RS has released the ‘Industry in Motion’ 2023 Maintenance Engineering Report, in conjunction with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), based on findings from a survey that aimed to ‘take the pulse’ of the profession.
The survey was conducted among more than 1,200 IMechE members and the report focuses on the responses of almost 700 people in the UK and Ireland. The respondents were from sectors including manufacturing and are working in job roles like engineering manager.
The resulting report covers five key areas: monitoring maintenance engineering, skills, the true cost of breakdowns, raising performance through stakeholder collaboration, and harnessing technology to improve efficiency.
The top three challenges respondents cited as expecting to affect them over the next 12 months were attracting talent (47%), inflation and higher costs (47%), and supply chain disruption (40%). But the report also delves into a key issue: drivers of unscheduled downtime and its cost to a business. Ageing assets and mechanical failures are the biggest drivers of unscheduled downtime, and the report revealed:
- Nearly 20 hours are spent each week on unscheduled maintenance, compared with around 18 hours spent each week on scheduled maintenance
- The average hourly cost of downtime is £5,121.81 (ranges from c. £1,700 to £7.5k depending on size of business)
- The average weekly cost of unscheduled downtime is £100,371
- Organisations need to get a grip on maintenance spend, as nearly a third of respondents do not know what proportion of their annual operating budget is spent on maintenance; 30 per cent state approximately five to 10% is spent.
Survey respondents cited the highest priority plans for decreasing unscheduled downtime as upgrading equipment (48%) and widening monitoring capabilities (46%). In a bid to further tackle the issue, planned maintenance has emerged as the number one company strategy in place, deemed the highest priority by 53% of respondents.
Emma Botfield, Managing Director for RS in the UK and Ireland, said: “The challenges facing businesses today mean that maintenance engineers are even more critical to manufacturing success, while under pressure to do more with their existing resources which often include ageing assets. They’re also firefighting because of the geopolitical environment and its effect on supply chains.”
The issue of an ageing skilled workforce and a large age gap to the next engineers coming through was highlighted in the report. Meanwhile, Millennials – a group that made up more than half of the respondent pool – are reaching key decision-making positions within organisations. “These Millennials hold a real opportunity to affect change and should work with stakeholders and suppliers to find fresh solutions, and tackle maintenance problems that may be keeping them up at night head-on,” Botfield added.
According to data from Engineering UK, people aged between 25 and 34 now constitute the largest single age group in engineering roles.
Lydia Amarquaye, Professional Development and Education Policy Advisor at the IMechE, said: “Millennials have grown up with different technologies and they will be trying to implement some of these in their work to make life more efficient for themselves. I think we’re going to see the effects of this shift coming through in the way that businesses are conducted, as it plays into management styles. So, I think it is going to be exciting for the industry as a whole.”
It is widely recognised that outsourcing maintenance requirements can help organisations overcome issues like skills shortages. The report found that more than 60% of respondents are outsourcing some form of maintenance requirement, with a gap in skills being the top two reasons.
On digital transformation, only 16% of respondents stated they use Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and fewer than one in five respondents said their company is planning a digital transformation in the next 12 months. However, RS believes this is because terms like IIoT and digital transformation aren’t ones operational maintenance people use.
Condition monitoring, which uses IIoT, is being employed, according to more than half of the respondents. The top two technologies are vibration measurement – used by 44% of respondents – and current monitoring, used by 43%. The main benefits cited from using these technologies are understanding asset health (68%) and better prediction of failures (53%).
Botfield concluded: “This report shows that in the face of a multitude of challenges, maintenance engineers are keeping the wheels of UK industry turning and facing up to these challenges. They should aim to bolster efforts by working with trusted suppliers who understand what they are trying to achieve and where the pain points lie. This will allow them to achieve the best value for money for the organisation.”
The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), is a global organisation with around 115,000 members, and holds the mission to improve the world through engineering.
The RS and IMechE ‘Industry In Motion’ 2023 Maintenance Engineering Report,’ can be downloaded in full here.