Launching a Predictive Maintenance Program? Do These 7 Things First

Predictive Maintenance (PdM) technologies can help manufacturers reduce downtime by 50 percent. They also play a role in increasing equipment life spans by as much as 40 percent.

So, it’s no surprise that analysts expect the predictive maintenance market to reach $25 billion by 2025. Translation: PdM is the future of industrial maintenance.

But, despite its growing popularity, predictive maintenance isn’t the right choice for every organization. Deploying a successful predictive maintenance program—that delivers on the abovementioned statistics—requires several elements already in place.

Consequently, organizations that rush PdM programs often find themselves “throwing in the towel” before seeing the promises they’ve read about in action. Are you considering launching a predictive maintenance program in your organization?

If so, this article is for you. Here we’ll outline the seven actions operational managers should take before initiating predictive maintenance programs. Let’s kick things off with a quick review of how PdM works.

How Do Predictive Maintenance Programs Work?

Predictive maintenance (PdM) is an advanced maintenance strategy that allows maintenance teams to monitor the conditions of their assets in real-time.

The goal of PdM is to only perform preventive maintenance (PM) when absolutely needed. With PdM, sensor-based technologies used in conjunction with computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) help maintenance teams schedule PMs precisely, thus eliminating the risk of costly over-maintenance and under-maintenance.

Machine learning technologies enable PdM program leaders to establish baseline patterns of normal asset functionality. Any equipment behavior that doesn’t fall within agreed-upon parameters gets scheduled for inspection, maintenance, or repairs.

Benefits of Predictive Maintenance Programs

Most industrial maintenance departments could benefit from integrating some form of PdM technologies into their workflows.

Successful predictive maintenance programs accomplish three objectives:

  • Minimize unplanned downtime to maximize asset uptime, reliability, and productivity.
  • Reduce operational costs by handling problems before they become labor and/or parts intensive.
  • Increase asset lifespans (by reducing the frequency and severity of breakdowns).

According to a PwC survey, 51 percent of organizations adopt predictive maintenance with the primary goal of improving asset uptime.

Other cited reasons for performing PdM include improved customer satisfaction and production numbers, as well as maintenance cost reduction, risk reduction, and longer asset lifespan.

7 Things to Do before Starting a PdM Program

If the cost of doing repairs or purchasing new assets in the immediate future outweighs the cost of installing predictive maintenance systems, your organization is a strong candidate for PdM. Why? Because that means you’re likely losing money in the long run by not investing in the technology that would reduce repairs and premature asset replacements!

But launching a complex program at the wrong time could do more harm than good! PdM technologies necessitate huge costs, significant learning curves, and commitment to consistency. Below are seven actions worth taking before getting started with predictive maintenance:

1. Familiarize Yourself with PdM Elements

To successfully implement a PdM program, you need the following tools:

  • The Internet of Things (IoT): Data collected by sensor devices is only valid when stored, interpreted, and acted upon. This is where industrial IoT comes in. Sensors share equipment data with a central information system through IoT technology for analysis.
  • Predictive Maintenance Formulas: PdM formulas rely on predetermined algorithms that make comparisons between an asset’s current behavior and its expected behavior. Operational managers flag behavioral indicators outside of established norms before assigning a PM for the deteriorating asset.
  • Condition-Monitoring Equipment: Condition-monitoring equipment (sensor devices) is a critical component of predictive maintenance. It enables you to collect and analyze data to evaluate asset wear and tear in real-time. Examples of PdM sensor devices include vibration analysis equipment, ultrasonic technology, and infrared thermography cameras. Facilities use these tools to measure electrical current, corrosion, oil, noise, vibration, pressure, and temperature levels.
  • Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS): CMMS serves as a central organizational tool for interpreting meter data, cataloging asset information, writing standard operating procedures, and assigning digital work orders. This is the last piece of the PdM puzzle that brings everything together into meaningful plans of action.

2. Learn about Predictive Maintenance Types

Industries currently using predictive maintenance include manufacturing, automotive, aviation, marine, medicine, power & energy, waste management, food & beverage, and oil & gas. These sectors use four primary types of predictive maintenance, including:

1. Vibrational Analysis

This type of PdM monitors the vibrational deviations of machinery. It’s used in manufacturing plants to inform maintenance decisions for high-rotating machines.

Vibrational analysis helps detect equipment misalignments, loose parts, and imbalances. Plant managers also can conduct analysis to identify wear and tear on bearings.

2. Acoustical Analysis

Acoustical analyses diagnose equipment malfunctions via soundwave patterns. Industrial maintenance professionals use them to detect liquid, gas, and vacuum leaks within machinery. The two kinds of acoustical analysis are:

  • Sonic Acoustical Analysis: Sonic analysis is similar to vibrational analysis, but maintenance professionals specifically use it for high- and low-rotating mechanical equipment. It helps ensure machines are proactively lubricated.
  • Ultrasonic Acoustical Analysis: Maintenance technicians use this type of analysis to identify specific stress and friction sounds within ultrasonic ranges. They use it for both mechanical and electrical equipment. It’s a bit more reliable than sonic analysis.

3. Infrared Analysis

Infrared analysis involves monitoring equipment temperatures using infrared (IR) thermography to identify areas of high temperatures (hot spots) in the equipment.

The tool helps identify fuses that are nearing capacity and faulty terminals in electronic equipment. It can also help to identify airflow, cooling, and motor stress problems. Infrared analysis is also referred to as non-destructive or non-intrusive testing.

4. Oil Analysis

Mechanics and those in the transportation industry use oil analysis technologies to scan engine oils for purity. It’s an effective tool for testing viscosity, water leakage, particle counts, and acid/base levels. Maintenance professionals use their initial oil analysis results as a baseline for new, similar machines.

3. Level-up Asset Data Management

Next, you need to collect asset data—lots of it! The more information you collect, the more accurate your predictive maintenance program will function.

Your team can gather historical data from maintenance records, CMMS software databases, and even from talking to the machine operators who work with the equipment day in and day out. Manufacturer manuals also provide valuable benchmarks for getting started.

The data you collect will become the baseline for your PdM program. Accurate equipment maintenance data ensures your program starts on solid footing.

With that said, don’t stop at data collection! PM schedule optimization is dependent on data analysis. Invest in a robust asset data management system and predictive analytics software to help make sense of the information you’re accumulating.

4. Differentiate between Critical and Non-Critical Equipment

The next step is to differentiate between your plant’s critical and non-critical assets. Critical assets impact production, profitability, and safety. Alternatively, non-critical assets pose no immediate threat to such things when idle or malfunctioning.

For this reason, your default for non-critical assets can be run-to-failure maintenance. Also known as reactive maintenance, this type of upkeep entails repairing assets after they have broken down. On the other hand, asset failures that pose high-risk consequences deserve preventive care.

How does one differentiate between critical and non-critical assets? Identify production process bottlenecks, the pieces of equipment creating said bottlenecks, and the overall impact of their failure modes. Then, perform a Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) to determine which pieces of equipment to focus on optimizing most heavily.

What Is FMEA?

FMEA is a production analysis designed to assess the potential causes of operational failures related to product design, assembly line production, and manufacturing equipment breakdowns.

Industrial maintenance managers use FMEA to categorize the frequency, severity, and difficulty of detecting critical equipment failure modes. This, in turn, helps them to brainstorm solutions and prioritize which pieces of equipment to optimize first.

Click here to read: What Is FMEA? Failure Mode and Effects Analysis for Beginners

5. Fine-tune Standard Operating Procedures

If you haven’t already, review your team’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). SOPs are documented protocols that show employees how to complete routine tasks in a step-by-step manner.

Regardless of who is completing the PM, they should do so, in the same manner, every time to ensure consistent results. The best maintenance departments regularly review their SOPs, searching for new ways to improve upon existing processes.

The volume of your plant’s SOPs will depend on your company’s size, industry, and scope of operations.

With that said, good SOP programs share the following characteristics:

  • Minimize miscommunication between technicians and managers.
  • Eliminate unnecessary steps that stall processes.
  • Streamline maintenance technician onboarding.
  • Boost accountability across the department.
  • Streamline maintenance workflows.
  • Reduce human errors.

Click here to read: 8 Tips for Developing Standard Operating Procedures (that Get Used)

6. Adopt a User-Friendly CMMS

As mentioned earlier, a robust CMMS is integral to PdM program success. It gives your maintenance team instant access to historical asset data, translates that data into meaningful metrics, and allows for real-time monitoring of PM efforts.

Word to the wise: give careful consideration when evaluating CMMS options. The biggest mistake we’ve seen organizations make is selecting a platform that:

  1. doesn’t deliver on its promises and
  2. proves too complicated to navigate “out of the box.”

Ideally, every team member should be able to figure out how to use the CMMS without sitting through hours-long training seminars. Of course, this was our primary goal when creating MaintainX—the world’s first work order software with chat.

Factors to Consider When Shopping for a CMMS

  • Versatility: You don’t have the same maintenance needs as your competitors. Therefore, you should be able to customize your CMMS solution to meet your team’s specific needs. The most versatile programs include a variety of features like offline mode, PDF exports, low inventory alerts, recurring work orders, and procedural templates that make it easy to integrate the software into what you’re already doing.
  • Cloud-Based: CMMS providers deploy platforms in one of two different ways: on-premise or cloud-hosted. There are no advantages to using on-premise software at this point. It’s expensive, cumbersome, and time-consuming to keep the software up to date. The primary organizations that rely on old-school software are government sectors that require the highest level of security. Alternatively, cloud-hosted CMMS is accessible via an Internet connection for low, monthly, per-user fees.
  • Scalability: Another advantage of cloud-based software is its inherent scalability. Splitting the cost of remote hosting between users allows CMMS providers to increase bandwidth quickly. This means customers can add more users as their maintenance department’s size, objectives, and goals change over time.
  • Vendor Credibility: While longevity is typically a reliable quality indicator in the marketplace, it isn’t with work order software. Some of the oldest businesses on the block offer the most outdated software options. Instead, pay attention to CMMS product reviews on third-party sites like Capterra, the Apple App Store, and Google Play. What are users saying about the company’s customer service, the app’s usability, and the features most integral to your initiatives?
  • Data Integration: The last thing you want is to lose asset data during migration. Choose a CMMS that offers user-friendly import templates that make data transfer a breeze.

After getting a user-friendly CMMS product, it’s crucial to integrate your assets into the CMMS in a manner that doesn’t confuse team members.

Click here to read: What’s in a Name? CMMS Asset Naming Conventions

7. Train Workers to Calculate Predictive Maintenance Program Metrics

Once you connect your sensor devices to your CMMS, technicians will begin receiving alerts when anomalies appear. It’s pointless to invest in ultrasonic lubricators or thermography imaging tools when your technicians don’t know how to properly analyze the data they provide.

Be prepared to teach your maintenance technicians how the new technology works, calculate PdM metrics, and act upon real-time data. Factor in the aptitudes, technical skills, and experience levels of your relevant team members when mapping out your training program.

Click here to read: The Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Maintenance Metrics

Simplify PdM Execution with MaintainX

Every business has its unique maintenance needs, objectives, and goals. However, deploying predictive maintenance for critical assets can bring significant returns on investments. The benefits far outweigh the upfront costs—if you have identified your facility’s most critical assets, fine-tuned your SOPs, adopted a user-friendly CMMS, and taught workers how to interpret PdM metrics.

Alternatively, if you haven’t yet devoted time to any one of these areas, we recommend hitting pause on your launch plans. Are you looking for a simple, yet powerful CMMS solution? Download MaintainX CMMS today—our basic plan is always free.

Still not sure? Check out the Apple App Store, Google Play, or Capterra to read MaintainX customer reviews like the ones above.


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Ashley Gwilliam

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