Creating a Successful Maintenance Strategy for Pharma Plants

Jan. 15, 2018
Why a computerized maintenance management system should play a key role

The pharmaceutical industry is characterized by strong regulations. And if other industries give their best to guarantee their products’ quality, the pharma industry is obliged to warrant the safety of its products to the final consumer. In this context a successful equipment maintenance strategy is the most important step for a production plant to reach the necessary level of reliability.

Maintenance is of critical importance for an organization’s competitiveness. Even though pharmaceutical plants are equipped with state-of-the-art machinery and tools, many workers may still have something to learn from their heavy industrial counterparts in terms of improving their manufacturing culture.

An effective maintenance plan ensures the seamless functioning of the entire production cycle and significantly reduces operating costs. At the core

Image courtesy of Mobility Work

of a successful preventive maintenance program is a next-gen, industry 4.0-inspired computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). The CMMS gathers, stores and analyzes condition-monitoring data, collected through sensors in order to launch predictive algorithms and help maintenance managers create a predictive maintenance plan. A CMMS is also there to support the daily routines of the maintenance team, to issue work orders, schedule interventions and the most important — control the execution of the planned preventive maintenance actions. The shift from corrective to preventive maintenance is essential for a company that wants to maximize availability and reliability, improve safety, reduce cost and increase competitiveness.

Multiple CMMS solutions can be deployed along the entire organization and ease the communication between production, management, finance and purchase or between different entities of the same company, which is often the case for many key pharmaceutical players.

Successful maintenance management procedures for pharmaceutical firms, especially for those with plants around the world, will ensure the cleanliness of their facilities and will guarantee the quality of their products.

Critical Points of Equipment Maintenance at Pharmaceutical Plants

Facility reliability
Contamination or microbial multiplication during production is a primary concern at pharmaceutical plants. The first step is for maintenance professionals to ensure the overall reliability of the facility. Cracks and holes on walls, floors and ceilings, ingress of water from roof leaks and damage to insulation or pipes should be immediately detected and eliminated.

Underestimated maintenance programs
One common problem is that different pieces of equipment are treated equally when it comes to maintenance instead of classifying them according to their criticality to product quality. Furthermore, more attention should be paid to total productive maintenance routines (TPM), condition-based monitoring data and lean maintenance programs.

Another big issue is the fact that CMMS are not yet fully deployed by the industry. Most of the plants are still using hybrid systems consisting of a difficult-to-use and outdated CMMS, spreadsheets and paper files. Since the CMMS is at the heart of a well-functioning maintenance strategy, this enormously complicates the performance of the maintenance team. Maintenance job sheets get lost, important information is not considered and schedules are neglected. 

Maintenance staff is not trained properly
Nobody likes paperwork or using difficult software programs, requiring hours of trainings. Before desperately trying to adopt a difficult CMMS and paying for additional introduction, consider the fact that there are already modern solutions at the market that are cost efficient, easy to use and implement.

Maintenance Performance Indicators

Every successful maintenance strategy is based on specific KPIs. By helping you identify your most critical assets and their issues, and to create the right strategy to improve them, the maintenance performance indicators drive reliability growth and improve maintenance performance. KPIs help you understand if your maintenance strategy is really successful in improving operational performance.

You can start by identifying what is causing your equipment failures, while collecting a history of interventions and analyzing life-cycle categories. By the end of this step you should be able to understand what can be done to remove the causes of performed repairs.

Pareto analysis, reliability (mean time between failures MTBF), availability and maintainability performance indicators are frequently employed by maintenance professionals to define maintenance strategy and identify the most critical areas.

Shopping For a Next-Gen CMMS Solution

Besides all conventional features such as creating work orders, following preventive maintenance plans and scheduling interventions, a next-gen CMMS should possess some additional features in order to become a part of a lean maintenance strategy. These include:

  • a mobile application
  • a geolocation tool
  • adaptability to sensors, ERPs and other company’s smart systems
  • an analytical tool to generate predictive algorithms

The most important CMMS benefits for a pharmaceutical plant can be summarized as follows:

  • improved team management and optimized workforce schedules
  • optimized spare parts management
  • around the clock alerts and notifications to keep your team updated
  • valuable cost evaluations to support your decision-making process
  • supplier’s or service provider’s interventions management

An efficient maintenance strategy plays a critical role in production and ultimately, profitability. Success depends on multiple variables as the deployment of a modern CMMS, the integration of latest maintenance trends, precise management and compliance with the industry’s guidelines. A successful preventive maintenance program should result in reduced equipment downtime and streamlined service operations.

Ralitsa Peycheva is a technical content manager at Mobility Work (, interested in latest machinery tools, technical maintenance, CMMS and Big Data; curious about new manufacturing methods; discovering, observing and admiring high-quality engineering.

About the Author

Ralitsa Peycheva | Technical Content Manager at Mobility Work