The first machines and their maintenance

Since the appearance of the first machines and tools, the human being has been forced to keep them in good condition, due to the help they give to the daily activities. In those early days, all the maintenance done to the machines was when they could no longer be used.

The main causes of the failures of the machines and tools were due to the bad use of them. The misuse of machines is still one of the causes of machine failure.

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The main function of maintenance is to sustain the functionality of the equipment and the good condition of the machines over time. Therefore, it is possible to understand the evolution of the maintenance area as it goes through the different periods; according to the needs of its clients, which are all those dependencies or process or service companies; that generate real or intangible goods by using these assets to produce them..

Beginnings of industrial maintenance

The history of maintenance as part of the companies; dates from the very moment of the appearance of the machines for the production of goods and services; even, since man is part of the energy of such equipment.


The technological development of mankind has been accompanied by maintenance. At the beginning of the 19th century, with the industrial revolution and the mechanization of industries, the need for increasingly specialized maintenance began.

It is recognized the appearance of the first organizational systems of maintenance to support the machines; from the beginning of the 20th century, in the United States; where all the solutions to failures and unforeseen stops of equipment are solved via corrective maintenance.

Around 1920, the first statistics on failures are taken, and concepts of competitiveness are introduced to the companies; which led the companies to improve the efforts in terms of avoiding failures in the machines and thus avoiding stops in the production.

With the first failures, the operators were responsible for attending to the failures, but as technology advanced, the machines became more complex and their failures equally complex. Consequently, companies began to form specialized areas for the maintenance of their machines.

Pioneers of industrial maintenance

Industrial maintenance as we know it today is due to people like Herny Ford, Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henri Fayol.

Henry Ford, founder of the FORD MOTORS COMPANY, was the inventor of mass production chains. From this flagship company many companies began to adopt his model to take their production to other levels.

Frederick Winslow Taylor was an industrial engineer and economist, who promoted and founded the scientific organization of work. Finally Henri Fayol was one of the first and most important contributors to classical management.

The contribution of these three people in industrial maintenance took maintenance to other levels. The administration, control and monitoring of the electrical and mechanical systems of the companies, now have their own department as the maintenance departments we know today. Preventive maintenance programs are initiated, as a need to increase the availability of machines for large-scale production.

The First World War and the large scale production, changed the maintenance concepts. The response time for the solution of failures, became a priority in the industry. Consequently, teams of specialists in corrective works had to be formed to give the fastest response to the production chain.

In the early 1950s, Japanese engineers developed and implemented new maintenance concepts, creating the preventive maintenance we know today. They were based on following the recommendations given by the manufacturer of the machines in terms of operation and maintenance.

At the end of the 50’s, maintenance had an even greater evolution. The maintenance departments had more responsibility; and they took charge of the reliability and analysis of the design of the machine and its systems.

This change was called productive maintenance, and made the departments even more professional and specialized.

Total productive maintenance TPM

The company TOYOTA MOTORS, implemented the TPM in its organization. The system was created by Seiichi Nakajima, in 1971. This system integrates all the personnel of the company under a philosophy based on 8 pillars. Such was the success of this system that it expanded throughout Japan, and today it is used worldwide.

Its philosophy of continuous improvement makes this tool powerful and involves the personnel with the state of the machines. The change in attitude of the operators, maintenance technicians, supervisors, engineers and managers; with respect to the conservation of the equipment, results in greater productivity, decrease of labor accidents, improvement of the physical aspect of the facilities and a favorable environment for work and collaboration.

maintenance history

Historical evolution of industrial maintenance

The progress of maintenance as an area of study; allows to distinguish several evolutionary generations in relation to the different objectives that are observed in the productive areas through time. The analysis is carried out in each of these stages, which show the companies according to their production goals for that moment. The generational classification relates the areas of maintenance and production in terms of evolution.

Stage 1 (before 1950)

At this time, maintenance was focused on repairing corrective failures, and the production area was focused on generating the product. Maintenance costs were high and downtime was long.

Stage 2 (between 1950 and 1959)

At this time the maintenance was focused to prevent, predict and repair under planned actions; while the production area was focused to structure a productive system. The first structured maintenance departments began to be formed.

Stage 3 (between 1960 and 1980)

At this time the maintenance was focused to manage and operate under an organized system oriented to establish maintenance tactics; and the production area to optimize the production improving the productivity.

Stage 4 (between 1981 and 1995)

At this time the maintenance oriented to implement a strategy; that allowed him to measure costs, to be compared, to predict indexes and the area of production was oriented to the competitiveness through to improve indexes at world-wide level.

Stage 5 (since 1996)

Integral management and operation of assets in a coordinated way between both units to anticipate the needs of the teams (predictions, forecasts, asset management).

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