Machine Maintenance

Machine maintenance refers to the process of upkeep on machinery to ensure it operates as intended. This includes regularly scheduled service, routine checks, scheduled and emergency repairs. Anything that keeps a machine functional and working as intended can be considered machine maintenance.

Upkeep procedures can be as simple as cleaning surfaces, lubricating gears, or checking for leaks, but it can also involve monitoring parts for signs of potential trouble ahead, such as overheating or a change in vibrational patterns. Machine maintenance services are usually performed by maintenance technicians and supported by data from the machine control and sensors that warn you if something is about to go wrong.

How to Make Machine Maintenance Work for You

One of the most potent ways to improve your manufacturing machine maintenance is by using data. Data-driven maintenance enables you to:

  • Replace parts only when necessary
  • Reduce downtime due to unforeseen failures
  • Reduce risk of safety incidents caused by ill-maintained machinery
  • Increase predictability that can guide budgets, schedules, production expectations
  • Extend equipment lifespan

When selecting the best machine preventive maintenance program, consider the following variables.

Cost. Size up your overall maintenance budget and decide how much planning, labor, and resources you can sink into a machine maintenance program. Read more

Preventive maintenance has high startup costs, but the long-term payoff is high. Carefully evaluate the ROI of using machine preventive maintenance. How much unscheduled downtime are you experiencing right now? How much does it cost? Does it cost more or less to let the machine run to failure? For resource-intensive businesses that rely on the continuous operation of heavy machinery, unscheduled downtime can bring production to a grinding halt. Research from Aberdeen shows that unplanned downtime costs businesses an average of $260,000 per hour.

Equipment. Assess your asset inventory. Do you operate complex machinery with expensive parts, or simple hand-operated tools? Most facilities will have a mix of both. Some types of equipment require frequent maintenance for safety and compliance reasons. Others start underperforming if routine maintenance is not performed. Read the documentation provided by the equipment manufacturer to determine when and how to maintain a piece of equipment.

Staff. A sound maintenance strategy needs staff to execute it. Certain types of resource-intensive maintenance, such as preventive maintenance, requires a larger workforce to execute. Consider whether your machine maintenance technicians need training or if you should increase headcount.

Historical Data. If you’ve been keeping a maintenance log, you’ll have some idea of what type of maintenance plan best suits your assets. A maintenance log enables you to keep your assets in optimal condition by charting equipment maintenance history. This is a document that records all maintenance actions that have been performed on a specific asset. Read more

The machine maintenance log is usually split into two distinct sections:
1. General information used to identify the asset (name of equipment, model, serial number, location)
2. List of performed maintenance action + who performed them (date, action description, technician name)

It’s recommended that you use a template and keep tracked information to only what’s necessary. The more time your technicians spend filling out maintenance logs, the less time they have to perform actual maintenance. In addition to the log, you should set up a system to record asset devaluation. With this information, you can ensure your properly dispose of equipment and don’t overuse equipment past its useful life, which can lead to safety hazards and suboptimal output.

OSHA reports that 15-20% of industrial accidents are related to maintenance operations. According to an IBM whitepaper, 89% of asset failures occur at random, so predictive maintenance is an important strategy for avoiding unpredictable work stoppages.

How to Integrate Machine Maintenance Into Your Maintenance Plan

There are many different approaches to machine maintenance, each of which come with varying upfront costs, degrees of planning, staffing levels, and data reporting. When choosing a maintenance strategy, consider the following factors:

  • How much is the asset worth? Are the parts expensive to replace?
  • Is the asset critical to production, or can you continue operations even if the asset breaks down?
  • How much unscheduled downtime is required to repair the asset if it fails unexpectedly?
  • What is the cost of unscheduled downtime for your organization?

Also consider the size of your maintenance budget, technician headcount, and opportunity cost. Predictive maintenance comes with a high upfront cost, is more labor-intensive, and requires more planning. However, repairing assets ahead of failure can prevent costly work stoppages and safety hazards.One report found that predictive analysis yields a 10x ROI. Machine maintenance costs form 40-50% of an organization’s operational costs, so choose your schedule wisely.

Machine Maintenance Software

How a CMMS Can Help

Streamline the Reporting Process

A CMMS provides a fast and easy way to aggregate, organize and analyze your historical data. Data reporting allows you to see how frequently an asset is maintained, how much it costs, and how much money is saved by using machine maintenance. With your data stored in one place, you can manage work orders, asset life cycle, inventory, and maintenance records—all of which are required for a successful maintenance program.

Optimize the Workflow

Create a set of standard machine maintenance procedures technicians can follow when dealing with complex assets. CMMS features help facilitate this process by providing quick access to maintenance logs for every asset, a spare parts management system that helps control inventory so you never run out of replacement parts, and centralized information about each asset (OEM recommendations, fault patterns, and maintenance procedures).

Manage Scheduling

A CMMS automatically provides notifications to all concerned parties when a scheduled machine maintenance task is due. Using Micromain’s mobile technician app, maintenance workers can view information about the work order and provide status updates while working onsite or remotely.

A CMMS gives you insight into the following information:

  • List of active machine maintenance tasks
  • Which technician(s) is assigned to each task
  • Costs of maintenance (eg: labor hours and parts)


Machine maintenance helps organizations avoid costly downtime and unsafe working conditions while lengthening the useful life of assets. However, it constitutes an investment, and the key to achieving the highest ROI is creating a strategy where maintenance is timed just right. Over- or under-maintaining assets is no better than letting assets run to failure.

An effective maintenance strategy should also include preventive maintenance for critical assets, and corrective maintenance for non-critical assets. There is no better way of implementing the right machine maintenance strategy than with a CMMS.

Other Resources

Why is Machine Maintenance Important?

Machine maintenance is crucial not only for major industrial plants, but any facility that relies on machinery for production. Machines to be maintained range from heavy-duty industrial equipment to simple hand-operated machines.

Regular maintenance extends an asset’s useful life and helps prevent health and safety hazards. In resource-intensive industries like construction, which involve the operation of heavy machinery, heavy equipment maintenance procedures must adhere to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) standards for maintenance, inspection and repair.

Examples of Machine Maintenance

Vibration analysis – Vibration analysis provides insight into the condition of rotating machinery regarding its balance, alignment, cavitation, and other key indicators. Technicians use FFT-based velocity or proximity probes to identify elevated vibration levels at frequencies associated with the rotational rates of the machines. Common faults identified by vibration analysis include imbalances, bearing failures, loose parts, misalignment, electrical faults in motors, gearbox failures, cavitation in pumps, and more.

Oil analysis – Oil analysis is a routine machine maintenance activity to measure oil health, contamination, and machine wear. The purpose is to verify that a lubricated machine (such as a car) is operating according to expectations. There are three main categories of oil analysis: fluid properties (identifying the oil’s current physical and chemical state), contamination (identifying destructive contaminants), and wear debris (determining the presence of particles produced as a result of mechanical wear).

Visual inspections – Visual inspections can detect problems that may be missed using other predictive maintenance techniques. Routine visual inspection of critical plant systems will augment other types of machine maintenance techniques. The incremental cost of visual observations are small (no equipment is required) so this technique should be incorporated into all preventive maintenance programs. You can inspect the machine itself (eg: ensuring there are no unusual sounds while it’s operating or frayed electrical wires) and also observing the quality of output (eg: is an AC unit blowing cold air?).

Acoustic and ultrasonic inspections – Ultrasound inspections were once used in tandem with other predictive technologies like vibration analysis and infrared imaging, but the emergence of standalone ultrasound technologies has made the technology more cost-effective and reliable. In fact, ultrasound technology is now considered a frontline defense for maximizing machinery uptime. Airborne ultrasound is predictive maintenance for the masses because the applications in which it can be used are virtually limitless. Popular applications include compressed air leak detection, condition-based monitoring of bearings, and acoustic lubrication of bearings.

Detectors work by detecting high-frequency ultrasound and converting it into corresponding audible sounds, which can be heard using headphones. Most tools provide a visual indicator on a bar graph display or a decibel measurement.

Ultrasound allows machine maintenance technicians to identify early warning signs of machine failure through microscopic changes in friction forces, which provide a larger window of opportunity for maintenance than vibration analysis and thermography.

Thermography – Also known as infrared inspection, thermographic testing is used to detect connection defects, system overloads, deteriorated insulation, and other potential problems in electrical systems. Thermography measures surface temperatures of electrical components using infrared visual scanning technology to find areas of excess heat, which is an indicator of impending machine failure. Excess heat can lead to heightened power usage, increased machine maintenance costs, service interruptions, equipment failure and/or equipment damage. Test instruments such as an infrared camera are used to detect and convert the heat into a temperature value or a thermal image, which can be used to assess the condition of the machine.

The National Fire Protection Association estimates that around 10% of all fires that occur in manufacturing facilities are the result of electrical system failures.

Strategies for Machine Maintenance - A Closer Look

Reactive maintenance – Refers to any type of machine maintenance task that is performed only after an asset has problems—identifying, isolating, and rectifying a fault to restore failed equipment to optimal condition. This type of equipment maintenance requires no advance planning, and, as such, is the least resource-intensive maintenance strategy in the short-term. For assets that are inexpensive to replace or don’t cause downtime in the event of a breakdown, reactive maintenance can be a cost-effective maintenance strategy. However, reactive maintenance can shorten the life expectancy of your assets, lead to sporadic equipment downtime, and make it harder to control budgets.

Corrective maintenance – Also known as breakdown maintenance or run-to-failure maintenance, describes restorative maintenance to fix faulty systems or equipment. These tasks are usually assigned after an unforeseen defect is discovered during routine machine preventive maintenance. For example, while repairing the fan belt in an air conditioner, a technician discovers the refrigerant is leaking because of a damaged compressor. The procedure of fixing the compressor is considered corrective maintenance because the maintenance task was scheduled after the problem was found (which is a reactive approach to maintenance). When included as a conscious part of a maintenance plan, corrective maintenance represents a controlled, cost-effective way of maintaining ancillary equipment.

Preventive maintenance — A type of scheduled machine maintenance that is carried out regularly on equipment regardless of current state. The objective is to prevent unexpected equipment failure that may cause lapses in production and loss of revenue.

Putting an asset on a preventive maintenance plan involves systematically inspecting the equipment to detect potential problems and make necessary adjustments and repairs to prolong the asset’s lifespan. The alternative to preventive maintenance is reactive maintenance, where problems are fixed after a breakdown, potentially resulting in the loss of millions of dollars.

Usage-based maintenance – A type of predictive maintenance that considers the average usage of piece of equipment and uses it to forecast a due date. This is typically a better approach than time or meter reading, since forecasts are based on actual usage, making it easier to predict future equipment failure. However, usage-based maintenance requires somewhat regular meter readings (eg: monthly) but does not need as many meter-based maintenance triggers.

Condition-based maintenance – A type of machine preventive maintenance that is performed according to machine usage. Meter readings and sensor alerts tell you when it’s time to change a part, clean the machine, or perform routine maintenance. It can tell you when the machine is close to breakdown or simply needs maintenance to keep it running at optimal levels. IoT devices can automatically schedule work orders when an abnormality is detected, thereby reducing the frequency of inspections and keeping costs down.

Predictive maintenance – A type of preventive maintenance that uses past data to predict when machines will need maintance. Historical data shows when machines break down and what type of maintenance is needed (eg: part replacement, oil change) and uses this data to forecast when future maintenance is needed based on usage patterns and failure rates. This type of machine maintenance has the highest upfront cost and takes time to yield returns, but the predictions become more accurate over time.