What is Preventative/Preventive Maintenance? (And Why It’s Important)

August 9, 2019 in Maintenance

What is Preventative/Preventive Maintenance? (And Why It’s Important)

Organizational assets need care. Maintenance is necessary as it helps you save money on costly equipment replacement and costly system downtimes. Yes, downtimes are costly.

Just to give you an idea of how lethal an equipment or system downtime is, let me quote Nielsen Research:

“… One minute of stopped production, or downtime, costs an average of $22,000 per minute, some survey respondents cite the figure to be as high as $50,000 per minute.”

The number one reason for unscheduled downtime is aging equipment. Statistics show that a business can save up to 18% by investing in preventative maintenance.

Investment in preventative maintenance pays off big time. An IT company saw a whopping 545% ROI after implementing a preventative maintenance plan, which includes 7% energy savings.

Preventative maintenance has several benefits and is essential for your business. This guide will cover everything you need to know about preventative maintenance, its types, why it’s important, what preventative maintenance planning is and more.

If you haven’t read anything on preventative maintenance in the past, this is your best resource – continue reading.

What is Preventative Maintenance?

Preventative maintenance (PM), also known as preventive maintenance, is a type of maintenance that’s performed regularly to minimize the likelihood of an equipment failure (which will result in downtime) and extending the life of your assets.

Business Dictionary defines preventative maintenance as:

“Systematic inspection, detection, correction, and prevention of incipient failures, before they become actual or major failures.”

According to an article published in The New York Times, preventative maintenance is:

“It is a routine for periodical inspection with the goal of noticing small problems and fixing them before major ones develop.”

The definition of preventive maintenance identifies three main characteristics. These include:

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

These characteristics define the scope and true meaning of preventive maintenance tasks. It has to be systematic and needs to be performed routinely. You have to identify a system where preventative maintenance is performed as soon as due without any supervision to make repairs and replacements before a piece of equipment or critical assets breaks down.

The whole point of preventative maintenance is to perform it before the asset fails. Think of it as proactive maintenance. If you don’t do it routinely and on time, it won’t be preventive in nature. It will, rather, transform into corrective, or reactive maintenance.

The core aim of preventative maintenance is to minimize failures by detecting and fixing them before they lead to costly downtimes. Condition monitoring is a key component of any successful preventive maintenance program. This is what makes PM different from other types of maintenance (more on this coming soon).

For example, bearings have a certain life, and they need to be replaced after they have operated for a specified number of hours. You have to check bearings regularly to ensure they don’t need replacement.

Preventative maintenance is performed when the equipment is still in the working condition and is aimed at taking corrective measures to stop it from failing. Creating a preventive maintenance schedule for your assets helps keep your equipment on track in real time. From facility management to industrial management, preventive maintenance is important across the board. It involves several things such as cleaning equipment and parts, lubrication, parts replacement, etc.

Elements of preventive maintenance
Source: Sundaybizsys

When inspect assets is an important component of the preventative maintenance program. This is something that you have to define, which means you have to identify an inspection interval for PM for each asset.

This is achieved by establishing a PM workflow.

Preventative Maintenance Workflow

An essential part of preventative maintenance is defining when maintenance needs to be performed. It could be based on time or usage, and once an equipment’s PM is due, it needs to be carried out immediately.

Preventive Maintenance Workflow

Here is a general workflow that you can use to perform maintenance tasks on assets:

Step #1: Select an Asset

Identify the asset. Ideally, you should perform preventative maintenance for all the assets that are directly or indirectly linked to manufacturing or any other process critical to your business operations.

A simple rule is to select all those assets that your business cannot survive without. An asset that, if fails, will result in downtime should be your top priority.

Step #2: Create a Schedule

How often should you perform maintenance? Identify an appropriate interval time.

The maintenance schedule needs to be achievable yet realistic. The interval time should be based on usage or time duration. I’m sure you know how to set a realistic maintenance schedule for different assets. When in doubt, consult your asset’s manufacturer for specifics relating to your equipment.

Step #3: Perform Preventive Maintenance

Perform preventative maintenance as soon as it is due. Assign PM task to the relevant team and ensure everything is done as expected.

What steps to take in a PM task may vary depending on the asset, so make sure all protocols are followed.

Step #4: Repeat

Repeat the cycle. Perform PM when it is due again.

Similar Terms

Preventative maintenance is related to several terms and is often used interchangeably with the following terms:

  1. Preventive maintenance
  2. Planned preventive/preventative maintenance
  3. Planned maintenance
  4. Scheduled maintenance

Whenever you see one of these terms, it means preventative maintenance.

Types of Preventative Maintenance

There are different types of PM that can be classified into two broad categories:

  1. Time-based preventative maintenance
  2. Usage-based preventative maintenance

Time-Based PM

It refers to maintenance that is performed after predetermined time duration such as annually, bi-annually, quarterly, monthly, weekly, etc.

Setting the right time interval for assets is critical. Setting a wrong interval will delay PM, which might lead to equipment failure before its PM is due. The best way to identify the right time intervals is to refer to the equipment’s manual. Manufacturers clearly indicate how often to inspect equipment and the average life of each part.

Set time-based intervals for maintenance based on the manual.

Usage-Based PM

It is also known as performance-based preventive maintenance. It is based on the usage of the equipment which could include the number of hours active, production cycles, or any other variable as defined by the manufacturer.

Most equipment needs service after they have been used for a certain period of time, such as vehicles and heat pumps. The usage of the equipment can be determined by its meter/counter reading. Any equipment that needs usage-based maintenance comes with some kind of reading counter that lets you schedule maintenance.

Most equipment uses both types of preventative maintenance. There is a time duration as well as usage limit and whichever arrives first, you have to schedule maintenance.

There isn’t any right or wrong PM type; rather it all comes down to what equipment you’re using. Stick with the manual and manufacturer recommendations.

Preventative Maintenance vs. Corrective Maintenance

Preventive vs corrective maintenance
Source: Road to Reliability

Corrective maintenance is the opposite of preventive maintenance, and it isn’t as efficient. The core difference between them both is that corrective maintenance is performed to correct (fix) a problem after it has occurred while preventative maintenance is performed to prevent a failure before it occurs.

Corrective maintenance is defined as:

“A maintenance task performed to identify, isolate, and rectify a fault in failed equipment to restore it to an operational condition.”

Corrective maintenance is focused on restoring equipment to its working condition or its isolation if it can’t be fixed. It is carried out when an asset stops working, which means you don’t have to establish any schedule for maintenance. It’s only performed once something fails, and if everything is working fine, you don’t do any maintenance task.

One of the major differences between these two types of maintenances is the cost of replacement. The cost incurred by your business with corrective maintenance approach is significantly higher as compared to the cost incurred by preventative maintenance.

The initial cost of preventative maintenance is higher because you have to perform maintenance tasks as per schedule even if the equipment is working perfectly fine. These maintenance tasks cost you a lot of money.

However, you don’t spend a lot of corrective maintenance initially, but you’ll end up paying an amount equal to the total cost of the equipment (when it will be replaced).

In the long-run, preventative maintenance is far more cost-effective than waiting for things to breakdown. In the short-run, corrective maintenance can seem overwhelming and more important.

Some of the other major differences between the two are covered below:

  1. Preventative maintenance is performed routinely (frequently) as opposed to corrective maintenance which is performed only when an asset fails or is about to fail.
  2. Preventative maintenance reduces the probability of unscheduled breakdowns, while the probability of unscheduled breakdowns is quite high with corrective maintenance.
  3. Preventive maintenance reduces the need for corrective maintenance.
  4. Preventative maintenance is cost-effective, whereas corrective maintenance can turn out to be very expensive.
  5. Preventive maintenance increases the average working life of the asset, while corrective maintenance doesn’t.
  6. Preventive maintenance lets you derive the maximum production value from an asset while corrective maintenance doesn’t.
  7. The number of planned downtime increases significantly with preventative maintenance while unplanned downtimes are higher in corrective maintenance.

Preventative Maintenance vs. Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is quite similar to preventative maintenance because both are aimed at reducing equipment failure. Predictive maintenance, however, takes a different approach.

Predictive maintenance (PdM) is performed when a certain condition is met, such as temperature reached a certain degree, the size of the output reduced or increased, etc.

For instance, vibration sensors are used to detect an increase in vibration for rotating equipment like pumps and motors. When vibration reaches a certain limit or is about to hit the limit, maintenance can be scheduled to stop equipment from failing.

Predictive maintenance is an advanced form of preventative maintenance which is aimed at reducing the number of planned maintenance tasks that consume a lot of resources. The maintenance is performed when it is actually due.

There are two major differences between these two types of maintenances.


The major difference between predictive and preventive maintenance is the cost incurred. The total cost in predictive maintenance is the lowest as compared to other two types of maintenances.

Balancing cost and failures graph
Source: IVC Technologies

When you use preventive maintenance, the maintenance task is performed when it is scheduled. This helps you reduce the number of planned maintenance tasks. It is performed right before an asset is about to fail.


Complexity vs Upside Maintenance
Source: CSS Electronics

Yes, predictive maintenance is complex. This is because you have to collect and analyze data to predict potential machine failure and schedule maintenance accordingly. Collecting data isn’t just complex, but it is expensive too.

You can use data from experts, equipment reader, manufacturer, past experience, and IoT. The more data you have about an asset, the better it is. The more data you have, the higher the likelihood you’ll be in a better position to predict maintenance.

Needless to say, predictive maintenance today goes beyond an inspection of the meters and readers on the equipment. If you predict maintenance based on the meter reading, you’re not predicting it – rather it is merely advanced usage-based maintenance (preventative maintenance).

Predictive maintenance is all about data.

Other major differences between preventative and predictive maintenance include:

  1. Predictive maintenance has a higher setup cost and a higher variable cost, which will incur a higher upfront expense than the cost of preventive maintenance.
  2. Preventative maintenance involves little or no risk, while predictive maintenance is riskier. If your assumptions and variables are incomplete, you may feel more protected than you are and be unprepared for equipment failure.
  3. Preventative maintenance is simple, while predictive maintenance is complex and ever-evolving. Preventative maintenance is more sustainable for most organizations.
  4. Predictive maintenance reduces the probability of replacing a part prematurely as opposed to preventative maintenance where the probability of replacing a part when it still has useful life is way higher.

Preventative maintenance is the best way to move forward if you want to increase equipment life without any risk and high fixed and variable cost.

Why Preventative Maintenance is Important

I’m sure you’ll have an idea of why preventative maintenance is important for your business and what benefits it brings with it. If you’re skeptical and not sure if preventive maintenance is right for your business, the following list of characteristics, benefits, and features will help you with decision-making.

Preventative Maintenance Statistics

Let’s start from the preventive maintenance statistics to give you an idea of how it can prove to be a game-changer for your organization.

  1. Preventative maintenance is the top priority of 80% of maintenance personnel. (2018 Maintenance Survey)
  2. Businesses spend as much as 80% of their time reacting to maintenance issues rather than preventing them. (Accelix)
  3. 82% of businesses experienced at least one unplanned downtime in the last three years, where each unplanned downtime costs $250K per hour. (ServiceMax)
  4. Unplanned downtime cost of industrial manufacturers is estimated to be over $50 billion each year. (WSJ)
  5. 70% of businesses don’t have the complete awareness on when their equipment needs maintenance; therefore minimizing unplanned downtime is the number one priority of 72% of businesses. (ServiceMax)
  6. Aging equipment is the number one reason for unplanned downtimes as reported by 50% of maintenance personnel. (2016 Maintenance Study)
  7. Businesses save up to 12-18% when they invest in preventative maintenance instead of corrective maintenance. (EERE)
  8. Poor maintenance strategies can reduce an organization’s production capacity by a whopping 20%. (PTC)
  9. Using equipment to the point of failure costs 10x more than a regular maintenance program. (Buildings)

Investment in the right maintenance program should be your company’s top priority as it will help you improve productivity and reduce cost in the long-run.

Preventative Maintenance Reduces Cost

The best thing about preventative maintenance is that it reduces cost significantly.

If your business relies on corrective maintenance, you’ll end up wasting a lot of money in different forms, which makes corrective maintenance expensive.

Here is what happens when an asset fails when you don’t have a preventative maintenance program:

  • Unplanned downtime will cost your business money as it will halt production line, you’ll miss deadlines, and won’t be able to meet client expectations.
  • Employees won’t have anything to do. They will wait for the asset to be back in running position.
  • Pay technical staff overtime for working continuously on the failed asset.
  • Pay a high price to get parts quickly.
  • Hire consultants and seek help from professional technicians to get the asset up and running quickly.
  • It will hurt your brand image, especially if you’re in the B2C industry.

All this costs you money and resources.

Enter preventative maintenance.

With a preventive maintenance program, you schedule maintenance tasks on regular intervals to avoid asset failure. The downtime with preventative maintenance is planned, which means you choose when equipment or a machine will be shut down, and you can make necessary arrangements before time.

There isn’t any emergency situation with preventative maintenance. Employees keep buys and are assigned different tasks, parts are arranged, technicians work as per schedule, and everyone knows what to expect.

This reduces costs across all levels. Resources aren’t wasted. You don’t have to pay higher than the normal price for parts, consultants, and technicians. Deadlines aren’t missed. The production line is halted during the off-peak season.

Preventative Maintenance Decreases Downtime

Preventative maintenance is best at reducing unplanned downtime, which can cost your business as much as $250K per hour.

There is a lot of difference between planned and unplanned downtime. Planned downtime initiated by your preventative maintenance program removes uncertainty. Planned downtime is optimized; you plan it and initiate it at the right time. This is only possible with preventive maintenance.

Unplanned downtime is lethal. Imagine your primary equipment fails right before the holiday season. It won’t just cost you money to recover your equipment, but it will cost your company a complete holiday season where you were expecting to generate heaps of sales.

The important feature of preventative maintenance is that it minimizes unplanned downtimes too. When all the assets are taken care of, are well-maintained, and problems are fixed on time, it significantly reduces the probability of unplanned downtime.

This is the whole point of switching to preventative maintenance. It allows you to plan downtime, and it reduces the probability of unplanned downtime that is caused by equipment failure.

Preventative Maintenance Increases Equipment Efficiency

Yes, preventive maintenance is all about improving equipment efficiency. The idea is to keep equipment in running condition by identifying and fixing issues before they occur.

When equipment is appropriately taken care of, its efficiency and its average life increase.

Consider your vehicle’s engine. When you change engine oil on time, get it serviced and tuned on time, it will increase your engine’s efficiency and average life.

When you don’t change engine oil, it gets thick which will make engine parts hot and will increase friction among the parts. This will increase wear and tear. Parts will fail. And your engine will become less efficient.

Makes sense, right?

The same rule applies to business equipment, machines, and assets. Preventive maintenance ensures that equipment and assets are running smoothly and efficiently.

Preventative Maintenance Improves Safety

When equipment isn’t taken care of and isn’t running in optimal condition, it becomes a risk for your employees. It leads to hazards and safety concerns.

When a machine fails, it doesn’t just stop working rather, it may cause a fire, it may present an injury hazard, parts might explode, and so on. You never know. Unexpected failures present real workplace risks.

Preventive maintenance improves the overall safety of the workers as it reduces the probability of equipment failure. Assets perform efficiently. Everything works as expected.

This will eventually reduce on-job injuries and safety issues.

Preventative Maintenance Increases Reliability

What happens when your company’s equipment works efficiently, and there aren’t any unplanned downtimes? It increases your brand’s reliability.

You’ll meet deadlines. You’ll exceed customer expectations. If you’re in the B2C industry, you’ll be in a position to provide a consistent experience for your customers.

If you’re in the B2B industry, you can set realistic deadlines. You can meet purchase order timelines. Your clients and suppliers will trust you and will count on you.

This improves your business’s reliability and credibility.

Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Everything about preventive maintenance is perfect. It has a lot to offer your company. The big question is how to do it?

If you’re interested in implementing preventive maintenance in your organization, you need to have an actionable plan. The workflow discussed above should be your starting point.

After you have created a workflow, and you know when to perform maintenance, the next step is to create a preventive maintenance checklist. This will help ensure any team member can perform the appropriate maintenance routines consistently.

Where checklists exist in preventive workflows

A checklist simply lists the maintenance tasks that need to be performed when the maintenance is due. Here is an example preventive maintenance checklist for hotel guest rooms:

Example checklist
Source: SlideShare

The checklist lists all the tasks that are to be performed. It is important to create a checklist like this for all assets that your team is monitoring.

How to Create a Preventative Maintenance Checklist

Creating a preventive maintenance checklist for an asset or equipment isn’t hard. For most equipment, you can refer to the manufacturer’s guide to identify maintenance tasks that need to be performed.

Prepare separate checklists for tasks that need to be performed daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. Most of these checklists can be filled by any employee, while more technical ones need to be completed by a specialized technician or engineer.

For general equipment and assets like building maintenance, HVAC, and plumbing, most equipment manuals can be found online. For specialized equipment, you may need to create a customized checklist.

There are five rules that you need to follow when creating a preventative maintenance checklist. Stick with these rules to create a perfect checklist.

What makes for a great preventive maintenance checklist
Source: EZ Office Inventory

1. Organized

Have a structure for your checklist. The maintenance tasks in the checklist should be structured and organized.

What task needs to be performed first, where the equipment is located, who to assign from the relevant department, etc. are a few questions that you need to ask yourself when structuring your checklist.

If your checklist isn’t well organized, the task can become complicated and inconsistently completed. Keep it simple and sequential.

2. Process Oriented

The focus of your preventive maintenance checklists should be on the clearly defining the process and objectives. In a perfect world, your checklist should be comprehensive and instructive enough to be completed by anyone on your staff.

The what, why, and how should be clearly visible in the checklist. The best approach is to divide your process into distinct steps and list each task as a separate checklist.

For instance, instead of listing vehicle maintenance, list all the tasks separately such as oil replacement, air filter inspection, spark plug inspection, etc.

This will make your inspections and maintenance a whole lot easier and practical.

3. Time-Bound

The checklist should clearly define the exact time frame when a task needs to be completed. If you have separate checklists based on their time intervals (daily, weekly, etc.), the right software can help ensure they automatically show up as designed.

It is important to clearly label each process based on both the relevant assets and the specific time-period to ensure your team isn’t confused about which procedure to follow. If using an app like MaintainX, you can easily reference your asset history to make sure the appropriate actions are being completed at the appropriate intervals.

4. Up to Date

Keep your checklists updated. Use existing data, asset age, equipment efficiency, and data from other sources to regularly update checklists. Manufacturers often issue updates to recommended procedures and intervals as they receive feedback from their customers over time.

It’s also important to keep track of prior asset work history in case you needed to replace a part earlier than expected. Obviously, it won’t be necessary to remove a relatively new part if it was already replaced.

5. Have a Purpose

This is an essential component of your preventative maintenance program. You need to clearly define the purpose of your maintenance program for each asset.

For instance, whether you want to achieve 99% uptime for a machine or you want to have zero unplanned downtime for an asset over the first 3 years. These objectives should be clearly visible and trackable on the checklist and asset.

Having a clearly understood purpose helps keep your maintenance team motivated and on the same page with your business objectives. If they understand the role their preventative maintenance processes play in the bigger picture, they will be more inclined to take the process seriously.

If you’re creating and managing your maintenance program manually, use this 5-step approach to creating checklists that will never disappoint you.

Preventative Maintenance Software

MaintainX Global Operating Software

Creating preventative maintenance workflow, planning schedules, and creating checklists might seem a lot of work. If you have a large business (e.g. manufacturing plant) with several assets, machines, and equipment, you can seek help from a CMMS tool.

Imagine creating a maintenance program and checklists for all the assets individually. It gets overwhelming. This is the reason why businesses prefer using Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) like MaintainX.

A CMMS tool simplifies maintenance by automating it. It handles most of the tasks on complete auto-pilot. Statistics show that preventative maintenance is the most popular CMMS feature that businesses want to see in their CMMS tool.

There are several benefits of using a MaintainX CMMS tool for preventative management including:

  • It simplifies maintenance
  • It makes collaboration easier than ever
  • It helps managing assets
  • It helps you manage and analyze data
  • Reminders, checklists, and schedules are updated automatically
  • You can create and manage work orders
  • It is extremely cost-effective
  • It reduces maintenance cost by automating routine tasks
  • It helps you increase asset life
  • Downtime is reduced significantly
  • Productivity is improved

While it’s not necessary to use a CMMS tool but doing so will help you in unimaginable ways. It doesn’t just help with preventative maintenance rather it will help you with several other critical business processes such as safety checklists, advanced forms, analytics, work order templates, collaboration, and more.

Doing preventative maintenance manually is time-consuming, and overwhelming, but it helps you learn the system inside out. You will know what needs to be done, when it is to be done, and how it has to be done.

CMMS, on the other hand, has its own benefits that you cannot ignore. It makes everything streamlined and systematic. It will simplify the whole maintenance program. Plus, any CMMS system will require an initial set up that will mirror a manual process until everything is properly put in place.

If you find your team is constantly falling behind on work orders and communication is unorganized, you should strongly consider switching to a CMMS. The cost savings alone can be substantial enough in the first year to make any manager or owner excited enough to buy-in to the process.

Software solutions aside, what’s most important is that you adopt a preventative maintenance program period. If using a software solution is out of the question, that’s fine. Implement a system manually and you can always switch to a CMMS later.

It’s time to say goodbye to a pure corrective maintenance framework and welcome the benefits of preventative maintenance to your organization.

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