Is maintenance a false economy?

I remember years ago being at a furniture making factory that when I explained maintenance I was told it was a false economy and it was cheaper to replace equipment. A simple shrug of my shoulders and I left it at that.

Wasn’t a case of me not wanting to argue my point but simply there was no point arguing with people who’s minds were already made up. But I remember that summer when the owner of the factory was away and a spindle moulder broke. His assistant (can’t call him a deputy manager as he was more of a sales clerk) requested we fix it. At which point I explained it was a pointless exercise as several parts had shattered due to no maintenance being carried out. Basic maintenance in fact where things simply needed oiled and greased to keep them in running condition. As the assistant lacked the authority to buy a new machine or order the parts needed to replace the damaged ones the factory swiftly ground to a halt for 2 weeks. He also didn’t want to call the owner to disturb him on his holiday so here we were watching the production line stack to the ceiling in front of the spindle moulder. As every piece of furniture needed this part and every item couldn’t leave the factory until the spindle moulder had completed its tasks.

Who was right or wrong in maintenance? Answer is its ok running to fail but the expectation of replacement needs to be immediate not “what do we do now?”. But also the calculation of cost should not be based on a machine but on its financial impact on the business. In this case I would estimate at around £50,000 on orders that didn’t get completed and didn’t leave the factory. This also has a longer impact as customers didn’t get furniture on time and thus its negative impact could be as much as twenty five times that of one negative customer. E.g. one unhappy customer tells twenty five other people either directly or by third hand. An uncountable amount of damage for a machine costing less than £1,000. But even more so when you consider grease,oil and a monthly check on all mechanical equipment would have identified worn parts as well as extended the life of equipment.

Was there any point arguing the point of maintenance now after the company had seen the cost of not maintaining equipment? Answer was no but simply offering to implement a maintenance regime that did the basics at least. This way they didn’t lose face and I didn’t go “I told you so”. As there is no winner in this or many of the scenario’s that occur due to poor or no maintenance. The loser is always everyone be it financial, jobs or risk to life.

The key to it all though is working together and as part of an asset integrity team its where I and others specialise. Not because we have all the answers but simply we have the answers relevant to our skills to keep things running in an efficient and safe manner that is also legally compliant. Meeting both statutory and mandatory guidelines.