Increasing world competition puts pressure on sales volumes and prices. This in turn increases the focus on costs. This in turn reduces potential profit margins. Increasing demands on quality and service puts pressure on delivery performance -the right product at the right time. '[his in turn reduces the scope for errors and delays -and this in turn increases focus on equipment reliability. In the mining industry, both costs and equipment reliability have one significant thing in common -they are driven ~;ubstantially by maintenance. ]~aintenance, once the Cinderella of the boardroom, is a pivotal 'function and demands management attention and, if Inanaged well, can be a source of competitive advantage. They JlIlade the decision to put maintenance high on their agendas because they realised that good maintenance is a vital factclr in achieving excellence. lv1aintenance, because of its impact on return on capital, is a key drilver of performance. By reducing maintenance coSts, (:ompanies can improve their performance. Top managers are increasingly recognising that maintenance is an area in which they must be involved. As Australian mining and metallw.gical companies look to the year 2000 and beyond, maintenance will become an increasingly strategic function, capable of delivering sustainable competitive advantage to those companies that get it right.