The Ultimate Preventive Maintenance Guide: Nearly Everything You Need to Know

April 29, 2020 in Maintenance



The Ultimate Preventive Maintenance Guide: Nearly Everything You Need to Know

Table of Contents

Equipment failures cannot be eliminated—they will happen. 

However, smart preventive maintenance systems can reduce premature asset breakdowns, keep employees safe, and even save millions in costs. 

Studies estimate businesses spend 80 percent of their technician’s time working on reactive maintenance issues rather than performing preventive procedures. Review the history of any operational maintenance program, and you will begin to notice a pattern: Big problems are often caused by small, preventable oversights.  

Typically, an organization’s most devastating accidents, operational losses, and production setbacks are caused by maintenance systems and internal communication failures. Take this powerplant, for example. 

As reported by Pumps & Systems, one of the plant’s 700-horsepower condensate pumps experienced multiple failures over a 30-year-period, which were handled with a form of reactive maintenance. Over the years, in-house technicians became proficient at replacing part of the subject pump. Unfortunately, as turnover increased so did untrained maintenance practices. Due to poor procedural communication, the pump was poorly aligned and the motor was not level.

The result? A crumbling subbase catalyzing a host of minor problems that caused unnecessary equipment failure. The organization lost an estimated $13 million—all over a single asset! 

Obviously, not every maintenance error involves such high stakes. However, even low-stakes errors can translate into unnecessary financial loss, decreased productivity, and frustration. As you already know, the title of this guide is the solution. 

Studies suggest companies can save an average of 12 to 18 percent in costs by investing in preventive maintenance (PM). And facilities that are completely reliant on reactive maintenance could save even more. In other words, every dollar spent on preventive maintenance will save nearly five dollars on expenses. Yet, more than half of U.S. companies still exclusively practice reactive maintenance. 

Why?

Our research suggests that company leadership often assumes that: 

a). Reactive maintenance is more cost-effective than preventive maintenance.

b). They don’t have time for it. 

Both assumptions are incorrect. Here you will learn how preventive maintenance saves money, decreases downtime, and enhances safety for industries across the board. You will also learn how to create a preventive maintenance plan, how to determine which type of PM system is right for you, and how to evaluate CMMS. 

Let’s begin by reviewing the definition of preventive maintenance: 

1. What Is Preventive Maintenance?

Generally speaking, maintenance is the state of maintaining something. That object being maintained could be a truck, a laptop, or even a garden. The goal of preventive maintenance is to maximize the useful life of any particular asset. 

Case in point: If you neglect to change the oil in your vehicle every 5,000 miles, it probably won’t last very long. Breaking down on the side of the highway isn’t just inconvenient—it’s dangerous. It is important to perform maintenance routinely. 

Obviously, world-class companies shouldn’t treat their assets like teenagers treat their cars: Replacing 200 fleet vehicles five years earlier than necessary wouldn’t just be inconvenient; it would be expensive and dangerous!

However, that doesn’t mean companies always avoid making costly mistakes. Most large organizations have a surprising lack of structure with respect to asset management and struggle to adopt preventive maintenance programs. Our goal is to help change that inertia.

Here’s the official preventive maintenance definition:

Preventive Maintenance (PM) is planned maintenance that prolongs the lifespan of company assets, equipment, and infrastructure. Also known as preventative maintenance, PM includes adjustments, cleaning, lubrication, repairs, and replacements. 

Translation: Preventive maintenance means fixing small problems before they become big ones! Organizations can obtain maximum asset value by slowing down excess depreciation, deterioration, and malfunction. 

preventive maintenance

No matter the industry, preventive maintenance always has three components: 

  1. It’s systematic
  2. It’s performed routinely
  3. It’s aimed at reducing or minimizing failures

These characteristics define the scope of all PM tasks. The goal is always to reduce costly downtime and to maintain assets as long as possible. Downtime is the amount of time a system, machine or piece of equipment is inoperable. 

An integral part of many successful preventive maintenance programs involves condition monitoring. Sounds simple, right? 

Unfortunately, putting preventive maintenance into action from scratch can be quite complicated and intimidating. Depending on the number of assets within an organization, and the number of workers available, regularly monitoring (and assigning) ALL recommended maintenance procedures might seem impossible.

For example, a small property management team might have 200 assets requiring routine maintenance; whereas a large manufacturing facility might have 20,000 assets. A well-conditioned manufacturing team will likely already have a well-established routine that involves specific preventive maintenance tasks, like replacing used “bearings” every few hours.

However, it’s easy for employees to overlook guidelines for less routine maintenance without foolproof reminders and accountability systems in place. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI)’s guidelines provide a starting point for maintaining common equipment. However, most organizations won’t be successful without some form of Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS).

Unfortunately, many organizations reject existing CMMS solutions because of complex interfaces, wonky functionality and high price tags (more on that later). 

For this reason, approximately half of the companies we come across don’t actively practice any form of preventive maintenance. Instead, they react to issues as they arise.

2. Preventive Maintenance v. Reactive Maintenance

what goes into preventive maintenance

Unlike preventive maintenance, reactive maintenance means waiting for small problems to become big problems—before doing anything about them. 

Often called the “run to failure method,” this maintenance system lacks maintenance procedure reminders in between equipment failures. A reactive maintenance worker may never inspect an asset until it breaks down or they happen to notice a particular parts malfunction. 

According to the Schneider Electric report, Predictive Maintenance Strategy for Building Operations: A Better Approach, 55 percent of U.S. companies exclusively practice reactive maintenance. Many companies find themselves so overwhelmed with reactive maintenance, that they can’t imagine finding the time to add preventive maintenance operations into their schedules. 

Reactive maintenance isn’t cost-effective because the inconsistent nature of asset downtime often results in unplanned expenses. Unfortunately, many executives overlook a common problem with “run to failure:” Operations departments don’t just lose money on faulty equipment; they waste capital on unanticipated expenses associated with lost productivity, overtime labor, and spare part/storage purchasing. 

However, that’s not to say preventive maintenance should always be performed on every asset. The costs of performing PM should always be less than the cost of failure. For example, say the cost of downtime for a particular asset is $500, and its PM cost is $800. In this instance, PM would be a waste of time and money. The company could save $300 by running to failure.

Conversely, the preventive maintenance of many assets will translate to financial savings. Take hotels, for example. Check under the mattress in your next hotel room, and you might discover some hidden PM instructions. Did you know hotel staff turn mattresses each week to extend their lifespans? 

Surprisingly, this small preventive maintenance procedure results in millions of dollars in savings for hotels around the world each year. Organizations that adopt an overall preventive maintenance philosophy seem to save more money than those who don’t. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, the unplanned downtime cost of industrial manufacturers may be more than $50 billion per year. 

What is the number one cause of downtime? Aging equipment.

According to the Plant Engineering 2016 Maintenance Study, aging equipment is considered to be the most common cause of downtime. Operator error and lack of time were the other top reasons listed by maintenance personnel. Let’s look closer at the advantages and disadvantages of both maintenance methods:

3. The Pros and Cons of Preventive Maintenance

Several factors must be considered when evaluating preventive maintenance vs. reactive maintenance programs. Again, one method isn’t better than the other for every asset. One thing is for sure, it is much easier with preventive maintenance software.

Leadership needs to understand the overarching differences between the two mindsets. Here are some factors to consider when planning a maintenance program: 

preventive maintenance
ProsCons
1. Enhanced Safety1. Budgetary Constraints
2. Longer Equipment Lifespan2. More Resources Required
3. Increased Productivity3. Time-Consuming
4. Reduced Costs4. Tricky to Organize
5. Less Energy Consumption

Pros

Enhanced Safety 

The more often assets are checked, the less likely dangerous problems occur. Businesses who follow preventive maintenance schedules reduce the risk of unexpected breakdowns, health hazards, and liability lawsuits. 

Longer Equipment Lifespan

Preventive maintenance schedules ensure all business assets are running according to manufacture and consumer guidelines. As poorly performing parts are updated, assets perform at a steady level of productivity throughout the year. This reduces the frequency of capital expenditures needed to purchase new equipment.

Increased Productivity

Poor maintenance strategies can reduce an organization’s production capacity by a whopping 20 percent. Modern preventive maintenance solutions allow operational managers to digitize essential equipment details, assign recurring work orders and review asset history from the convenience of their smartphones. 

Conversely, maintenance personnel can also receive mobile task alerts, photograph equipment failures and sign-off on task completion in real-time. Both streamlined PM systems and reduced downtime contribute to greater team efficiency, productivity, and focus. 

Reduced Costs

Unsurprisingly, reactive maintenance downtime contributes to costly repairs. Using equipment to the point of failure may cost 10X more than performing periodic maintenance. 

Sometimes, those repairs can be accomplished quickly by internal employees. Other times, organizations must wait on outsourced professionals to get the job done. Companies that adopt PM experience fewer breakdowns, which translates to greater output. According to Jones Lang LaSalle’s “Determining The Value of Preventive Maintenance,” a telecommunications company experienced a 545% ROI when implementing a preventive maintenance plan.

Less Energy Consumption

Poorly maintained electrical assets often consume more energy than those operating in normal conditions. PM allows energy-robbing issues to quickly be addressed, resulting in smaller utility bills. The more energy your business saves, the higher your profits will be Our Earth’s environment will also thank you. 

Alternatively, here are some commonly voiced disadvantages to PM programs: 

preventive maintenance checklist

Cons

Budgetary Constraints

Traditionally, the cost of implementing advanced digital maintenance solutions has been out of reach for smaller businesses. From high priced software solutions to allocating man-hours to perform the tasks, PM is often considered a luxury.  However, in recent years, a handful of providers have made this goal more obtainable. 

More Resources Required

With more procedures to complete throughout the year, your organization may now need more personnel, more parts, and more monthly capital. Depending on the complexity of your organization, you may have to prioritize PM for essential assets only.

Time-Consuming

Companies that switch to preventive maintenance philosophies sometimes feel like they’re doing more work. The reality is that they are! Taking the time to inspect complicated assets, involving several parts, can be tedious. Even businesses without complex machinery may, initially, feel resistant toward taking on more routine tasks.

Tricky to Organize

As previously mentioned, developing a PM program without an organizational system would be a disaster. With hundreds, let alone thousands of assets to maintain, no management team can rely on memory or whiteboards alone. Binders busting at the seams with paper checklists make it difficult to find what you need when you need it. And traditional CMMS solutions can feel overwhelming with a dizzying array of steps. 

As you can see, there are both advantages and disadvantages to preventive maintenance. However, thanks to modern technology, the pros outweigh the cons for most organizations and simplify operational execution. Every industry has a unique way of doing PM, yet many are unsatisfied with the status quo. More often than not, the problem comes down to inefficient workflows, poor organizational systems, and cumbersome software. 

Before we outline our improvement tips, let’s review the industries that can most benefit from PM programs: 

4. Industries that Benefit from Preventive Maintenance Programs

preventive maintenance checklist

Any organization with assets to maintain can benefit from preventive maintenance schedules. Here are some of the industries MaintainX has helped streamline maintenance operations:

Have you ever wondered when and why industries first began practicing preventive maintenance? If so, keep reading! If not, scroll through to the next section to about the four primary types of preventive maintenance.

5. The History of Preventive Maintenance 

Where It All Began

During the WWII era, the concept of productivity took on renewed importance for manufacturers around the world. Though buyers enjoyed more purchasing power than ever before, many factory workers were deployed for wartime duty. 

The inverse relationship between product demand and available labor catalyzed an unprecedented level of mechanical productivity, innovation, and invention. Manufacturing facilities around the world began relying upon complex machines to accomplish what was previously done by humans. This led to the observation that equipment failure could be mitigated with preventive maintenance. 

How It Evolved

preventive maintenance airplanes and aircraft

During the late 1950s, U.S. airlines were at a crossroads; what was once a thrilling adventure was now a mundane necessity. As the number of commercial flyers began to steadily increase so did airplane maintenance requirements. Consequently, the industry’s skyrocketing maintenance costs precipitated a combined investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and airline representatives. The task force produced a series of preventive maintenance guidelines for both airlines and aircraft manufacturers to use when establishing maintenance schedules. 

Over the years, the recommendations evolved to include maintenance procedures for several major aircraft, including the Boeing 747. The massive plane required 66,000 labor hours on major structural inspections before a major heavy inspection at 20,000 operating hours. In 1974, the U.S.Department of Defense commissioned United Airlines to write a report on maintenance processes used in the civil aviation industry. In 1978, maintenance experts Stan Nowlan and Howard Heap published “Reliability Centered Maintenance.” This report triggered a cataclysmic shift in the world of operations.

For the remainder of the century, nearly every industry around the world borrowed from the report’s holistic maintenance framework. Simultaneously, the chemical, transportation, and energy sectors became increasingly aware of the benefits that the impact PM had on employee safety. Across the Atlantic, European operational leaders also began to implement industrial maintenance norms. 

Additionally, the technological era ushered drastic changes in purchasing, communications, production, and quality. All of these developments combined, ultimately, led to the creation of the world’s first official technician training programs. Translation: The maintenance industry had finally arrived! 

Where We Are Now

As previously mentioned, nearly half of the world’s companies now practice some form of preventive maintenance. Recent CMMS technologies have catapulted the possibilities of streamlining complex asset databases and preventive maintenance schedules from exclusively in the hands of premier companies down to SMBs today. 

In other words, it’s never been easier to make PM work for you–no matter the size of your organization. Next, we’ll take a closer look at preventive maintenance subcategories, before delving into some tactical tips: 

preventive maintenance factory manufacturing

6. Types of Preventive Maintenance 

PM tasks are completed to anticipate, prevent, and prolong the process of equipment breakdown. These precautionary tasks should be performed on all parts and components with age-related failure patterns. 

It’s important to recognize that no one type of preventive maintenance is better than the other. Stick with manual and manufacturer recommendations when determining the type of PM your equipment needs. With that said, preventive maintenance falls into four primary categories. We’ve included some simplified examples in the paragraphs below: 

Periodic Maintenance:

Also known as, time-based maintenance, periodic maintenance is performed at scheduled intervals (i.e. annually, quarterly, monthly, and weekly). Managers should read equipment manuals to determine recommended maintenance schedules. Most manufacturers indicate how often to inspect assets and the average life of each part. 

Example: Every 6 months, I must change my oil. 

periodic maintenance

Meter-Based:

Also called performance-based PM, and meter-based PM, this type of preventive maintenance dictates action based on equipment usage variables. Any piece of equipment that requires usage-based maintenance will also come with a meter/counter for assessing hours running, production milestones, etc.  

Example: Every 5,000 miles, I must change my oil.

meter-based maintenance

Predictive Maintenance: 

Predictive maintenance (PdM) is an advanced form of preventative maintenance aimed at reducing the number of necessary planned tasks. PdM analyzes data to determine when very specific maintenance conditions have been met. Companies gather data from experts, equipment readers, past experiences and IoT before identifying optimal PM requirements. The more data you have, the more financially savvy decisions you can make..Unfortunately, data collection is complex, expensive and time-consuming.

Example: Between the months of June through August, I change my oil every 3,000 miles because I go off-roading and my vehicle picks-up more dust. During the rest of the year, I change my oil every 5,000 miles. 

predictive maintenance

Prescriptive Maintenance: 

Similar to predictive maintenance, this newer type of maintenance makes decisions based on data. However, prescriptive maintenance (RxM) provides operations managers with the added benefit of machine learning software. 

The smart software collects and analyzes equipment conditions before suggesting specific recommendations designed to reduce operational risks. The technology is driven by something called “prescriptive analytics,” and is designed to hypothesize potential outcomes. Soon, we expect to see incredible developments that put RxM within reach of even the smallest-sized maintenance teams. 

Example: My engine broke down due to a dusty filter after off-roading in the hot, summer months. However, another owner of the same vehicle, with similar hobbies, reported similar issues via Artificial Intelligence (AI). The person found they could get away with changing the oil every 4,000 miles as opposed to every 3,000 miles like I had been doing as a form of predictive maintenance. 

7. Examples of Preventive Maintenance in Action

8. How to Create a Preventive Maintenance Workflow 

The preventive maintenance workflow is the cornerstone of every proactive operations organization. A successful workflow provides a roadmap of how and when to maintain assets. 

Unsurprisingly, there is no “right” way to begin. Some organizations choose to catalog assets one-by-one and create individual checklists on the fly. While more complex operational facilities often take extensive asset inventories before formulating maintenance guidelines into procedures and work orders. 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Begin the process of organizing your preventive maintenance program today, and you will be that much closer to a drama-free work environment tomorrow. 

Here are some tips to get you started: 

Choose a Format

According to The Plant Engineering 2016 Maintenance Study, the top three methods for organizing maintenance systems are CMMS (62 percent), in-house spreadsheets/schedules (52 percent), and paper records (39 percent). No matter which method you are relying upon, the thought process is the same. 

Your preventive maintenance workflow should answer questions like: 

  • What task should be performed first?
  • Where is the equipment located? 
  • Which workers should be assigned?
  • How often should the task happen? 
  • What parts or supplies are needed? 
  • How will we maintain accountability? 

While spreadsheets may provide enough organization for smaller organizations, most companies could benefit from a user-friendly digital maintenance solution. 

Put simply, it’s 2020! There is no reason for time-strapped maintenance teams to waste weekly hours cross-referencing paper checklists, email trails, and Excel files when more elegant solutions are available (more in a moment). 

Drill Down

In a perfect world, your procedures would be so well defined, that even Margie from payroll could change the forklift bearings by following your checklist (if need be). 

Successful preventive maintenance workflows communicate the WHAT, WHY, and HOW of each task–without overwhelming the reader. If your workflow is disorganized, workers may skip important steps or ignore tasks entirely, which will result in inconsistency throughout your operations.

But how can operational managers maintain simplicity when organizing dozens, if not hundreds, maintenance steps? We recommend combining general workflows with detailed checklists. Say you were creating a workflow on vehicle maintenance. You might create a master workflow, instructing mechanics to inspect air filters, spark plugs, and breaks. 

Don’t overwhelm workers by listing every single associated task. Instead, you could create supporting checklists that break down each inspection step by step. This process will reduce workers’ overwhelm, increase accountability, and help everyone to stay more organized. 

Set Clear Schedules

Next, ensure your workflow matches tasks with clear time-frames. If you have separate checklists based on time intervals—daily, weekly, monthly—a robust software program can ensure they automatically appear as designed. 

Operational managers must clearly label time-dependent tasks to prevent team linking asset history to recommended maintenance intervals. Managers input how often checklists should be completed once and never have to worry about consulting user manuals, spreadsheets, or colleagues again. 

Stay Updated

Manufacturers periodically issue updates to recommended procedures and intervals as they receive customer feedback over time. Set a quarterly or biannual reminder on your calendar to spend some time reviewing manufacturing guidelines for all important assets. Use existing data, asset age, equipment efficiency, and personal experience to further fine-tune existing maintenance checklists. 

Beyond evaluating manufacturer recommendations, evaluate your team’s performance to find areas that can be improved. For example, if one technician is completing the same task as another much faster, determine they are truly more efficient, or actually skipping important steps

Have a Purpose

Finally, no preventive maintenance system is successful without clearly defined goals for individual assets. Do you want to achieve 99 percent uptime for one machine? How about zero unplanned downtime over 2 years for another? 

Summarize these objectives within the work orders themselves so everyone can knowingly work toward the same goal. Not only does such transparency support organizational objectives, but it also motivates team members. Workers who feel aligned with company missions take pride in their work. 

If your goal is to create a stress-free preventive maintenance system, these five tips will maximize your efforts. 
However, we’re going to share something most of your competitors don’t know about: organizations of all sizes can now create digital work orders for free. Software providers like MaintainX provide affordable all-in-one maintenance solutions that anyone with a smartphone can master in minutes. 

digital work order

With that said, MaintainX isn’t the only CMMS on the block. Let’s take a closer look at how to evaluate CMMS options:

9. How to Choose The Best CMMS Solution

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is a software platform that organizes information about a company’s maintenance operations and helps manage asset history. CMMS is supposed to make life easier for everyone on the team. Maintenance workers can quickly determine how to care for assets. And operational managers can prioritize maintenance based on a bird’s eye view.

Essentially, the entire team saves time and the company saves money by preventing premature equipment failure. Woohoo! Unfortunately, reality often fails to meet expectations. Far too many organizations invest in CMMS systems that prove too complicated and time-consuming to deliver on their promises. 

Here are some questions to ask yourself before choosing a CMMS:

What features do we really need? 

Knowing what features you need, and which ones you can do without, begins with clarifying your organizational goals. As a minimum, your CMMS should provide a clear overview of upcoming work orders and in-progress jobs. Managers should be able to quickly assign priorities, evaluate progress, and maintain accountability across their team. 

Upper-management should work together to set SMART objectives that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. Say your company has solely practiced reactive maintenance for the past 20 years. Your main goal might be to reduce downtime by 20 percent in 6 months (a realistic goal for most of our customers). 

Maybe you have identified a major cause of poorly executed work orders to be communication. Perhaps, workers run into unanticipated setbacks, causing them to wait an hour for a phone call or email explaining what to do. In this case, you would want to prioritize a CMMS system with chat functionality.

That way, maintenance staff can text leadership, send equipment photographs, and troubleshoot setbacks in real-time. Communication is one of the most overlooked features by most CMMS shoppers today. Beyond your productivity and cost-saving goals, you must consider what features your particular industry requires. Most CMMS include a combination of the following features: 

  • Equipment data management
  • Preventive Maintenance
  • Predictive Maintenance
  • Labor
  • Work order system
  • Scheduling/Planning
  • Vendor Management
  • Inventory Control
  • Asset Tracking
  • Asset History
  • Corrective Actions
  • Escalation Protocols

In many ways, choosing a CMMS platform isn’t that different than choosing between a Kia or a BMW. Both cars perform the same primary functions, but the user experience feels very different. Sometimes it comes down to personal preference, while other times certain features are inarguably better designed. 

Which brings us to our next question:

How user-friendly is the interface? 

The best tech tools are the ones that get used—often. 

At MaintainX, we’ve met a surprising number of maintenance directors who invested in fancy software, only to be disappointed a few months later. In every case, the manager purchased a CMMS solution that was too complicated for their team to use on a daily basis. 

Their workers found the software confusing, inconvenient and unattractive. Consequently, the burden of inputting fulfilled work orders fell on the manager’s plates. The result? An inaccurate PM record that defeated the purpose of ever having adopted a preventive maintenance philosophy. 

MantainX is the only digital maintenance solution on the market that was specifically designed for mobile, tablet, and desktop interfaces. Translation: Our engineers made an intuitive app that anyone with a smartphone can figure out. 

example work order template

MaintainX is the only CMMS platform that handles maintenance, operations, safety and training. We’re also the world’s first provider to include live chat, comments, and photo-sharing within the same digital maintenance platform. 

How good is the provider’s customer support? 

Once you have narrowed down your options, compare their levels of customer support. One of the coolest things about online shopping is how readily customers review products and services.

Not only should you evaluate both positive and negative comments. Pay special attention to any mentioning of customer support: How difficult was it to contact the CMMS provider for troubleshooting? What was the average response time?  What’s the product onboarding process look like? These are also questions you can, and should, ask company sales reps. 

best CMMS software reviews

Does the software include chat functionality? 

Maintaining communication across your team is important. If you’re a small business, standard text messaging may meet your needs. However, even small teams sometimes become confused when discussing various tasks within a single message thread. For this reason, you may benefit from using a business messaging app, like Slack. 

MaintainX is the only app on the market with integrated chat. Alternatively, team members can also communicate directly inside individual work orders to keep conversations organized. As reported in MaintainX’s 2019 Year-In-Review survey, “work order commenting” was voted the most popular feature by software customers.

Does the software include cost analysis? 

Finally, determine if the CMMS includes cost analysis from both an equipment standpoint and a time standpoint. A robust reporting feature will help you answer questions like: 

How much time did Joe spend doing safety audits and inspections last month? Should we continue maintaining that machine (and buying new parts) or should we buy a new one? Are we understaffed or overstaffed (and inefficient)?

There are many factors worth considering when purchasing a CMMS solution. At the end of the day, the best work order system for one company, might not work for another. Always your due-diligence before making a decision. 

However, the best way to evaluate anything is to “try before you buy.” Most legacy solutions require a sales conversation before taking a test drive. But MaintainX is completely free to download from the app store, and all Premium Features are free for 30 days. Our platform includes everything you need to begin creating work orders, communicating with staff, and tracking assets today. 

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