Five Ways to Improve Maintenance and Reliability in 2021

Posted by Matt Midas on January 25, 2021


We made it to 2021 and by now we have had time to reflect on what we were able to accomplish in 2020 and what we can improve upon in 2021.  2020 was a challenging year for all of us and may have put a lot of planned improvements on the back burner, or simply slowed things down a bit. 

With that thought in mind, lets talk about some resolutions for the new year.  While there are many things to consider, let’s focus on 5 simple actions that WILL improve maintenance and reliability and have a positive impact on performance and the bottom line.  These actions will also create a foundation for further improvements for years to come.

Let’s assume that you have a defined maintenance strategy that is understood by the entire organization and that it is developed in accordance with ISO 55000/55001/55002 or another standard.  We’ll also assume that this strategy is in alignment with corporate objectives and everyone in the organization understand the impact not only on the organization, but on themselves as well. 

If this assumption is not correct, consider a parallel path for multiple items.  If you need help with your overall maintenance strategy or maintenance program, I would suggest starting with an EAM Maturity Assessment of your processes and systems and make sure they are aligned.

The following is a list of 5 things you can do to improve overall maintenance and reliability with an explanation to follow:

  1. Determine the quality and completeness of your data
  2. Identify and Classify Critical Assets
  3. Optimize Maintenance PMs and Job Plans
  4. Develop a training program for Certified Reliability Leaders
  5. Implement Asset and Process Performance Dashboards


  1. Determine the quality and completeness of your data

Do you treat your data as assets?  Most high performing organizations do.  Data should be seen as critical to the organization.  There are two types of data: static data and dynamic data.  Here we are focusing on the static data that defines the asset, the activity and the history.  If you are missing data or if there is no confidence in the data you have, someone in the organization is spending a lot of time reviewing and manipulating what data you have.  Reports will not be trusted until someone reviews the report and fixes bad data.  If your data is correct, your reports are more meaningful, metrics and KPIs can be trusted and you can have the results right away. 

Quality data supports the decision-making process across the board.  As we are moving towards a connected world and digital twins, the static data needs to be right in order to get everything connected.  You need to have a definition of what the data structure is for your organization and what data elements you need to maintain.  You also need to have consistency in how you structure and organize your data.  Keep it simple.  The bottom line is - quality data is data that can be trusted, which means better business decisions.

  1. Identify and Classify Critical Assets

Your data definition for assets needs to include criticality.  I hope this is not new to you, but is it part of you EAM strategy? This is part of the data effort, but it plays an important role.  I once worked with a company who was basically putting out fires on a daily basis.  They wanted to get to a better state, but could never find the time to improve.  They had a metric for completing PMs which was good, but after looking into the details, there was no criticality identified for assets.  As a result, PMs were being completed on a space heater in a break room in the summer time, but PMs on critical assets were missed. 

Any improvement effort we undertake should be attached to criticality.  Consider analyzing Job Plans.  We should focus on the ones tied to critical assets before we work on assets that are not critical to operations.  We should also look at Job Plans for assets that recur throughout the plant, i.e asset classification.   We can then base our maintenance strategies on asset class and criticality.  Run to fail is an acceptable strategy for certain assets operating in certain conditions. 

When we talk about planning and scheduling, some work will be more critical that others and if we have criticality ranking on our assets, it becomes helpful in the decision making process for scheduling work.

Finally, when we are implementing IoT, critical assets would be a ideal place to start.

  1. Optimize Maintenance PMs and Job Plans

If you hear people in your organization repeating the phrase “putting out fires” as a description of your daily routine, you may want to start with optimizing your PMs and Job Plans.  This sounds simple, but there are several things to look at:

  • When was the last time PMs were reviewed for effectiveness?
  • Are your PMs exactly what the vendor provided?
  • Can a PM be extended, eliminated or replaced with condition based monitoring?
  • Have your Job Plans been reviewed? How frequently?
  • How detailed are your Job Plans? 
  1. Develop a training program for Certified Reliability Leaders (CRL)

Most organizations have roles specific to Reliability.  However, developing a training program for Certified Reliability Leaders, CRLs, furthers the capabilities of the organization related to the reliability journey.  CRLs look at situations differently.  Instead of fixing something, they tend to investigate the cause and identify ways to improve/eliminate the issue once it is fixed.  The result is a culture of continuous improvement and increased reliability.

The additional benefit is that more of the activities associated with reliability will be ingrained in the organization.  Reliability centered maintenance (RCM) initiatives will become the norm.  A more detailed discussion on RCM initiatives could be the subject of another blog.

  1. Implement Asset and Process Performance Dashboards

Whether our data is perfect, or we know it needs work, asset and process performance dashboards with the proper metrics and KPIs will help make impactful improvements, faster.  With good data, we know what we are looking at is trustworthy and we can make decisions based on it.  If our data needs work, the right dashboards can help us understand where we need to focus our efforts to improve the data to support our decision making and operations. 

The development of these dashboards should be an objective driven approach to ensure the right KPIs are used to measure performance.  These dashboards, measures and KPIs need to be aligned with your overall objectives and goals as well as your processes and data.  All parties need to understand the purpose and intent of the KPIs and should be able to access them easily and quickly.  The right dashboards will help us stay on target and ensure your assets are operating properly and that your processes are not just documented, but that they are being followed and understood.  The right dashboards give you the proof that what you are doing is having the impact you are seeking. 

“It is not possible to manage what you cannot control and you cannot control what you cannot measure” – Peter Drucker

If you need some help defining the right dashboards, learn more about Propel Performance Management – an EAM solution to help organizations visualize, track and manage continuous improvement initiatives.


Yes, there are a lot of other tasks you can undertake to improve maintenance and reliability, like planning and scheduling and event/condition based PMs, but the above list of activities are activities that will create a foundation to build upon.  If you are striving to implement sensors on your assets, understanding what assets are critical is a must.  You know what ones are critical to your process, but are they identified as such in your EAM.  Is this information used in the decision making process. 

If you don’t have a roadmap laid out with the improvements you want to make, you may be putting out fires.  If you need help with defining a formal roadmap for improving maintenance and reliability, or would like help implementing the tasks you have identified, connect with us for a strategy session.

Register for the upcoming webinar > Five Ways to Improve Maintenance and Reliability in 2021


Topics: Reliability Centered Maintenance, continuous improvement

Written by Matt Midas

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