Three strands have been discernible in both academic and practical thinking and action about maintenance over the last few decades. The Management Science (MS) approach treats maintenance as a cost. The Operational Research (OR) approach treats it as a problem in mathematical optimization. The third approach, typified by a three-letter acronym abbreviation (i.e. RCM, TPM) consists of simple models of reality which attempt to reconcile the other two approaches.
All three approaches suffer from the failure of one or more important aspects of the overall problem. This blog argues the case for a more comprehensive approach. In a holistic approach, maintenance is no longer treated as an isolated function, but integrated with the other functions of the firm, and justified by measuring its contribution related to the overall goals. Such an integrated approach requires the support of data with potential benefits far beyond the maintenance function.
The Management Science (MS) approach fall short on technological knowledge. Management Science is based on the belief that maintenance costs are more or less fixed. Only very recently MS acknowledges the connections between maintenance and quality and market. But it still lacks useable quantitative methods to measure that contribution.
Almost all managerial literature treat maintenance as an expense or even as a fixed cost. OEM instructions are to be followed without question or variation. No account is taken of the need for more or less maintenance depending on the severity and intensity of use. The focus is on ‘save money’ and the maintenance budget. Production is ‘dynamical’ planned because of the stoppages for adjustments and failures has been ignored. This problem has become more acute because of the popularity of modern manufacturing methodologies (i.e. Lean, Agile, QRM) and reductions in stocks of raw materials, work-in-progress and finished goods. Managers concentrate on finance, sales and marketing and so companies fail for lack of technical knowledge and innovation on maintenance through research and development.