Human health care and equipment maintenance: Any connections?

Christer Idhammar, IDCON INC
Tags: maintenance and reliability
If we maintain equipment right, we will benefit fewer failures and breakdowns and a longer technical equipment life. Many case studies have proved this fact. In previous writings, I have shown case studies covering the strong correlation between high reliability and low-maintenance costs of equipment. In this column, I will discuss another aspect of maintenance and how this might prove the same phenomenon, including longer life.


In the October 5, 2004 issue of USA Today, statistics of cost for health care, number of doctors per 1,000 people and life expectancy of people was published for a number of countries.


I sorted this information starting with the country with the highest maintenance cost (health care cost) as a percentage of BNP to the left in the graph, then added the number of doctors per 1,000 people and the average life expectancy for men and women, as this information corresponded to each country’s cost for health care.


As can be seen in the chart below, there is no correlation between the number of doctors per 1,000 people and the cost or life expectancy. To compare this with equipment maintenance, many organizations believe they are understaffed when they cannot keep up with the maintenance workload, but the solution is seldom to add more people. The solution is instead to use people in a more efficient way, having less need for people because we prevent failures and breakdowns, etc.


Human health care in countries with long life expectancy.

Equipment maintenance similarity

Eat healthier food.

Lubricate better and use better fuel.

Exercise more.

Use better equipment operating practices.

Utilize frequent self health checks and checks by doctors.

Utilize frequent inspections by operators and specialists.

Take early corrective action.

Stress prioritization, and planning and scheduling, of corrective maintenance.

Find the root cause of illness.

Find and eliminate root cause problem.


So, what do countries with longer life and lower human maintenance costs do differently than the countries with high costs and lower life expectancy?


I have lived 20 years in the United States and 40 in Europe and I travel extensively internationally. The comments below are based on my observations.


To no surprise, it shows that the cost of maintenance of people and life has a very clear correlation. The higher the cost, the shorter the life. If we do not do the basics well, this will be the results. On the other hand, if we do the basics in taking care of ourselves – operators taking care of basic equipment needs – and specialists prevent and correct problems early, then we will benefit from longer technical equipment life and lower costs.


In the United States, we have seen the effects of more people losing their health insurance coverage. This has resulted in fewer people doing annual health checks and also waiting to go to the doctor until the situation is very acute. This will have an effect on costs and length of life.

I have seen many parallels in maintenance departments.

Torbjörn (Tor) Idhammar is partner and vice president of reliability and maintenance management consultants for IDCON Inc. His primary responsibilities include training and implementation support for preventive maintenance/essential care and condition monitoring, planning and scheduling, spare parts management, and root cause problem elimination. He is the author of “Condition Monitoring Standards” (volumes 1 through 3). He earned a BS in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University and an MS in mechanical engineering from Lund University (Sweden). Contact Tor at 800-849-2041 or e-mail
Management Consultants in Reliability and Maintenance – IDCON