Understanding the “Impact” Cost of Reliability and Maintenance


In previous blogs, I have discussed the cost of inefficient maintenance practices and the impact they have on a company’s expenses. In this blog, the focus will change from maintenance costs to what I refer to as “The Impact Cost of Reliability and Maintenance”.

When considering the impact costs, consider this scenario: A production plant in a sold out condition. Everything that can possibly be manufactured is being sold to customer. If a production line or critical piece of equipment fails (unreliability) during the production run, the production is halted until the equipment is repaired and returned to service (reactive maintenance).

What did the production disruption cost the company? Was it the total lost sales dollars or was it only the profit that was lost? First consider the difference between lost sales revenue and lost profits. Profit is usually calculated by taking total income (sales) and subtracting total expenses (salaries, energy, etc.) and what is left are the profits. If the production disruption reduces the total income by lowering the possible sales volume, then lost sales would have to be a factor in calculating the impact of the production disruption. This reduces the numerator in the impact calculation.

At the same time, the expenses may also be increased during the production disruption. There may be overtime for the maintenance technicians making the repair and there could be product loss in quality or quantity (particularly in a continuous process operation). These increased expenses impact the denominator in the impact calculation.

While this may seem simplistic, very few organizations consider all of the parameters when considering the cost of lost production. Visualizing the problem becomes more clouded when a plant is not in a sold out condition. Now the impact on lost sales revenue becomes a matter of debate among managers (especially financial managers). Can the lost production be made up and still meet the customer delivery in a timely manner? If the answer is “Yes”, then the sales volume may not be impacted. However, the profit component of the calculation will still be impacted, since expenses will be increased to make up the production. This is true since the equipment will now have to be operated when it was scheduled to be shut down. So there will be increased labor costs (usually at an overtime rate) and increased energy costs. There is a possible increase in raw material costs, since the supply chain demand will fluctuate. So again, the true profits of a company will be impacted negatively.

There is yet another scenario: What if the company has an extra line or excess capacity? Can the production crew be moved over to the spare line and run the product without any impact on profit? Possibly, but this line of reasoning leads to a much larger problem: A poor financial standing with investors. Why? Simply stated – profits are only part of the picture.

A higher level indicator used to evaluate companies today is Return on Invested Capital (ROIC). This indicator is utilized in Industry Weeks Best Plants program ROIC is – in its simplest form – the profits a company generates versus the invested capital that is being used to generate the profit. A quick analysis of this calculation would show that a company that uses fewer assets to produce the same profits as a competitor would be viewed as a better investment by Wall Street. So back to our position at the start of this blog – Would assets that are more reliable (higher output) and have a lower cost to maintain (lower life cycle cost) be more valuable to a company? The answer would clearly be “Yes”. The impact cost in the form of fewer assets and increased profits (ROIC) would make the company a much more attractive investment for the financial community.

How much of an impact does your reliability/ maintenance organization have on your company’s assets that are utilized produce its product? This is the TRUE impact cost that companies must focus on to maintain a competitive edge.


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