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Problem-solving approaches in maintenance cost management: a literature review

Fazel Ansari (Institute of Knowledge-Based Systems, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)
Madjid Fathi (Institute of Knowledge-Based Systems, Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)
Ulrich Seidenberg (Institute of Production and Logistics Management, School of Economic Disciplines, University of Siegen, Siegen, Germany)

Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering

ISSN: 1355-2511

Article publication date: 10 October 2016



The purpose of this paper is to investigate the use of problem-solving approaches in maintenance cost management (MCM). In particular, the paper aims to examine characteristics of MCM models and to identify patterns for classification of problem-solving approaches.


This paper reflects an extensive and detailed literature survey of 68 (quantitative or qualitative) cost models within the scope of MCM published in the period from 1969 to 2013. The reviewed papers have been critically examined and classified based on implementing a morphological analysis which employs eight criteria and associated expressions. In addition, the survey identified two main perspectives of problem solving: first, synoptic/incremental and second, heuristics/meta-heuristics.


The literature survey revealed the patterns for classification of the MCM models, especially the characteristics of the models for problem-solving in association with the type of modeling, focus of purpose, extent and scope of application, and reaction and dynamics of parameters. Majority of the surveyed approaches is mathematical, respectively, synoptic. Incremental approaches are much less and only few are combined (i.e. synoptic and incremental). A set of features is identified for proper classification, selection, and coexistence of the two approaches.

Research limitations/implications

This paper provides a basis for further study of heuristic and meta-heuristic approaches to problem-solving. Especially the coexistence of heuristic, synoptic, and incremental approaches needs to be further investigated.

Practical implications

The detected dominance of synoptic approaches in literature – especially in the case of specific application areas – contrasts to some extent to the needs of maintenance managers in practice. Hence the findings of this paper particularly address the need for further investigation on combining problem-solving approaches for improving planning, monitoring, and controlling phases of MCM. Continuous improvement of MCM, especially problem-solving and decision-making activities, is tailored to the use of maintenance knowledge assets. In particular, maintenance management systems and processes are knowledge driven. Thus, combining problem-solving approaches with knowledge management methods is of interest, especially for continuous learning from past experiences in MCM.


This paper provides a unique study of 68 problem-solving approaches in MCM, based on a morphological analysis. Hence suitable criteria and their expressions are provided. The paper reveals the opportunities for further interdisciplinary research in the maintenance cost life cycle.



Ansari, F., Fathi, M. and Seidenberg, U. (2016), "Problem-solving approaches in maintenance cost management: a literature review", Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering, Vol. 22 No. 4, pp. 334-352.



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