All asset-centric organizations, especially those with multiple facilities, need to employ a proactive approach to avoid unscheduled downtime of their equipment. To that end, having a preventive maintenance program can be extremely helpful.
This tried and tested approach to setting up regular maintenance operations has been known to significantly cut down on downtime, improve the longevity of expensive assets, and boost company-wide productivity.
However, successfully creating, executing, and maintaining a PM plan isn’t so easy.
If you’re currently struggling with setting up your preventive maintenance program, keep reading. In this guide, we’ll dive into the basics of preventative maintenance, discuss how to set up a program, and then work our way towards explaining how to successfully implement one.
Let’s get started.
What is Preventive Maintenance?
Preventive maintenance (also known as preventative maintenance) is an approach that focuses on performing maintenance tasks on certain machinery, equipment, and other assets on a regular basis. The goal is to keep the company assets up and running through regular inspections and maintenance work, instead of waiting for equipment failure.
This is the key point of differentiation between preventive maintenance and reactive maintenance. In the latter maintenance strategy, the maintenance team only takes action when certain assets break down.
Keeping that in mind, a company that only relies on reactive maintenance risks dealing with high unscheduled downtimes (this approach is only suitable for certain assets, such as light bulbs, spark plugs, etc.).
Compared to reactive maintenance, preventive maintenance requires ample planning, inspections, and certain use of technology.
Preventive maintenance is also different from predictive maintenance, in which maintenance managers use complex asset-monitoring tools to predict failures and take actions before the equipment breaks down.
Predictive maintenance relies on the use of Internet-of-Things (IoT) that enable maintenance teams to collect, store, and analyze data in real-time. This makes predictive maintenance a lot more complicated than preventive maintenance.
Types of Preventive Maintenance
Based on the nature of assets and how they’re supposed to be maintained, there are two (broad) types of preventive maintenance, including:
- Time-Based Preventive Maintenance – this is the most common approach to preventive maintenance. It relies on careful preventive maintenance scheduling, which entails setting up iterative maintenance work orders at regular time intervals.
- Usage-Based Preventive Maintenance – in this approach, the maintenance work is performed based on how much the pieces of equipment are used. Changing a vehicle’s oils after being driven for certain miles, changing a spinning disk after a certain number of rotations, etc. are examples of usage-based PM.
Depending on the type of assets a company is using (along with the resources it has), it can use either one or both types.
What is a Preventive Maintenance Program?
A preventive maintenance program is a set of policies, procedures, talent, and tools designated with the intent to consistently maintain company-owned assets on a regular basis. An effective PM program provides a roadmap for maintenance to managers, mechanics, and technicians.
Maintenance managers, in collaboration with relevant stakeholders in the organization, create and implement the preventative maintenance program. Of course, this isn’t easy and requires careful assessment of assets, allocation of resources, scheduling, and back-to-back communication.
The goal is to automate the maintenance tasks as much as possible, as opposed to waiting for maintenance-related problems to occur and then taking actions. If you're interested in learning more via video, then watch below. Otherwise, skip ahead.
Before anything else, the organization needs to set up a preventive maintenance program. This involves taking the following steps:
1. Set Clear Goals
A preventive maintenance plan without a clear vision won’t be much beneficial to the organization.
To ensure that your program works, you need to set goals and use certain KPIs to see if your company is on its way to achieving said goals.
The goals should guide all the managerial decisions, preventive maintenance tasks, and anything else related to the PM program.
At the most basic level, the main underlying goal for any program is the same – to keep the assets up and running.
However, for maximum efficiency, you need to dig deeper and set specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely (S.M.A.R.T) goals.
Your goals should be based on the specific strategic objectives of your organization i.e. what does your company hope to accomplish in both the short-run and the long-run?
Do you wish to maximize profits? Is your goal to become a leading powerhouse of productivity in your industry? Do you wish to cut down on your costs by a certain percentage?
You should then tie your PM goals with your broader strategic objectives. Once that has been finalized, select a relevant metric or two to measure. Here are some popular ones:
- Maintenance Costs – while this is the most basic KPI, it can be tricky to measure. Make sure that you’re factoring in everything when calculating the final cost.
- Unplanned Downtime – how often does your equipment fail? If your goal is to minimize downtime, you should consider using this metric.
- Productivity – depending on the nature of your core operations, there are a lot of ways “productivity” can be measured. Some examples include number of units manufactured, hours of operation, miles driven, etc.
Now that you know where you want to end up, it’s time to look at where you currently stand. This brings us to the next step:
2. Assess the Existing Conditions of Your Assets
A company can have anywhere from a handful to thousands of assets.
All of these assets could vary significantly in terms of their cost, age, and level of required care.
To ensure that you prioritize your resources (this includes time, talent, and of course, capital), you need to perform a careful inventory analysis – an important aspect of asset management.
This entails doing a count of all your assets, classifying them in terms of cost, importance, and required maintenance (certain critical assets require more care than others), and documenting everything along the way.
Once you’ve prioritized everything, you can begin allocating preventive maintenance work orders, allocating a budget, and creating a PM schedule accordingly.
3. Create a Preventive Maintenance Schedule (and/or Set Alerts)
With all the foundational steps out of the way, it’s time to get into the actual work.
However, before you create a schedule, you need to create a formal maintenance checklist. This checklist should include all of the PM tasks that your team needs to take care of.
Of course, the tasks should be prioritized according to the in-depth assessment of the assets performed in the previous step.
Furthermore, it’s highly recommended that you create a properly-formatted preventive maintenance checklist, specifying the main tasks, as opposed to simply listing what needs to be done. Don’t worry about the how (i.e. the workflow) just yet.
Once you’ve created a checklist for routine maintenance, the next step is to create a formal schedule. In other words, plan out your preventive maintenance program for a defined period of time (usually a year). You’ll need to plan your work orders in advance on a calendar.
You may also take a different approach to work order management, and set alerts that trigger maintenance tasks (usage-based maintenance). However, you’ll need to leverage meters/IoT tech to get these alerts.
4. Create Crystal-Clear Workflows
In the context of maintenance planning, “workflow” refers to all the processes that take place from the initiation of a work order to its completion.
Maintenance managers need to come up with effective workflows that can be implemented each time. This can save hours in maintenance, boost productivity, and reduce asset downtime.
Without properly defined workflows, every time you deal with equipment failure, you’re going to face a new struggle.
The maintenance staff should be on the same page about how to deal with or plan for asset failure, the step-by-step maintenance procedures for different assets, and how to report on everything.
For preventive maintenance, you only need to concern yourself with how to maintain a piece of equipment, since you’ve already created work orders in advance.
When creating the step-by-step maintenance blueprint for your technicians, always refer to the manufacturer's recommendations.
Leave no room for confusion, and ensure that the technicians have a way of seeking instant technical support in case they come across a problem that’s beyond their expertise.
5. Implement a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)
As mentioned above, the goal of any preventive maintenance program is to more or less automate the maintenance task.
However, when you manage everything manually and only rely on paperwork, your program isn’t likely to succeed.
To that end, you need a decent preventive maintenance software to streamline everything and ease time-consuming tasks.
More specifically, you need a CMMS software.
Modern platforms come packed with cutting-edge features that can help you manage schedules, leverage meters to assess the conditions of your assets in real-time, stay in touch with your maintenance staff, and much more.
All in all, with a CMMS, maintenance management becomes a breeze.
Today, there are a lot of software on the market. Spend some time to understand your requirements, conduct extensive market research, choose a program with care, and collaborate with the vendor to establish a training program.
How to Implement a Preventive Maintenance Program
All of the aforementioned steps will help you create a preventive maintenance program from scratch. However, there’s still a lot of work left to do.
You’re now all set to implement your program, which is just as important as designing one.
Here’s what you should do:
1. Involve Your Key Stakeholders
First and foremost, you need to get all of the key stakeholders onboard with the program.
Arguably, you should do this before actually creating your program. However, in case you haven’t had an in-depth discussion with the other board of directors regarding the effectiveness of your PM plan, now might be a good time to start.
Keep in mind that your preventive maintenance program won’t be only beneficial to the maintenance department, but the entire organization. In other words, a well-designed program can have a positive impact on the bottom-line of the company.
All of these benefits should be clearly communicated to all of the key stakeholders in the organization. This will help you gain company-wide support and fast-track the implementation process.
2. Share the Preventative Maintenance Program Across the Organization
After gaining the support of the board of directors, it’s time to formally introduce your new PM program to the rest of the organization.
There are many ways you can go about doing this.
Here are some ideas:
- Hold a company-wide meeting where you introduce the program to the entire staff.
- Create a dedicated landing page on the company’s website where you share everything there is to know about your program and instruct all relevant employees to check it out.
- Conduct a special seminar of some sorts where you invite all of your maintenance personnel, introduce the program, and entertain queries.
You can also do this by shooting a simple email to all of your employees.
At the end of the day, you know your organization and its culture better than anyone else. Think of an appropriate way of introducing your preventive maintenance program.
3. Develop and Implement a Training Program
If you don’t have a formal training program in place that helps your maintenance technicians get up-to-speed with the policies, workflows, and your CMMS, you won’t reap the full benefits of having a PM plan.
Like any program, you should first start with specifying your goals. These could include:
- Make all the maintenance technicians proficient in the company’s CMMS.
- Make sure all maintenance personnel understand the objectives of the PM program.
- Teach staff members how to request work orders, provide maintenance, and report back to their supervisors.
By pin-pointing your special requirements, you can start focusing on the right areas.
You can also consult your CMMS vendor. Most modern vendors offer on-site training, along with educational material.
Once you’ve taken care of the basics, the only thing left to do is to implement your training program.
Additionally, make sure that you gather feedback from your maintenance supervisors and use appropriate metrics to gauge the effectiveness of training.
4. Track, Report, and Improve
Last but not least, make sure that you consistently measure the results of your PM program.
Go back to the metrics you decided on, collect all that data, and analyze everything.
As mentioned before, having a computerized maintenance management system can make things significantly easier, as you’ll be able to gather data in real-time, run smart analysis, and make better decisions.
Why Successful Implementation of a Preventive Maintenance Plan Matters
There are immense benefits of preventive maintenance. However, without proper implementation, you won’t reap those benefits.
A successful preventive maintenance program is one that is carefully designed, formally implemented, and consistently measured.
If you tick those three boxes, you can:
Make Every Dollar Count
Maintenance isn’t exactly cheap – especially if you have heavy machinery, such as aircraft, forklifts, and manufacturing equipment.
Compromising on the upkeep of such assets can result in costly repairs, unnecessary delays, or worse, fatal accidents.
With proper implementation, you can ensure that every dollar you spend on your program is put to good use. A program that lacks planning could end up burning hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Get Everyone Onboard
Another important reason for proper implementation is to have everyone on board.
If your team members don’t fully understand the potential of preventive maintenance, along with the goals of the program, they’ll never appreciate it.
A formal introduction to the program and extensive training will do the trick.
Expand the Lifetime of Your Assets
Finally, with the help of a solid preventive maintenance program, you can increase the longevity of your critical equipment.
This includes everything – from movable assets to fixed systems like HVAC. It could cost up to several thousand dollars to repair or replace company equipment. The only way to avoid that is by providing regular maintenance.
Wrapping it Up
An effective preventive maintenance program isn’t designed and implemented overnight. It takes a while to get the basics down, tweak the program, and perfect everything.
The key is being patient – this is one strategic aspect that cannot be rushed. Seek the support of the upper-management, think long-term, and you’ll succeed in achieving your maintenance-related objectives.
Josh is a partner at Maintenance Manager HQ.