August 26, 2019


What is Planned Maintenance? (And How to Make a Maintenance Schedule)

What is Planned Maintenance? (And How to Make a Maintenance Schedule)

Planned maintenance is a necessity for most businesses. Machinery, HVAC units, data networks, and other important assets must remain in reliable condition to meet production and service goals. Organizations that primarily operate in reactive- maintenance mode risk the severe cost of downtime. 

According to a 2016 Ponemon Institute report, the average cost of downtime is nearly $9,000 per minute for large businesses and $137 to $427 per minute for SMBs. Of course, downtime expenses vary based on industry vertical, organization size, and business model. However, one thing remains the same across the board: strategically planned maintenance programs increase bottom lines. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the meaning of planned maintenance. We’ll also outline the advantages and disadvantages of planned maintenance, the components of planned maintenance systems, how to create a maintenance schedule, and other helpful tips. After reading, you’ll be on your way to greater reliability and savings.

What is Planned Maintenance? (And How to Make a Maintenance Schedule)

planned maintenance

The Meaning of Planned Maintenance (PM)

Planned maintenance is a maintenance approach focused on minimizing equipment downtime and quickly returning to uptime after breakdowns. 

PM requires knowing in advance which spare parts, tools, and tasks are needed to solve potential problems. Common assets serviced within planned maintenance programs often include filters, equipment belts such as conveyor belts, vehicles, calibration instruments, compressors, HVAC systems, and light bulbs. 

Does your organization schedule regular maintenance activities? If so, you’re already practicing a simple form of planned maintenance. Maintenance planning doesn’t have to be fancy. However, as you’ll see in this article, there are several ways to improve maintenance systems. 

Planned maintenance breaks down into two categories:

1. Preventative Maintenance

As the term suggests, preventive maintenance (PM) involves taking preventive actions to ensure pieces of equipment never come to an inconvenient and expensive halt. The heart of every PM program is a recurring schedule based on manufacturers’ recommendations for upkeep, historical behavior of assets, and available resources. 

The most widely recognized form of preventive maintenance involves automobiles. Cars come with service recommendations for specific mileage points. Those who diligently follow such recommendations add years to vehicle life spans. 

For example, you change the oil before the engine catches fire. You replace the fan belt before it snaps. Ignoring such recommended PM tasks increases the chances of hazardous breakdowns that often cost more to fix than periodic oil changes, tune-ups, and parts replacement.

Preventive maintenance is ideal for the following types of assets:

  • Assets with a critical operational function
  • Assets with high financial value
  • Assets with preventable failure modes
  • Assets with an increased likelihood of failure with use 
  • Assets with statutory requirements 

2. Planned Unscheduled Maintenance

Though the term may sound contradictory, it isn’t—planned unscheduled maintenance, also called run-to-failure maintenance, involves intentionally delaying upkeep until a piece of equipment breaks down. Why would an organization allow asset failures to happen? 

In some cases, the cost of reactive maintenance is less than the cost of planned unscheduled maintenance. While the breakdown itself is unscheduled, the maintenance team has a plan and tools in place to quickly restore the asset. 

For example, say you have a warehouse vehicle that frequently shorts a fuse and turns off. You would be wise to always have spare batteries on hand to fix the problem. However, the battery change isn’t scheduled because it only involves a quick trip to the supply closet. The bottom line: both preventive maintenance and planned unscheduled maintenance have a place within successful maintenance programs. 

Planned unscheduled maintenance is ideal for the following assets:

  • Redundant assets
  • Non-critical machinery
  • Assets with short lifespans
  • Assets with low financial value
  • Assets unlikely to fail
  • Assets in which repairs aren’t feasible
  • Single-use and inexpensive assets or parts
  • Assets with random failure patterns difficult to anticipate
  • Assets not subject to statutory maintenance requirements
planned maintenance

Which Maintenance Process Is Best? 

The simple answer is: one type of maintenance isn’t better than the other. Service one asset more than necessary, and you waste valuable time. Fail to service another asset enough, and you waste resources associated with the cost of downtime! The key to success is finding the right balance of preventive maintenance to planned unscheduled maintenance for your unique organization.  

And that comes from consistently monitoring downtime patterns, time spent on repairs, the cost of parts, and the cost of outsourced unplanned maintenance. A user-friendly Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) like MaintainX can help maintenance managers translate such data into meaningful insights. Patterns reveal which strategy is most cost-effective for assets over time. 

One MaintainX user boosted their work-hour utilization rate to 97 percent using the app’s Time & Cost Tracking Feature. Technicians consistently fulfill work orders without delays. Click the link below to learn more: 

Mobile CMMS: How One Fortune-500 Manufacturer Is Cutting Costs.

Next, a quick summary of the benefits of planned maintenance for critical, expensive, and prone-to-failure assets. 

The Benefits of Planned Maintenance Systems

CMMS software

Ask any operational manager or business owner if they would like their expensive equipment to last longer and breakdown less frequently— the answer is always a resounding “Yes.” Obvious and not-so-obvious benefits of scheduled PM include: 

  • Decreases Downtime: The most obvious benefit of preventive maintenance is that it allows technicians to resolve issues before they result in failure. 
  • Increases Asset Life Span: When it comes to complex machinery, regular upkeep prolongs the need for asset replacements. 
  • Reduces Maintenance Costs: Planned maintenance programs allow teams to efficiently handle breakdowns without spending extra capital on the expedited delivery of replacement parts or outsourced maintenance services.
  • Improves Workplace Safety: Assets operating in optimal condition ensure those in close proximity are safe. Equipment hazards are most common in manufacturing and industrial settings. 
  • Enhances Company Culture: Frequent unexpected downtime dampens employee morale, increases stress, and causes frustration. Facilities that minimize downtime foster greater contentment for all. 

As mentioned, scheduled maintenance does have its drawbacks. The biggest one being the potential for inspecting assets that don’t need upkeep. No maintenance manager wants his techs to waste time on low-priority projects, especially when they could be reducing the risk of expensive setbacks. Inefficient preventive maintenance programs are proven to increase maintenance costs over the long run. 

Data shows that the cost of dealing with unexpected equipment failures is often up to six times that of the cost of implementing PM systems. 

What a Maintenance Plan Should Include

Maintenance plans outline all maintenance tasks necessary to maintaining facility assets. Effective maintenance plans document company maintenance policies, trace exhaustive inventories of assets, and map workflows. 

Depending on a company’s level of preventive maintenance-program experience, a maintenance plan may be simple or exceedingly intricate. Different sizes and types of businesses require different levels of organizational systems. You may want to consider using a CMMS software program to streamline asset management, PM schedules, parts inventory, and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

MaintainX desktop
MaintainX CMMS desktop version

If you decide to ditch the paper stacks, consider choosing a mobile CMMS that can be used on both desktop and mobile. This way, technicians can use their smartphones to fill work orders and communicate with management while on the job. 

General maintenance plans include the following elements:

  • Maintenance Mission Statement: Base your maintenance strategies on a maintenance mission statement that both supports and is supported by your organization’s overall business plan. The best maintenance plans reflect the needs of customers, employees, and shareholders. Consult with executive leadership to discuss the role maintenance plays in meeting production and service goals.
  • Maintenance Tasks: List both preventive maintenance and scheduled unplanned maintenance tasks for your facility’s assets. Ideally, every piece of equipment from small to large should be included on your list. The more information you catalog with each asset, the better (e.g. serial numbers, locations, service history dates, vendors). 
  • Work Instructions: Once you have documented a task’s basic steps, outline work instructions for how to complete each task. You may want to take things a step further by developing standard operating procedures (SOPs)
  • Maintenance Schedule: Schedules help ensure technicians complete PMs as needed, no more and no less. Maintenance schedules also give workers time to plan and source necessary resources. Set a “maintenance window” to begin your program year. While it would be great to begin at the start of the calendar year, waiting to do so may not be an option. Communicate the timeframe to the entire production team so there is no confusion. 
  • Maintenance Technicians: Indicate the specific skills needed for each maintenance activity. Group tasks by required skill sets before matching them with technician specialties. Taking the time to do saves significant time when evaluating new hires and assigning current ones.  
  • Third-Party Contractors: Facilities outsource an average of 19 percent of maintenance operations to third-party contractors. Delineate the tasks for outsourced specialists. This action will help streamline the hiring process when sourcing quotes down the line. 
  • Replacement Parts: Nothing is worse than not fixing a machine because you’re waiting on a part! Accurately predicting spare parts usage is crucial to maximizing profitability, reducing downtime, and reducing stress. Make a comprehensive list of all spare parts the department should stock. 

Again, a robust CMMS can help execute each of these elements. The more service history data you put into your CMMS, the more efficient your team will become. Software analytics often reveal surprising time and spending patterns of organizational waste. Managers who fine-tune maintenance strategies based on evolving O&M data can make smarter and more confident budgeting decisions throughout the year. 

How to Make a Maintenance Schedule

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to developing a maintenance schedule. Different organizations and facilities have different maintenance needs and therefore require different approaches. However, these tips are the baseline for getting started with a general schedule:

planned maintenance schedule
MaintainX mobile CMMS maintenance schedule

1. Conduct a Criticality Analysis

Outline which assets need routine checks and which ones do not. Identify critical assets, their failure modes, and the likelihood of failure. Non-critical assets can receive scheduled unplanned maintenance.

2. Determine PM Intervals

When starting out, schedule PM intervals according to your manufacturer’s recommended maintenance guidelines. Asset maintenance can also be scheduled by date, meter readings, monitoring alarms, or based on completion of other work. A proper maintenance schedule should result in fewer unplanned downtimes.

3. Maintain an Asset Manage System

A well-organized asset management system is imperative to optimized scheduling. Make important information, such as asset serial codes, recommended maintenance procedures, and troubleshooting procedures easily accessible to technicians. Knowing an asset’s model and serial code is essential to replace parts. A mobile CMMS can help streamline this process. 

4. Assign Work Orders

Assign recurring work orders for times that will cause the least disruption to in-house operations, procedures, and your customers. If you run a 24/7 operation, scheduling around production and/or service lines may seem intimidating. However, you don’t need to shut down all production lines to briefly service particular components. Prepare your technicians with clear standard operating procedures (SOPs) to perform the task with minimal disruption.  

5. Track KPIs

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can keep track of how assets are maintained and of the safety of your personnel and the environment they work in. They also track the performance of your equipment and any hidden costs associated with keeping it up and running. The decision to finally retire machinery or equipment may depend on a variety of factors: From the total number of breakdowns, cost of replacement parts, time spent fixing equipment, and more. You may phase out an asset due to the need for a newer model, changes in your operational requirements, or because the cost of maintaining it has become too high, and you are running the risk of total equipment failure. 

The bottom-line: the more information you collect about your individual equipment service history over time, the more you can optimize scheduling intervals. The easiest way to automate the maintenance scheduling process is via a user-friendly CMMS. 

Simplify Planned Maintenance 

There is no time like the present to improve operational and maintenance systems. Determining an organization’s ideal ratio of preventive maintenance to unplanned scheduled maintenance is an ongoing process. 

Even the world-class maintenance programs of huge enterprise companies started from nothing. Prioritize your organization’s most critical, expensive, and likely-to-fail assets for PM scheduling. Map workflows for planned unscheduled maintenance tasks ahead of time to minimize disruptions. 

Modern work order software systems make it easier than ever to create, assign, and oversee recurring work orders, communicate with team members via instant messaging, and catalog asset historical records. The more data you track (e.g., time spent on repairs, costs, parts), the more insight you will gain on how to become more efficient, reduce downtime, and cut costs in your department.

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