Note: Special thanks to Joel BlachmanErik Johnson and SNF Polychemie for creating this article.

Establishing best practices in machine maintenance can be a challenge, but it is an achievable goal. Why is it so difficult? And, why are so many manufacturers still running at over 90 percent reactive methods?

At the surface level, the age of equipment, cost of repairs, and reluctance to stock critical (and expensive) spares hold much of the blame. However when we look deeper, blame can also be placed on the fast-paced manufacturing industry that simply doesn’t allow for proper planning or time management.

Instead of playing the “blame” game, what steps can be taken to proactively reach world-class maintenance in this reactive environment?  The machines will go down eventually, either planned or unplanned.

Below are 5 best practices to follow when implementing preventative maintenance into your operations.

1. Deploy usage-based maintenance by measuring machine downtime and utilization

The best decisions are based on data. Measuring machine downtime and utilization provides the most accurate insights into how frequently a machine is actually being used. This is critical for developing a successful PM program. With the insights gained from machine monitoring, companies can identify root causes of machine failures, and prevent them from happening.

As a market leader, SNF realized the value in adopting a usage-based maintenance schedule. They completely digitized their maintenance with Amper, which tracks true production hours and energy usage. With this system in place, SNF was able to switch from a calendar to a usage-based maintenance schedule, saving on both over- and under- maintenance costs.

For example, a typical chiller costs about $6,000 in each maintenance cycle. If that chiller needs to be serviced quarterly, annual maintenance costs are upwards of $25,000. However, a usage-based maintenance schedule can show a company that utilization is actually lower than expected, and that the chiller only needs to be serviced 3 times a year. With this information alone, a company can save $6,000 on maintenance costs per chiller, and they wouldn’t have known if they relied on a calendar-based maintenance schedule.

By switching to usage-based maintenance with Amper, we have reduced our maintenance costs and improved the overall efficiency of our machines” – SNF Plant Manager

2. Develop Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FMEA) for your equipment

FMEA is a risk assessment tool that allows engineers to identify potential failure modes and their associated causes. It is conducted by listing out each failure mode and assigning it a score based on severity, how frequently it occurs, and how easy it is to detect. Each of these three categories are ranked from 1-10, and the results are multiplied together to create a Risk Priority Number (RPN). By focusing on the prevention of the highest priority risks, companies can reduce instances of machine failure and keep production at an efficient level.

When a machine inevitably goes down, it is important to note exactly what failures occurred so that they can be avoided in the future. By thinking about possible failure points ahead of time, companies are better equipped to prevent them with a comprehensive maintenance routine.

Preventative maintenance tactics can be easily developed after conducting FMEA. After adopting Amper, SNF was able to identify critical parts on their machines to monitor in order to ensure that energy efficiency remains at peak levels. By following this industry best practice, SNF will save money by identifying potential issues before they happen.

3. Create a critical spare parts list and identify response-time goals

When a piece of equipment is about to break, it isn’t always possible to wait multiple weeks for spare parts to come in. Maintaining an inventory of critical spare parts is an easy way to prevent extended periods of downtime when a machine is close to failure. However, only essential spares should be kept in stock full-time so as not to tie up additional capital.

Additionally, identifying response-time goals can help manage expectations of your maintenance staff. If machinery does down unexpectedly, the first responder should be at the machine within 5 minutes to determine the best course of action. With an effective PM schedule in place, they are able to prioritize issues that need immediate attention and contact the right staff to fix those issues.

4. Utilize staff time more effectively 

Let’s face it – finding the right employees is hard, and it’s only going to get harder. According to a recent study by Deloitte, as many as 2.4 million positions will remain unfilled between 2018 and 2028 [1]. Maintenance technicians at many companies are spread too thin, obligated to monitor a large variety of equipment, often at multiple sites. As more experienced technicians retire, transferring their knowledge to new recruits can become a challenge if that knowledge was stored in a barely legible Excel spreadsheet.

A current challenge faced by many industries is that most maintenance information is captured manually. Furthermore, most ERP systems have clunky ways of collecting data. As a thought leader in their industry, SNF decided to adopt a high-tech solution and switched to Amper. With the new system in place, SNF has much “greater transparency into their maintenance data”. 

“Amper has given us greater transparency into our maintenance data, allowing us to spread around talent and do more with less” – SNF Plant Manager

5. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

No one knows the day-to-day operation of a piece of equipment better than the operator. Providing simple ways the operator can assist with maintenance will reduce downtime and increase the longevity of the equipment. 

Some examples of TPM include installing sight gauges to monitor fluid levels, cleaning and repainting equipment to make leaks more visible, color coding any greasing points, and posting a maintenance schedule. Empowering employees to monitor these small tasks ensures that equipment will run consistently and at the highest level possible.


SNF is the world’s leading manufacturer of water-soluble polymers, serving the municipal and industrial water and wastewater treatment markets, in addition to a wide array of specialty applications for various additional markets.  


Amper is a technology company based in Chicago, IL that makes it easy to track and improve the performance of machines by non-invasively measuring electricity-use of the machines and translating those signals into metrics like downtime, cycle-time, and parts produced.

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