Productivity plunge: maintenance failings threaten to undermine UK manufacturing

Productivity in British manufacturing is at risk due to critical maintenance failings, a new report has found.

Key findings include 71% of engineers describing their maintenance practices as reactive or planned; 50% stating that maintenance training budgets have stagnated or decreased in recent years and that the majority of maintenance engineers receive only five days training or less every year.

Alastair Johnstone, managing director of Bosch Rexroth UK said: “We have been concerned for some time that maintenance practices and skills have not kept pace with advances in machine complexity.

“This report suggests that UK manufacturing is walking a tightrope, with dated maintenance practices and budgetary constraints posing a critical risk to the long-term health of our manufacturing base. More strategic maintenance, such as condition monitoring and preventive maintenance techniques, are the exception rather than the rule.

“This report is, of course, a snapshot. There are outstanding examples of maintenance practices in British manufacturing, you only need to look at the car industry as a prime example of that. But, it is vitally important that the rest of the industry follow suit and take a longer-term view of maintenance and its positive impact in order to safeguard the UK’s impressive productivity statistics which are, rightly, celebrated.”

The report covers keys areas of maintenance, including resource, planning and monitoring, critical machinery, obsolescence and training and includes verbatim quotes from engineers who took part in the research, which detail their concerns about the role of maintenance in manufacturing and the challenges faced on a daily basis.

Ken Young, technology director of Manufacturing Technology Centre, said: “Analysis of this kind is long overdue, but its findings will come as no surprise to many of those who work in British manufacturing. This report paints a picture of maintenance practices, which are reactive rather than preventive, with businesses waiting until equipment fails before it is repaired.

“The key message from this report is that we need to have much greater confidence in ourselves and implement a long-term strategic vision based on preventative maintenance techniques.”

‘What you don’t repair you destroy – A report into maintenance practices in UK Industry’ can be downloaded from