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Once a piece of equipment or a building has been built, installed, and commissioned, it is customary to hand over the caretaker keys to the maintenance department. Regrettably, in many organizations, this ends up being the first opportunity that maintenance team members get to “kick the tires” and familiarize themselves with their newly inherited asset. Sadly, in many cases, no operations and maintenance (O&M) manual is available for the new asset at this time, and no devised asset-management strategy is in place. More important, this also occurs at the same time the production department puts the machine to work, or the building opens for business (usually in an environment that expects 100% immediate asset availability and productivity). It doesn’t have to be this way.

As a wartime resistance fighter based in his native Poland, a young Tedeus Monkiewicz demonstrated ingenuity and bravery at every turn as he assisted the Allied forces in thwarting the Germans army during WWII. Post-war, Ted (as he came to be known) moved to England and used his considerable engineering talent to amass countless patents and awards for ingenious designs. In my early career as a mechanical design engineer, I was fortunate to have Ted as a mentor to teach me the hallmarks of good design practice. He strongly advocated that to be considered a good design, be it engineering or architectural in nature, four elements needed to be incorporated:

1.  Design for Ergonomics:  To allow the operator to successfully operate the equipment with minimum fatigue and supervision.

2.  Design for Simplicity:  The fewer moving parts, the simpler the design. With the use of standard-sized parts and materials simplicity translates into reliability and cost reduction.

3.  Design for Maintainability:  To allow a maintainer or operator quick and easy access to calibrate, repair or replace parts with minimum impact to production operations.

4.  Design with Proportion:  As what looks right to the eye is nearly always right and always trusted.

Throughout my career, I have upheld those four golden rules in my approach to asset design and management. And, over the years, I added a fifth design element driven by RCM II (reliability-centered maintenance) and sustainability thinking that states:

5.  Design for Conservation:  To address the reduction of an asset’s environmental and energy footprint over its life cycle.

Each of these five elements is intended to promote ease of operator use, maintainability, reliability, cost reduction, uptime, and sustainability. All are designed to deliver a prolonged asset lifecycle at the lowest cost, with minimum impact to operations and the environment.

Moreover, all of these elements must be taken into consideration for a design to be considered “successful.” This will require collaboration between the OEM equipment design engineering staff and its client maintenance and production staff in the early specification and design phase so that working conditions and culture in which the equipment will operate can be understood.

Interestingly, those five design elements also happen to be cornerstone elements of maintenance prevention.


The term PM, or preventive maintenance (sometimes spelled “preventative,” both words  mean “to prevent”) is universally understood as a fundamental maintenance strategy devised to reduce maintenance failures through regular condition and calibration checks. PM mainly focuses on depletion systems that require regular replenishment of an asset’s consummable products that include filters, lubricants, belts, chains, etc.

The term “maintenance prevention” (MP) is often confused with “preventive maintenance.” Maintenance prevention is described in the Nachi-Fujukoshi Corporation’s book, Training for TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), Productivity Press, 1990, as follows:

“MP Design aims to produce equipment that operates at an optimal level of effciency and can be maintained at that level, which means that its total cost and life cycle cost will be minimized. . . The goal of maintenance prevention design is equipment that will not break down or produce defective parts. . . Its purpose is to take whatever steps are necessary at the design stage to create maintenance free equipment.”

Although complete freedom from maintenance is not possible with rotating or moving equipment, MP is a maintenance strategy that strives to minimize maintenance failure and downtime formulated within its design at the asset’s design stage. It does this by capitalizing on current maintenance best practices through the involvement of and collaboration with the client operations and maintenance staff who educate the OEM’s design engineer(s) on plant working conditions and cultural impact on current design reliability within the operation. At the same time, client operators and maintainers become intimate with the asset design and can pre-plan a streamlined and more suitable PM strategy before assuming responsibility for the machine or building.

The French novelist and critic Marcel Proust once wrote, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in making new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” Maintenance prevention provides “new eyes” to both the OEM and the client at a critical stage of the asset design.


The first element in ensuring successful life-cycle management requires communication between the OEM designer(s) and the client’s engineering, production, and maintenance departments. Their task is to prepare an asset specification and design based upon sustained operational reliability and efficiency. Typical maintenance-department input at the design stage can include the following:   

Perimeter Based Maintenance (PBM) Design:  Designing assets to allow the maintainer or operator to perform basic preventive and diagnostic maintenance tasks without shutting the asset down. These can include:

 Use of Go/No-Go (tell-tale) guaging systems used to instantly to view a current state of fluid levels, pressure / flow / temperature indications, mechanical adjustment ranges, filter condition, breather condition that change position or color to signal an OK state (GO state), or an in-need-of-change-or-attention state (NO-GO state).

  Providing accessible sample points for predictive maintenance vibration data collection and oil sampling.

♦  Use of automated centralized Lubrication delivery systems systems, whose reservoirs can be easily checked for fill level and replenished while the equipment is running. Automated lubrication systems are known to triple the life of bearings when compared to manual lubricant application methods.

  Use of parallel filtration for hydraulic and lubrication systems that allows easy switchover to a new filter while the old filter is isolated and changed as the equipment continues to operate.

  Installation of machine-fluid drains piped into dedicated capture tanks that can be opened and closed from the perimeter of the machine, thus leading to safer and more environmentally friendly operations.

PBM design provides quick easy access to all maintenance systems, for both operators and maintainers, while the equipment is running. This reduces maintenance downtime, while increasing the asset efficiency, reliability, and maintenance effectiveness.

Mistake Proofing (Poke-Yoke):  Designing a device, mechanism, component, sub-assembly, or perishable tooling system, in a fail-safe manner (so that it will only operate or go together one way. In turn, there is no confusion as to positioning or how the device is to be positioned or used for assembly purposes or defect detection purposes), will not only reduce production errors and manufacturing defects, it will also reduce MTTR (Mean Time To Repair) times.  

Technology Choice:  Introducing new assets with OEM-designer-chosen cutting-edge technology could prove difficult to adopt in the work environment. New technology has to be “eased” into an operation with personnel who are trained and ready to take it on. Many organizations standardize on one or two control-system manufacturers and computer platform/architectures. The decision to adopt new technology must be a wholesale, multi-departmental decision.   

The Green Machine:  Thinking about eventual asset disposal and environmental impact in the design stage. Many forward-thinking companies now mandate that all new assets must be recyclable upon retirement. This environmental approach again dictates an early design requirement, as it is usually the maintenance department that’s responsible for asset disposal. Attention to this issue early on makes that asset-retirement task easier.

Standardized Spare Parts:  Taking advantage of generic, non-OEM parts for new equipment (since many corporations have standardized their parts catalogs). The OEM can shed light on its preferred use of parts based on knowledge of  operational reliability so that the client can make a comparitive choice as to the which non OEM parts to specifiy and stock. This will also apply to lubricants, if they have been consolidated and standardized in the plant    

Machine Mapping:  Building a visual identification map and detailed list of all the machine spare part maintenance items, calibration points, fill points, drain points, sample points, lubrication points, etc., used to facilitate training and provide a single-point reference guide for maintainers.

In an MP culture, the maintenance department and operations department start to work together as a cohesive team. This new found cooperation can be capitalized on to drive continuous improvement initiatives such as Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). Ensuring successful life-cycle management through maintenance prevention can foster cooperation in the following areas:

Operating Within Design Specification:  In the design stage, operational specifications pertaining to production throughput and speeds (line and machine takt time) are determined. Each time an asset is operated beyond its design parameters, reliability is challenged and asset mortality is accelerated. Operations and maintenance must agree to operate within operational design limits.

Constraint Recognition:  Under the theory of constraints, an asset is designated as a constraint bottleneck, or a non-constraint.  A bottleneck asset will tend to operate at its maximum design throughput, whereas non-constraint assets will operate at a reduced rate of speed or intermittently. When working as a team in a lean manufacturing environment, recognizing constraints can allow maintenance and operations to work together to schedule maintenance opportunities when thoughput requirements have been met on non-constraint assets.

Operator Autonomous Maintenance:  Both RCM and TPM recognize the value of allowing operator (autonomous) maintenance to occur. Through engineering and training basic maintenance routines and checks can be performed by operations staff, thereby reducing the maintenance department’s load, allowing it to perform more intensive maintenance, facilitating operator asset ownership, and improving communication between operations and maintenance.


For too many years now maintainers and operators have been ignored during the design stage. Rarely is maintenance  recognized as an authority and a valuable contributor to efficient machine design. This fault lies on the shoulders of both the OEM and the client’s purchasing and engineering departments. Perhaps passing this article on to the engineering department will open eyes to a new landscape and start a maintenance-prevention movement.TRR


Ken Bannister has 40+ years of experience in the RAM industry. For the past 30, he’s been a Managing Partner and Principal Asset Management Consultant with Engtech industries Inc., where he has specialized in helping clients implement best-practice asset-management programs worldwide. A founding member and past director of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada, he is the author of several books, including three on lubrication, one on predictive maintenance, and one on energy reduction strategies, and is currently writing one on planning and scheduling. Contact him directly at 519-469-9173 or kbannister@theramreview.com.

Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, maintenance management, preventive maintenance, PM, engineering design, ergonomics, Nachi-Fujukoshi Corp.