What Is Maintainability?

April 28, 2022

What is Maintainability?

Understanding your equipments’ uptime is an essential aspect of the concept of maintainability. Using equipment and assets that can be repaired quickly and put back into service is a key indicator of efficiency in the manufacturing sector. Whether downtime is planned or unplanned, it always affects your bottom line and your ability to meet production targets and delivery times. 

In this article, we explore what maintainability is, how it differs from reliability, and how you can improve your KPIs by measuring and tracking maintainability over time. 

What Is the Definition of Maintainability?

Maintainability is a measure of how quickly your manufacturing or maintenance team can detect and pinpoint an issue, repair it, and restore the asset’s functionality after this downtime.

This measure is expressed as a KPI metric known as “Mean Time to Repair” (MTTR). MTTR is the average time required to repair a problem on an asset. It measures the time required to restore an asset to its normal functioning state after a problem is identified and is sometimes confused with reliability. 

Reliability vs. Maintainability

Although they sound similar, reliability and maintainability refer to separate measures that dovetail with availability.

Reliability refers to how likely an asset performs as expected, without failure, under normal operating conditions. This absence of unplanned downtime makes for a very reliable asset. Conversely, an unreliable asset experiences frequent unexpected failures. 

Maintainability is the speed and ease with which the asset can be put back into service when it experiences a failure. 

These two factors together can affect availability. Availability is simply whether your asset or system is functioning and, therefore, available to do the work. Availability can be negatively impacted by:

  • Blown-out maintainability times
  • Unreliable equipment
  • And, of course, planned downtime when an asset is scheduled to be unavailable.

If you’re looking to improve efficiency across your facility, consider the interplay of these three factors and experiment with different approaches to using all three as efficiency indicators.

What Impacts Maintainability?

Maintainability is the measurement of how quickly technicians detect, locate, and restore asset functionality after downtime. , then ensuring technicians have the tools and resources to meet maintainability requirements and make the repair quickly is vital. 

In the manufacturing sector, where every facility is home to a wide range of plant, machinery, and automation equipment, the drawings, operation manuals, and parts for those assets need to be readily available and well organized. 

A technician’s ability to restore functionality and get an asset back into service can be heavily impacted by out-of-date or missing manuals, incorrect drawings, or a disorganized filing system where the information is available, but it takes a long time to find it. And, as we know, time is money.

If your organization is lacking in this area, creating a standardized operating procedure (SOP) or even just a central repository for maintenance documentation can go a long way to helping technicians and mechanics carry out their work more efficiently. 

Training and continuous improvement programs can assist in bringing maintainability times down too. For example, a confident and knowledgeable maintenance technician will likely identify an issue faster and conduct a repair more swiftly than team members who have not been trained on the equipment. 

To counter this, make sure your organization has a regular training program to identify potential skill gaps and support your team to become more adept in its role.

Measuring and Improving Maintainability 

A simple way to improve efficiency is to start measuring maintainability over time. 

As we saw earlier, maintainability can be expressed as the time it takes between knowing an issue exists with an asset and putting that asset back into service. Therefore, it makes sense to have your production, manufacturing, and maintenance teams immediately record the time and date when a problem is first detected in a piece of equipment and the time it is put back into service. 

Reactive maintenance and repeated corrective maintenance on a perpetually failing asset is no way to do business. Failure modes, high maintainability, and unexpected maintenance costs all reduce time on task, productivity, and efficiency.

However, when your team is busy and constantly pulled in different directions, this can be hard to do on the fly. This is where a maintenance app for tracking downtime comes in handy. 

Using CMMS to Increase Uptime

Tools like this, often referred to as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), are designed to be used on your mobile, as well as on a desktop computer so that it is always convenient to open the app and take quick notes when you’re in front of the asset. 

Likewise, creating a digitized work order on the spot for maintenance is a quick way to reduce downtime. An even better way is to use a CMMS to create preventive maintenance for your equipment to keep it in top shape, increasing maintainability and reducing unscheduled downtime.

When you’re looking to improve maintainability, these notes and key performance indicators are invaluable tools for reflection, allowing you to go back and identify patterns and trends and run reports on uptime and downtime. 

Likewise, when data indicates that a piece of equipment is no longer maintainable, an equipment upgrade may be necessary. Setting maintenance benchmarks and capital expenditure allocations to increase equipment uptime may be cost-effective.

Using Maintainability Data to Improve Overall Efficiency

Tracking the frequency of failures or time between failures on an individual asset also can lead to better root cause analysis and overall system improvements. 

For example, if you find a particular machine that seems to be failing more regularly than expected, this can help you identify a more significant fault in the overall system, a compatibility issue, or a design flaw in the system. Addressing the overarching system fault rather than just a tiny link in the chain will lead to better performance of the entire system and increase efficiency

However, an issue like this can fall through the cracks without the tools or processes to track these failures. 

In the words of management consultant Peter Drucker, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” so tracking and recording on a CMMS as much information as practicable on your assets and equipment is the key to creating positive and lasting improvements. 

MaintainX is a mobile app for maintenance workers that simplifies day-to-day work order tasks. Our software eliminates the paperwork, so you can spend more time on the crucial work, reduce downtime, and increase efficiency. Get started with a free trial.

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