The Hidden Battle of the Throwaway Society

Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash

The other day I listened in on an interesting discussion during one of our training sessions with a maintenance technician, who was obviously frustrated with how much work he had to deal with. In his eyes, the introduction of yet another IoT technology that promised to bring with it a raft of efficiencies and cost savings was just another false economy.  


While he agreed that FitMachine could detect problems earlier than their existing processes and systems, he felt there just wasn’t any point in having it. It was a sentiment echoed by a few other technicians on the training call, all of whom were so inundated with work that they were actually taking the call whilst in transit to another job!


The reason they objected was simple; their organisation had a corporate policy that stated the assets being monitored by FitMachine were not to have any maintenance performed. Instead, they were to run to failure, and their standby assets were to pick up the slack.


The Subtle Truth of the "Run to Failure" Maintenance Strategy. 


I’m not going to pretend to understand whether this “run to failure” strategy makes financial sense for their organisation. I don’t have the numbers to prove otherwise. But what I can say, from talking to some of these technicians, is that there’s far too much maintenance and repair work going on for them to keep up. So much so that this organisation has a triage group to prioritise which maintenance work has priority.


Putting aside the stress and safety concerns that come with this environment, allowing something to degrade to an unrepairable point of failure, just so it’s cheaper to replace, seems a bit wasteful. Particularly in this day and age, when we’re supposed to be conserving resources and improving how we do things.  


It would have been easy to view the attitude of these maintenance technicians as argumentative, a mere resistance to change. But, in actual fact, they were highlighting a subtle truth – you can’t improve how things are done unless you address the root causes of the problems in the first place. You need to fix the whole system, not just one aspect.


An Organisational Challenge:


And making these sorts of changes is not just a maintenance, technology or even asset management problem. It’s a whole of organisation challenge – a cultural issue that strikes at the heart of what we deem acceptable as part of a company. One, where in this particular case, it’s okay to be wasteful if someone says that hey, that’s the way a few dollars are saved. But everything has a price.


The bean counters might be right. It may make more financial sense to run some assets to failure and swap them out. But in a world of dwindling resources, I would have thought that all of us – individuals and corporations alike – have a responsibility to escape the throwaway society our world has become.  


To achieve this, we’re all going to have to work together. It won’t be enough to rely on the latest and greatest technologies. We also need to rewrite the rule books on how things are done, on the policies and procedures that exist to be less wasteful, and to understand that short-term gain ultimately results in long-term pain. For everyone.


We at MOVUS are here to help with that change. Not just through the ongoing development of innovative technologies to help you work smarter, but also to work closely with you and adapt our product to help your organisation evolve into something better. Don’t believe me? I’m happy to introduce you to some of our customers that will back us up.


But that will take a commitment from your entire organisation at large. Not just from the guys on the floor covered in grease and sweat who are (literally) at times doing the firefighting. Because when it comes down to it, we can’t help organisations that aren’t committed to introducing lasting change. And if I’m being honest, I’d personally much rather work with people and organisations that do want to do better.




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