The History of Maintenance in Industry

Maintenance is often underestimated by many industrial actors and considered more a cost center than a profit center: it is in fact far from being duly recognized.

Many industrial managers under-evaluate the positive impact of a proper maintenance management on their company’s activity. Yet it is a major performance factor and a source for quick gains within the company: in terms of productivity as well as of technology, a good maintenance management can only have positive consequences on your company and the product you manufacture.

It might sometimes take for a company to experience a major breakdown to understand how huge non-production costs are, and what a bad maintenance management can lead to. Even if it for sure isn’t an easy thing to do, achieving a successful maintenance management is essential and guarantees that the production is on-time and of good quality. Let’s go back in time and take a look at maintenance’s history.

The emergence of the notion of maintenance service

Between the 1960s and 80s, maintenance was only seen as a background activity, considered to be of minor importance and only useful when a breakdown occurred. The maintenance department’s scope was restricted and mainly limited to electricity, mechanics or greasing. The notions of prediction or prevention didn’t exist so maintenance suffered from quite a bad image back then. Technicians only worked on greasing or monitoring rounds for instance, and the strategies deployed were only based on repairing and major corrective operations.

This modus operandi of course has to be put in a specific context. The industrial world, as well as the implications, were very different from the ones we know today. At that time, industry was burgeoning, consequences on production lines weren’t the same at all. Production shutdowns could of course disrupt the production but weren’t leading to huge losses like today, simply because equipment were not integrated to a more general system. One should admit that it would be inconceivable to still work this way today, as we understood how critical the maintenance service is.

An enhanced maintenance for more safety

Companies (including the ones working in the chemical, transportation and energy sectors) progressively became aware of the safety aspect. They wanted to protect their employees so they started to take an interest in maintenance to develop it and to give it more importance. Equipment had evolved, combining more advanced technologies, so there were more accident risks and companies wanted to counter them.

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Maintenance therefore became more and more important within plants: the very first maintenance procedures were born. Thanks to them, accident risks were drastically reduced, the equipment functioning was closely followed and critical breakdowns on the whole production line were avoided as much as possible. It is quite astonishing to see that companies wanted to develop maintenance for human reasons rather than for purely economical ones.

With 1980 come maintenance norms

In this context of evolution and awareness-raising about the risks linked to the use of high-performing equipment, the first norms were created. In France as well as throughout all the EU, industrial maintenance norms were progressively implemented: in 1979, then in 1985, the AFNOR X60 and X60 000 norms were created.

The maintenance sector therefore underwent major changes in order to turn into a very specialized and essential area in plants, which led to the creation of the first Advanced Technician’s Certificate trainings and other training courses in the 1980s. It indeed became necessary to train expert people who would be able to deal with the maintenance issues in order to evolve towards a more safe and efficient model.

A progressive competition between companies

The evolution of equipment and, by extension, of techniques, arose in a context of globalization. Between 1980 and 2000, the industrial world changed in many areas: maintenance, purchasing, communications, production, quality, safety… All therefore had to enhance their techniques: new modus operandi were being implemented. Regarding industrial maintenance, it completely metamorphosed thanks to the arrival of new approaches, like productive maintenance for example, a concept that directly originated from Japan and that revolutionized the French approach. The sector had no choice but to modernize in order to allow companies to find their place on the market and to be able to compete. That is how they went down the path to norms acquisition, like the ISO 9000 (in 1987) and ISO 14 000 (in 1996) ones.

The 2000s and their share of difficulties

Today companies are looking to assert themselves on industrial markets and to prove that they have a lot of resources by relying on the progress that has been made during the last twenty years. Each one of them wants to enhance its maintenance management in order to lower production shutdowns while increasing equipment quality and production capacity.

Despite this will for innovation in terms of techniques as well as for know-how, the industrial sector, and more specifically the maintenance one, is confronted to serious difficulties. This sector is absolutely essential and guarantees the proper functioning of a plant but it still struggles to attract young people as it doesn’t have a very good image. Specialized training courses aren’t highlighted enough, so the field has serious difficulties to hire qualified professionals.

Among the numerous challenges that the maintenance sector is facing (including outsourcing, the decrease in margins as well as in prices), it is very difficult to make people understand why these competencies are so important and how rewarding these jobs are. The working conditions will probably evolve as all professional sectors are changing thanks to the various technologies that progressively appear in our lives. Innovative industrial maintenance management solutions are already taking shape to help plants face very specific issues.

The solution: smart tools?

To allow companies to take up these various challenges, solutions appear on the market. Among them is for instance Mobility Work, a mobile CMMS application (Computerized Maintenance Management System) that gathers at the same time a software to help technicians and managers with their daily tasks, a marketplace and the very first and unique industrial maintenance application. Thanks to Mobility Work, a mobile and user-friendly tool, users can access all the information they need very quickly. Maintenance plans, tools management, tasks history: it just takes one click for a technician to have an entire overview of the tasks that have been undertaken in his or her service.

With such a tool, companies have the possibility to decide which type of maintenance they want to implement: preventive, corrective, predictive… Thanks to the analytic feature, the time where plants couldn’t anticipate breakdowns, unplanned shutdowns and dysfunctions is finally over! Nowadays, they know in advance what strategy to adopt, they are able to better anticipate breakdowns as well as other industrial maintenance problematics and are way more reactive.

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Mobility Work is a simple, mobile and intuitive solution that helps companies evolve toward industry 4.0. The maintenance world is facing a bright future, full of promises, and offers unprecedented opportunities to the people who are interested. If you want to discover our application, don’t hesitate to watch our presentation video.