How will the Planned Preventative Maintenance of waste machinery evolve in 2021?


Planned Preventative Maintenance is nothing new. However, despite the benefits of a scheduled maintenance routine, this proactive approach to ensuring an asset or site’s upkeep, is still so often disregarded. But why, and how will PPM evolve in 2021?

An Interview with Gary Moore, Director for Global Business Development at UNTHA.

What is Planned Preventative Maintenance?

Firstly, it’s important to understand exactly what Planned Preventative Maintenance is.

As the name suggests, the key is in the preparation. 

A PPM regime details which maintenance activities need to be carried out, at what point in time and by who. The detail varies of course, depending on the equipment or building concerned. However, in the case of waste machinery – the area with which I’m most familiar – responsible suppliers should be able to advise an appropriate calendar of works.

The advantages of PPM are multiple. By proactively optimising ongoing running conditions, not only should the asset perform to the desired quality for the full duration of its lifespan – it is also possible to help mitigate the likelihood of unplanned and expensive downtime.   

The overhead costs associated with unexpected breakdowns include lost capacity, higher charges for parts required immediately and emergency repair support, and potentially even lost custom if continuity of supply is affected. In fact, unplanned maintenance is said to cost 3-5 times more than PPM, not least because the latter can be scheduled when resources are available and the inconvenience is minimal.

It all sounds so simple (and it is), not to mention a no brainer.

But still, so many operators simply allow life to get in the way, even if they have the best intentions when the asset comes online.

So, will things change in 2021?

I believe so, yes.

Covid-19 placed newfound pressures on organisations throughout the business community. Many firms were forced to do more with less, and amidst the turbulence of the pandemic, a mindset of ‘control what we can control’ emerged across the board. In the waste management industry specifically, the sector’s key worker status meant many companies were busier than ever and all eyes were on maintaining reliable operations that could deliver the products and services the nation required.

There was no time, for downtime. And I think this will carry through into 2021 and beyond.

We may see a shift in how operators approach PPM too.

What types of PPM are possible?

There are two schools of thought when it comes to devising a Planned Preventative Maintenance programme. It can be time based, which sees various works carried out at pre-defined intervals, or condition monitored, which requires the operator to observe the performance of an asset, in real-time, before predicting when a failure might occur.

The latter requires the asset to be able to communicate its current status, so that an engineer – or automated alert – can identify that a threshold value could soon be reached, and forecast what action needs to be taken. In theory, this approach should therefore be even more cost-effective than time-based PPM, however a clear monitoring strategy is required – reliant on the intelligence of technology, people, or both.

Why will Planned Preventative Maintenance become more popular?

I believe the importance placed on PPM will grow exponentially in 2021, not only for the reasons I’ve mentioned above, but because people’s attitudes to data have changed drastically.

Data empowers people to make informed decisions that rely less on assumptions or guesswork, and more on fact. That’s why the gathering of Business Intelligence (BI) – the collation of historic, current and predictive insights – is now a widely acknowledged strategic process, in organisations large and small. So why not the waste industry?

I think any reluctance to leverage the power of data in our industry to date, stems from being time poor, finding it difficult to uncover the insight required, being financially shackled by the cost of what’s involved, or, quite simply, being put off by the thought of maths!

But things have changed.

For a start, I think we’re all becoming a lot more data literate, in general, and an interesting article on tech site pointed out that the generation beginning to enter the workforce now, has been raised on data – they’re “data natives”. They won’t shy away from it.

There are also lots of savvy tools out there to help gather, analyse and interpret must-know metrics, with ease. That’s the reason we launched our condition monitoring tool UNTHA Genius for example. Likened to a shredder’s brain, it clearly tells the operator everything that’s going on with the machine, in real-time, by passing up to 100 data points straight to the individual’s device, wherever they may be. Harnessing the power of the cloud – not to mention the proactive alerts that trigger predictive warnings – this means that the risk of breakdown, operational oversight or other unplanned events can be mitigated.

As is the case in so many walks of business and personal life now, technology can ease the burden associated with otherwise complex, time consuming or cumbersome tasks. So, we’d be silly not to be a little more scientific in our approach to maintenance – wouldn’t we?