Rockwell Automation® engineer who had experience with his industry and equipment. The customer had a list of all the backed-up preventative maintenance, and the engineer worked his way through them without interruption. And, as a bonus, some of the customer’s existing maintenance staff picked up a few tips and tricks from him during his week on site.

About a week later, I received the engineer’s report on his visit, and I set up a follow-up meeting. The customer was happy with the work. It was a good temporary fix, and it got them caught up. In the report, the engineer noticed that some of the preventative maintenance was very basic and could possibly get shifted to the operators (e.g., making sure a sensor is cleaned). The customer was going to review these recommendations to see if these were viable options. 

On-Site and Under Budget

The next question was, how could they avoid getting behind in the future? Our customer really liked the engineer that had come in and wanted to ensure that they got the same one every time they needed him. It’s not possible to have someone on standby without a schedule, so we decided to set up a quarterly visit for a week at a time. This worked well for them because it allowed them to stay under the budget for further sign-offs and it ensured the same engineer and a regular cadence of visits they could plan on, preventing future preventative maintenance backups. 

Increase Productivity and Reduce Downtime

Bottom line: If you are being asked to do more with less, remember you are not alone. Give us a call so we can have a discussion and see how we can help you accomplish your goals. Contact us today!