March 4, 2022


How to Start a Preventive Maintenance Program from Scratch

How to Start a Preventive Maintenance Program from Scratch

The key to cutting costs, increasing reliability, and extending equipment life spans is executing a consistent preventive maintenance (PM) program—on the right assets.  

Manufacturers that mostly rely on reactive maintenance lose between $10,000 and $250,000 for every hour of downtime. And SMBs lose an average of $137 to $427 per minute of IT downtime. While downtime affects no two businesses exactly alike, the outcome is always the same: lost company resources that you could have better used elsewhere. 

While performing scheduled maintenance itself isn’t complicated, launching a program from scratch can be challenging. Often, maintenance managers know what to do; they just aren’t sure how to get started and in what order to do things. 

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If you fall into this category, this post provides a quick, step-by-step guide on how to develop a preventive maintenance program from scratch. Follow the steps outlined below to start from wherever you are—regardless of industry and business size—right now.

How to Start a Preventive Maintenance Program

Before we begin, let’s review the difference between reactive maintenance and preventive maintenance. Reactive maintenance refers to repairs completed after equipment has broken down.

Since these repairs aren’t planned, reactive maintenance is ideal for assets that are either a) non-essential for operations or b) inexpensive enough to fix regularly. Alternatively, preventive maintenance involves regularly performing maintenance activities that prevent unexpected breakdowns and their associated expenses.

preventive maintenance program

1. Establish Clear Goals 

The three most common stumbling blocks organizations face when initiating preventive maintenance (PM) programs are:

  • Lack of available manpower, finances, and time.
  • Inefficient preventive maintenance management systems.
  • Uncertainty about which assets should receive PM first.

The good news is you don’t have to perform scheduled maintenance on every asset. Pieces of equipment critical to production, quality, safety, and service delivery are prime candidates for preventive maintenance programs. Leave everything else for reactive maintenance, as usual.

Furthermore, you don’t need a huge budget to develop an organized system that supports consistent results. For these reasons, it’s essential to start the process by outlining clear program goals. Examples of potential program goals include reduced equipment downtime, improved work completion rates, maximized production time, and increased asset reliability.  

Ask your organization’s machine operators, maintenance technicians, and other key stakeholders for their input early in the process. Their feedback will be integral to establishing effective priorities, making future hires, outlining standard operating procedures (SOPs), and setting your preventive maintenance program up for success. 

preventive maintenance program

2. Inventory Your Assets

Once you have everyone on board, take an inventory of the assets you want to include in your preventive maintenance program. Tracking asset history regularly will play a crucial role in your PM strategy. 

Monitoring asset data will ensure your team doesn’t perform too much preventive maintenance on one asset at the expense of others. It will also reveal maintenance spending patterns, worker inefficiencies, and optimal timeframes for asset replacements as you fine-tune your program.

Details to record while taking an asset inventory include:

  • Make/model
  • Serial number
  • Unit number/brass tag number
  • Category (e.g., plumbing or HVAC)
  • Location
  • Specifications
  • Department or team responsible for upkeep
  • High-cost parts associated with the asset

Also, take into account the current condition of the asset and its priority level in relation to productivity and workplace safety. You can use an Excel spreadsheet or a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) to organize your data. These pieces of information will play an important role in your next step:

3. Conduct a Criticality Analysis

A criticality analysis refers to the process of rating the importance of assets based on their potential risks. In this instance, we define risk as any possible ways failure can occur and how such failures might impact organizational productivity, expenses, and safety. 

Taking the time to rank the importance of your assets will help determine which routine maintenance tasks you should schedule first, according to available resources. Tasks that are critical to production/safety AND have high repair/replacement costs you should consider high-priority assignments.

Alternatively, you should give less priority to maintenance work on equipment that is not critical to production/safety AND has low repair/replacement costs. Non-critical, inexpensive, and worn-out assets are most often better candidates for reactive maintenance. The process sounds easy enough until you try to weigh competing priorities against one another.

predictive maintenance program

How to Do It

Unsurprisingly, criticality analyses can range from simple to complex. Advanced forms of the exercise used within the manufacturing sector involve setting an organizational risk matrix, assembling an asset hierarchy, assigning criticality scores, and mapping visual representations.

One way to illustrate data is with a 6×6 grid, plotting the probability of a failure against the severity of the failure. The process involves assigning each asset a risk priority number (RPN). Comprehensive approaches involve evaluating several, individual risk categories—customer impact, health and safety, mean time between failures (MTBF), spare parts lead time, and more—to determine worst-case failure scenarios for each asset. 

Managers assign each consequence a risk number, which is then added or multiplied against each category before yielding a final RPN. Most organizations employ a criticality score based on a 0-6 or 0-10 ranking for each category.

To learn how to conduct a comprehensive criticality analysis, check out this article from Reliable Plant. However, if you’re an SMB that just needs help with basic maintenance prioritization, follow the steps below to roughly gauge PM priority levels.

Gauging Priority Levels  
  1. List Top Assets: Write down your most obviously important assets. To avoid overwhelm, don’t include more than 20 percent of all pieces of equipment. 
  1. Rank Criticality by Financial Impact: Use a formula to determine the financial impact of each asset. Equipment Criticality = Failure Frequency (per year) x Cost Consequence ($) = Risk ($ per year). Here, the cost consequence includes the cost of lost production plus repair costs. 
  1. Rank Criticality by Safety, Environment, and Health Impact: Consult with your team to determine which equipment breakdowns pose the greatest threat to worker and customer safety. Rank those items from highest safety risk to lowest safety risk.
  1. Assess Likelihood of Failure: Individual assets may pose several unique failure events, each with entirely different associated risks. For this reason, reliability consultants recommend only choosing the failure event that poses the greatest likelihood of occurring for each asset. Rank your assets from greatest to least likelihood of failure. 
  1. Combine Findings: If you’ve been using a points system, add your individual RPN categories to generate a total RPN for each asset. Then, divide the total RPN by the total weighted points possible, multiplied by 100. Finally, analyze your findings to determine the assets most essential to your organization’s goals.

Again, if you’re a small organization just getting started, don’t feel pressured to conduct an official criticality analysis. However, developing some kind of ranking system will help your team choose an ideal risk mitigation strategy and maintenance schedule for each asset.

4. Choose Your Preventive Maintenance Program KPIs

Next, establish key performance indicators (KPIs) that align with your maintenance program goals. These metrics will help determine whether or not your PM program is effective along the way. Consistently identifying your maintenance program’s strengths and weaknesses is the only way to experience steady progress and long-term success. 

MaintainX KPIs

Common Preventive Maintenance Management KPIs

Scheduled Maintenance Critical Percent (SMCP)

SMCP is used to determine which overdue maintenance tasks should be given priority. It measures how late a recurring maintenance activity is in relation to how often it should be performed. Calculate SMCP by adding the number of days a task is overdue to the length of the maintenance cycle. Then, divide by the length of the maintenance cycle and multiply by 100 to get your percentage: 

SMCP= (Number of Days Overdue + Length of Maintenance Cycle) ÷ Length of Maintenance Cycle x 100

Prioritize the maintenance tasks with the highest percentages. SMCP helps you track and clear overdue maintenance tasks depending on their criticality while more efficiently using resources.

Planned Maintenance Percentage (PMP)

PMP is used to track the number of planned maintenance activities compared to the overall number of maintenance tasks. It helps to determine the total number of hours spent on planned maintenance within a given period. 

PMP = # of Planned Maintenance Hours ÷ # of Total Maintenance Hours × 100

Use PMP to track the health of your preventive maintenance program and identify opportunities to minimize reactive maintenance. You can also use it to identify inefficiencies, failures, and ineffective processes in your PM program.

Preventive Maintenance Compliance (PMC)

PMC tracks the effectiveness of preventive maintenance programs by checking process efficiency. The metric illustrates how many PM tasks you’ve completed on schedule within a given period. Calculate PMC by dividing the number of completed PM orders by the number of scheduled work orders and then multiplying by 100 to get a percentage: 

PMC = Number of Completed PMs ÷ Number of Scheduled PMs x 100

For example, if you completed 40 of 50 scheduled tasks in a given month,  your PMC would be 80 percent. 

Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF)

MTBF refers to the average time between asset breakdowns. You can use MTBF to measure the performance, design, and safety of critical assets. Managers also refer to the metric when determining asset reliability. Only unplanned downtimes should be factored in when making your calculations. Calculate MTBF by dividing the total number of operational hours by the number of failures within a given period.

MTBF = Number of Operational Hours ÷ Number of Failures

For example, the MTBF for an asset that was in operation for 1,000 hours in a year and broke down eight times is 125 hours. You will need data based on actual asset performance records to calculate MTBF accurately.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE)

OEE is used to measure the level of productivity for an asset. It combines asset availability, performance, and production quality to indicate how efficient the asset is during production. OEE is calculated by multiplying availability, performance, and quality and is represented by a percentage.

OEE = Availability x Performance x Quality x 100

An asset with an OEE of 100 percent doesn’t experience any unplanned downtime (availability), produces as fast as possible (performance), and doesn’t have any defects (quality).

5. Determine Ideal PM Ratios

Excessive maintenance overshadows the financial benefits of preventive maintenance and inefficient utility worker hours. This is why it’s important to determine the ideal preventive maintenance ratios for your unique assets and work environment. 

First, consult your equipment manufacturer’s manuals. These manuals contain useful information detailing recommended maintenance schedules, work instructions, and critical spare parts. 

Next, delve into your organization’s historical maintenance data for unique insights into asset failure patterns. Additionally, machine operators and maintenance technicians who work with the assets can provide useful insights on asset behaviors. 

6. Schedule Your PMs 

At this stage, you’re finally ready to schedule your preventive maintenance activities. Word to the wise: don’t try to tackle everything at once. We recommend creating a long-term (yearly) maintenance schedule before breaking high-priority tasks down into a short-term schedule (quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily). A user-friendly Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) like MaintainX will make assigning, overseeing, and adjusting your PM program infinitely easier.

preventive maintenance program
MaintainX Preventive Maintenance Schedule

MaintainX’s desktop and mobile CMMS allows operational managers to create, assign, and monitor recurring work orders; track historical asset data in the cloud; communicate with team members via work order commenting, direct messaging, and group messaging; manage inventory supplies with automated alerts; and glean cost-savings opportunities from advanced reporting capabilities. 

7. Train Your Team

Operator error accounts for up to 12 percent of unplanned downtimes. No matter how carefully you plan your preventive maintenance program, it’s likely to fail if you don’t onboard the workers responsible for maintaining your assets. 

Organize training sessions for employees who work with the assets to be maintained. Also, be sure to write work instructions in simple, easy-to-understand language. You also should provide employees with additional learning resources for reference. Ensure they understand when and how to perform scheduled maintenance.

8. Monitor Preventive Maintenance Program Success

Monitor your chosen KPIs, ask for team member feedback, and make small adjustments accordingly. Remember: you will never eliminate all downtime. 

Instead, focus on progress by determining how many PMs have been performed on critical assets and how many times those assets have failed since the program began. You should be able to determine whether you should reduce or increase your PM activities based on this data. If your team isn’t meeting its goals, conduct a root cause analysis to identify where inefficiencies are occurring and correct course. 

Streamline Preventive Maintenance Programs with MaintainX

As the saying goes, the journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step. It’s easy to create an effective preventive maintenance program with the right resources. But experiencing sustained improvements requires consistent organization, commitment, and teamwork over time. 

You can set your team up for success by streamlining your efforts with the help of a mobile-friendly CMMS platform like MaintainX. We provide an ultra user-friendly CMMS that provides everything busy maintenance managers need to track assets, manage inventory, assign PMs, and evaluate preventive maintenance program progress. 

Organizations switching from analog maintenance management methods save up to 20 to 30 operational management hours per week after switching to MaintainX

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Caroline Eisner
Caroline Eisner
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