What Is Your Reactive Maintenance Percentage? - Emerson Automation Experts

What Is Your Reactive Maintenance Percentage?

Bill Broussard, a marketing manager in the Machinery Health Management part of Emerson’s Asset Optimization business, recently had an article published in Plant Engineering magazine. The article, Act, don’t react, for greater asset optimization, suggests a path away from operating in the world of reactive maintenance toward planned maintenance.

Process manufacturing is a very complex business with lots of things that can go wrong at any point in time. Bill describes how leading process manufacturers in highly effective maintenance programs spend less than 10% of their total maintenance responding to unexpected failures or “fire fighting” as some folks colorfully refer to it.

These leading manufacturers will spend around 80% of their time performing “planned” maintenance activities. He states more specifically, 25-35% on preventative maintenance activities, 45-55% on predictive maintenance activities, and the balance on proactive maintenance.

The analogy I’d draw is that of a car. The predictive part is responding to the intelligent sensors that provide early warning of an impending problem. The preventative part is doing the oil change every several thousand miles or kilometers. The proactive part is changing out components without embedded intelligence (like belts) at fixed mileage intervals. The reactive part is calling the tow truck when you have the hood up and smoke coming out alongside the road. I don’t know about you, but reactive is my least favorite. It means lost time, high cost, and inconvenience figuring out what to do next.

Bill makes the case that process manufacturers who spend a larger percentage of time “reacting” than the best also experience higher costs and lost revenue. In the article, he states:

This reactive nature can be illustrated by considering an everyday occurrence: an operator sees a perplexing issue on the control system console but usually cannot leave the post to investigate. Maintenance is called to check it out, and this becomes a reactive work request – new work that was unplanned. It is a wasteful and potentially expensive use of resources, which is why those who lead their industries in operational excellence operate mostly in a planned rather than reactive environment.

Bill recommends that the shift from reactive to planned maintenance begin with creating an asset optimization culture that focuses predictive maintenance on key production assets. Cultural change is not always an easy thing, so he recommends:

…bringing in asset optimization consultants to identify areas for greatest potential to improve availability and performance. Through proven methods that evaluate the base of critical production assets, experts typically develop a prioritized asset list, which later becomes a part of a larger strategic roadmap for achieving asset optimization goals.

He cites a number of process manufacturers who have reduced downtime and maintenance costs by shifting over time their maintenance programs from reactive to planned maintenance. If your reactive maintenance percentages are higher than the leading process manufacturers’ percentages, it might make sense to review the business case for change and bringing in a fresh set of eyes to help.

…Better that, than waiting for the tow truck!

Posted Friday, August 31st, 2007 under Asset Optimization, Plant Equipment.


  1. Jake Brodsky says:

    Gosh, preventive maintenance strategies have come and gone for decades. But the real problem isn’t the costs, it’s the business case for doing this maintenance RIGHT NOW.
    With maintenance cycles measured in years, it gets awfully tempting for a manager to “push” the maintenance off for a year or two, until he or she can get promoted. Then they look good for consistently saving money over eight quarters. The truth may not emerge for years, and by then, they’re off to perpetrate this practice on someone else.
    I doubt there is any malice in such behaviors. Just as there is no malice for those proverbial drivers who never have the oil changed in their cars, there are too many who simply don’t understand why maintenance is needed. Sadly, far too many of them tend to be managers. We shouldn’t have to make a business case for everything. Some things should simply be obvious.

  2. Jusu Ngobeh says:

    Prevetitive maintenace is still surity of any maintenance approach. The whole idea is you want to keep your equipment in realdyness always so there should that preventive mechanism which should prevent your euipment not to run to faliure or complete breakdown.

  3. Jim’s article says a lot in very little space, and hits the nail! Comments are right-on too. The problem IS that many managers simply can’t seem to justify that first step. If there were a simple, effective way to justify the expense of PM, that could be configured in an ROI format, the task of selling “upper management” would become a no-brainer. I agree, we shouldn’t have to make a business case for the obvious, but …
    I think Jim’s “percentages” are a place to begin. Heck … we can always blame him if the numbers don’t work. 🙂

  4. Dennis, Thanks for your comment. Please do blame me… I can take it!
    Take it easy, Jim

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