By: Lalit Dua,  

Edited by: Andrew Cox


Manufacturing companies make substantial investments in plant, machinery and equipment. The investment decision requires assessment of business need, detailed requirements, production volume, the investment amount, source of funding and payback period.

Progressive enhancement of engineering and technology means equipment has become increasingly complex to maintain. An important consideration for companies is getting the maximum return on investment from equipment. A strong maintenance program can help to achieve this.

Maintenance costs can be substantial and need to be approached in a cost-effective way, ensuring there is an effective maintenance program in place to maximize equipment usage and output.

An important consideration for companies is getting the maximum return on investment from equipment. A strong maintenance program can help to achieve this.

Maintenance types:

Various maintenance types are described below, though other terms may be used, for example operational maintenance, corrective maintenance or adaptive maintenance. For the purpose of this paper, the following maintenance types will be discussed:

  • Preventive maintenance – Pre-planned proactive maintenance where equipment in use is maintained before breakdown occurs. The engineering department plans a program of preventive maintenance in consultation with the production department. The aim is to lower the potential for breakdown to occur. A maintenance program is generally based on manufacturer recommendations or history of maintenance, including breakdown . Considerations will include prescribed maintenance requirements, previous maintenance, and breakdown and repair history.
  • Breakdown Maintenance – Specific reactive maintenance initiated when a breakdown event occurs. A breakdown maintenance activity occurs when equipment in use fails in some way. It may happen without warning and have an adverse effect on production, requiring a co-ordinated approach by the production and engineering departments. Time is of the essence to minimise production outages and the potential for financial loss.
  • Shutdown maintenance – Maintenance that can only be performed when the plant, machinery and equipment has been put out of service. For example, this may occur in the oil and gas industry where it is risky or not possible to continue production at the same time as maintenance activities are performed.

Maintenance documentation

To provide real-time support, it is prudent for a company to have a well-defined operations manual of documented maintenance activities. The manual should define processes throughout the end-to-end operations lifecycle, including maintenance activities.

Maintenance records

It is essential for accurate maintenance records to be maintained and continually updated. Records may be hardcopy or electronic, and should contain information such as manufacturer recommended maintenance, history of breakdown and repair, and information on cost to maintain the equipment.

Maintenance sources

There are various options for maintaining equipment, including:

  • In-house – Maintenance is performed by an in-house workforce.
  • Original manufacturer – Regular maintenance of equipment is often performed by the manufacturer of the equipment. This is particularly the case where a manufacturer has specialist knowledge of the equipment that is not available in-house, or a manufacturer warranty is voided if anyone else maintains the equipment.
  • Service providers – Dedicated service providers with specialist skills may be a cost-effective option to growing in-house expertise in maintenance of various equipment.

Decisions made on sources to maintain equipment will generally come down to who has the expertise required, and what is cost-effective.


Engineering department responsibilities

The engineering department should maintain details of:

  • Suppliers, to ensure they are available when needed to provide parts and technical specialists.
  • Critical spare parts, throughput, and current stock levels.
  • Warranty records to ensure manufacturers repair equipment at no cost where it is under warranty. Warranty should also extend to replacement parts
  • Equipment usage information including up-time, downtime, maintenance and breakdown information, together with equipment cost history.
  • Annual maintenance program.Deviations from scheduled maintenance activities, including the reasons for these and management approval.


Maintenance is an important activity in a manufacturing enterprise and should receive the attention it deserves. Poor maintenance programs may save money initially, but production outages and resulting financial losses ae likely to be higher and may threaten ongoing viability of a company.

A sound maintenance program will provide management with assurance of:

  • Conformance with the maintenance program of activities.
  • Effective review activities to assure quality of maintenance activities being performed.
  • Performance measures (KPIs) to demonstrate the maintenance program is achieving results.

Lalit Dua,  ICAI  Vice President  Internal Audit in Healthcare group, Dubai .