7 Drawbacks of a Run to Failure Maintenance Strategy

May 24, 2022

Think about your car or truck for a moment. It’s probably one of the more expensive items that you own. So, you regularly maintain it: Getting oil changes, checking the tires, changing the air filter, and so on. If you didn’t perform this kind of maintenance, you risk having your vehicle break down when you least expect it. That’s called run to failure, and it’s not an ideal maintenance strategy. After all, the repairs for a complete breakdown will cost more than the maintenance would have. It can also be dangerous and even deadly, for example, if a tire blows out on a busy highway. 

Maintaining warehouse equipment can be thought of in much the same way. In this blog, we’ll take a look at the drawbacks of a run to failure strategy and the pros of choosing preventative maintenance and repair.

What is Run to Failure Maintenance?

As highlighted in our vehicle example, run to failure is when maintenance (or replacement) is only performed after equipment has failed. Run to failure may sound a lot like unplanned or reactive maintenance, in which failure wasn't considered and therefore never planned for. However, run to failure is actually considered a strategy because there will typically be a plan in place for how to handle failure when it inevitably occurs. For example, in a run to failure event, staff will know what to do, spare parts will be available, and so on. 

While run to failure is generally not a good maintenance strategy, it makes sense in certain situations, such as when the equipment poses no safety threat, it is less expensive to replace than maintain, or there’s no feasible way to maintain it. 

For the simplest example of run to failure, take your typical lightbulb. Before it goes out, you don’t do anything; there’s no maintenance or inspection. A burnt-out lightbulb typically does not pose a safety threat, and they’re inexpensive and easy to stock, so you simply replace it. Besides, it’s not like there is a “lightbulb tester” that you can use to check its remaining life over time.

That said, in a warehouse, there is a lot more to consider than lightbulbs, and run to failure strategies for other equipment can cost money, time, and possibly lives.

7 Reasons to Avoid a Run to Failure Maintenance Strategy

There are many reasons to choose a preventative maintenance strategy for your warehouse versus run to failure. Here are our top seven reasons.

1. Increased Expenses

Which is cheaper: A quick patch to a worn shelf or replacing an entire racking system because it broke? How about a quick fix to a forklift engine, or replacing the entire engine? As with our vehicle example earlier, the cost of replacing materials and servicing equipment following a failure can be much more expensive than the cost of preventative maintenance. 

2. Lowered Productivity 

You can also lose money in downtime when equipment is being replaced and repaired. Consider your warehouse forklift’s industrial batteries. If they’re not fully charged or properly maintained, forklift capacity and performance are reduced. This slows down processes and means employees won’t have the tools they need to do their job to the best of their ability. Plus, when employees have to keep stopping what they’re doing to switch out faulty equipment or batteries, your forklifts are moving less inventory per shift, potentially delaying shipments to your customers which can lead to them shopping around.

3. Higher Unpredictability 

With a run to failure mentality and no set schedule for maintenance, you never know when equipment may fail and when your team will have to swing into action to keep operations afloat. Equipment could fail on a Monday morning, throwing off the entire week, or late on a Friday afternoon when many workers have left for the day and can’t pitch in to help. 

4. Increased Inventory/Decreased Capacity 

Because of the unpredictable nature of a run to fail strategy, you’ll need to house additional parts or equipment to use when a failure does occur. And with many warehouses already struggling with capacity issues, you don’t want to take up valuable space housing equipment and parts.

5. Greater Risk of Injury or Death

Ignoring maintenance issues doesn’t just impact warehouse operations, productivity, and revenue—it also affects warehouse safety which can put your employees at serious risk for injuries. Unbalanced or damaged racks can collapse, faulty equipment can overheat and cause burns, unsecured loading docks can lead to falls (25% of all accidents occur at the loading dock), and much more. These unsafe working conditions can lead to injuries, death, higher worker’s compensation fees, and potential legal and insurance fees, and none of this is good for the business or employee morale. 

6. Unhappy Employees

It’s difficult enough to retain good employees these days. Inefficient equipment and unsafe working conditions can also lead to employee dissatisfaction. They may feel you don’t value their time, or their safety, leading to high turnover and the expense of continually finding new employees. In addition, high turnover can create a ripple effect throughout your entire organization.

7. Compliance Issues

Prioritizing employee safety isn’t just something you should be doing—it’s also the law. Warehouses must adhere to OSHA regulations outlining proper warehouse safety measures. If your warehouse isn’t in compliance, you can be slapped with hefty fees and even legal ramifications. Your operations may also be suspended, resulting in zero productivity and potentially a loss of customers. Simple routine safety checks and preventative repair and maintenance can identify and solve these problems before they result in an OSHA violation or injury

Benefits of Preventative Maintenance and Repair

Every warehouse/distribution center should enact a preventative maintenance program for the various aspects of their operations, from their docks & doors, to their motive power fleet solutions, to their rack systems and in-plant offices. With preventative maintenance and repair, warehouse owners can:

  • Save time and money
  • Improve productivity and efficiency
  • Improve preparedness with set maintenance schedules
  • Store less inventory to save valuable warehouse space
  • Improve workplace safety and lower insurance costs
  • Improve employee satisfaction and retention
  • Stay compliant and avoid potential legal issues and OSHA fines

As you can see, the benefits of preventative maintenance and repair put a positive spin on all the negatives associated with run to failure. They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to warehouse storage and equipment maintenance, it’s certainly true. Taking a “wait and see” approach, only fixing things after they break, can be an expensive and dangerous path to take.

Contact SSE to Schedule Preventative Warehouse Maintenance and Repair

At Southern States Enterprises (SSE), we can help when it comes to identifying and installing the correct racking system for your warehouse, maintaining and servicing motive power equipment, dock and door maintenance, as well as planned maintenance programs for long-term efficiency and safety. Our maintenance programs are customizable for your facility and its needs. Following completion of any inspection, you’ll receive a written report of our findings and recommendations for corrective actions.

To learn more about our products, technologies, and service solutions to help you achieve your warehouse goals today, contact our experts today!

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