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What Is Operational Maintenance?

By B. Turner
Updated May 17, 2024
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Operational maintenance is a type of preventative maintenance used to extend the life of equipment and maximize performance. It includes many types of minor adjustments, cleaning, and inspections, depending on the machine. While major repairs are typically handled by trained technicians, operational maintenance is performed during the normal course of operations by the equipment operator himself. By training operators to handle these routine tasks, companies can help reduce downtime and cut costs associated with repairs and replacement parts.

This form of preventative maintenance can be performed in any setting where machines, equipment, or vehicles are used. This may include manufacturing plants and factories, as well as automotive shops. In many commercial buildings, heating and cooling engineers perform operational maintenance tasks on furnaces, boilers, and air conditioners.

Some operational maintenance responsibilities can be as simple as inspecting the machine to spot any changes or issues. This allows the operator to detect a potential danger, such as loose fasteners or debris that could contribute to an accident. Basic cleaning, including removing debris or excess grease from a machine, is also considered part of operational maintenance.

Depending on the type of equipment in use, operators may also be responsible for replacing worn out filters or cartridges, or removing and replacing a worn belt, cutting tool, or grinding stone. Operational maintenance may entail keeping machinery well lubricated to reduce the risk of friction or failure. Many basic machine adjustments needed during the course of operation also fall within this category of preventative maintenance.

Operational maintenance does not include more complex repairs and diagnostics, which are left to skilled technicians. For example, most electrical faults or shortages are left to the professionals rather than the operator. The removal and replacement of large or hazardous components is also excluded from operational maintenance.

Businesses enjoy a number of advantages when they train equipment operators to handle basic maintenance tasks. As the primary user of the machine, the operator generally knows the unique features and qualities of that machine better than anyone else, and is better equipped to spot potential problems or changes. By keeping the machine clean and operating smoothly, he can help reduce accidents and danger to himself and others. Operational maintenance also reduces the likelihood that the machine will break down, which helps prevent delays. Finally, by teaching the operator to handle basic tasks, the company can not only save money on repair bills, but also extend the life of the equipment to cut replacement costs over time.

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