Engineering the Maintenance Debt
The issue of maintenance debt, which has been discussed a lot within the framework of EFNMS , is a common problem at least on the European level.
According to a study commenced by the Finnish Maintenance Society Promaint, Finland’s infrastructure maintenance debt is estimated to be between 35-55 billion euros. This represents 15-25 percent of Finland’s GDP. The level is so high that managing it by massive investments alone is hardly possible.
In Finland, the current situation in terms of maintenance debt is visible to all just by looking at the condition of roads, the amount of building renovations and the existing problems and growing costs of the water supply. My assumption, however, is that maintenance debt is not only a problem that touches Finland – but a global one.
Although the figures we calculated for Finland are related to infrastructure, there is also maintenance debt inside the process industry. Our last recession forced companies in Finland to reduce investments. There has also been a growing need to either shut down production facilities or improve the quality of production machinery in the country.
Maintenance debt – whatever its source – puts a big challenge on the planning of the maintenance activities, proactive improvements and the development of human resources.
Step one is to understand the real level of your maintenance debt. The way to calculate company depreciation is normally very mechanistic and based on preset values, not on the actual level of the machinery deterioration. Normally, we say that we have maintenance debt when the level of investments is less than depreciation. We should improve the analysis and try to understand the actual condition of our installed base better.
Digitalisation is said to be one of the solutions for improvement. With it we hope to get better information for analysis and effective usage for our own resources.
There are already a large number of digitalisation solutions available on the market, but at least today, the field is quite fragmented, and the solutions are not compatible with each other. I believe that services related to digitalisation will mainly be acquired from specialized service companies and there will be several global/local maintenance ecosystems.
A growing need for co-operation between companies will require new types of operational models, personal know-how, and patience from maintenance managers and the management of service companies.
At the end of the day, engineering competence is key for handling the maintenance debt and the tools are only supporting elements.
Finnish maintenance society, Promaint
Four major epochs mark the industrial revolution. All of these brought significant advancements and evolution of technologies.