The goal of every type of preventive maintenance, including predetermined, condition-based, and predictive, is to find and fix small issues before they grow into problems that require corrective maintenance. The earlier you see something, the easier and cheaper it is to fix.

A bit too much heat is easier to deal with than smoke. And smoke, although terrible, is less terrible than flames. But even before you start to think about preventive, there’s a type of maintenance you could implement even earlier in an asset’s life cycle: pre-maintenance. 

Pre-maintenance is the maintenance you rely on even before a new asset or piece of equipment arrives. 

What is pre-maintenance? 

Pre-maintenance is when you use future maintenance requirements to help decide which assets and equipment to purchase. By adding more factors into your decision-making process, you can ensure more uptime, less frustration. 

What are the benefits of pre-maintenance? 

A good way to understand the benefits is to look at life without and then with pre-maintenance. 

Choosing assets and equipment without pre-maintenance 

Typically, the buying industrial equipment involves looking at: 

  • Production output 
  • Energy consumption 
  • Space requirements 
  • Workforce requirements 
  • Price and financing options 

So, imagine you’re thinking about getting a new forklift for the warehouse. The first thing you would look at is the capacity. You need to move X number of boxes of Y average weight a day. Does the forklift in question meet those requirements?

You also need to think about how much it’s going to cost you to run the forklift. Does it sip fuel or tend to gulp it? For something that you want to move around the warehouse, you need to think about its size in relation to the amount of space between the racks.

It’s not the right equipment for the job if you can’t easily maneuver it in the space.  

If you were looking at a larger generator, though, something that only ever moves twice, first the day it’s installed and then second the day its removed, you have to make sure there’s both enough space for it and enough space around it, both for workforce safety and so it can shed heat.  

When comparing prices between equipment, you have to also factor in financing options. Are there discounts for paying all at once? Do they offer low-rate financing? In some cases, choosing the “greener” option comes with government rebates and other incentives.  

All these aspects are important, and you need to take them all into consideration when making your purchasing decisions. But alone, they are not enough to protect you from expensive mistakes.  

Choosing assets and equipment with pre-maintenance 

Absent from the list above is anything connected to maintenance. You’re failing to factor in the costs associated with keeping the asset up and running and then fixing it when it breaks. 

And those costs can be huge. It would depend on your specific industry, but generally the cost of downtime can be as high as $260,000 per hour. The International Society of Automation reported a new study suggesting downtime costs $532,000 an hour at industrial facilities. That’s $1 trillion annually.   

But when you look at all that goes into that number, it makes sense. You’re paying for: 

  • Lost revenue 
  • Financial penalties 
  • Idle operators 
  • Maintenance materials, parts, labor 
  • Restarting costs 

So, anything you can do to avoid downtime or make it as short as possible saves you money.  

When looking at a new asset or piece of equipment, with pre-maintenance, you also consider: 

  • Warranties 
  • Prices for materials and parts 
  • Availability of materials and parts 
  • Maintenance documentation 
  • Physical access to the inside of the asset 

In most cases, none of these by themselves are going to tip the scale one way or another. But collectively, they deserve careful consideration.

By looking ahead to how easily you can maintain something and the built-in and possible costs, you can make better decisions on everything from smaller purchases to large capital planning projects.  

By looking at the future maintenance costs, you have a better understanding of the total cost of ownership, here specifically focused on what an asset is going to cost you both in avoiding downtime and actual downtime.  

How does pre-maintenance help reduce corrective maintenance? 

It’s worth going through that list more closely and looking at how each item can help you reduce downtime, both by avoiding it and making it possible for you to get back up and running quickly when things go wrong. With the right pre-maintenance planning, you can cut your corrective maintenance. 


It’s important to ensure a new asset comes with a comprehensive warranty. Many asset and equipment types follow the bathtub failure curve, with much higher rates of failures at the start and then the end of the life cycle.

Early on, failures are due to manufacturing defects or poor installation. Later, it’s simple wear and tear. In both cases, you need a warranty that ensures you are covered, ideally for parts and labor.

One thing to look for in warranties is the different ways you can accidentally void them. Is there a set maintenance schedule you need to follow? Are there restrictions on which materials and parts you can use?   

Prices for materials and parts  

There are many factors that go into calculating the cost of downtime. So, even if you can get the right people and parts in place right away, it’s still going to be expensive if the materials and parts cost you a lot of money.

Before deciding on an asset, you need to consider the price of the parts, including the idea that in some cases, a single part might cost nearly as much as what you paid for the entire asset.  

Availability of materials and parts  

On top of price for parts, you also need to consider availability. If the parts are cheap but it takes a long time to source them, the downtime is expensive overall. Over the last few years, as supply chains have tightened, more and more companies have been turning to onshoring as a way of ensuring they can keep the parts they need in stock.

For future purchasing decisions, some are choosing to go, when possible, with domestic brands or foreign brands with domestic manufacturing facilities.   

Maintenance documentation 

It’s hard to imagine asking to see the owner’s manual when you’re test driving a car, but when it comes to large assets and equipment, it makes perfect sense to look at the quality and quantity of the documentation.

You should consider not only what’s included but also the format. A file is a lot easier to search and share than a paper book, no matter how good the index. 

Ideally, the documentation or some version of it makes its way into your enterprise asset management (EAM) software, so you should ask yourself, “How easily can I get this into my software solution?” 

Physical access to the inside of the asset 

Every predetermined, preventive, and even predictive program involves both inspections and tasks that require your maintenance technicians to roll up their sleeves and get inside the assets and equipment. The easier they can do this, the better they can perform the work.    

A basic example is the trend of engine covers in luxury cars. Now, performing some of even the most basic inspections and tasks on your car involve removing a large piece of plastic held in place by clips that are notoriously challenging to work with and easy to break. 

So, it’s important to look at how easy it is to inspect and access critical parts of the equipment. It’s important not only for preventive maintenance but also reactive.

If you need to spend time removing plates before you can get inside an asset to fix it, the repairs overall take longer. You’re also adding time to the end of the repairs, when you put everything back together before testing and eventually going back online. 

Which maintenance KPIs help you track pre-maintenance? 

It’s one thing to talk about the importance of pre-maintenance, it’s another to successfully implement it. But by looking at the right maintenance key performance indicators (KPIs), you can get a sense of how well you’re doing. 

Mean time to repair (MTTR) tells you the average time it takes the maintenance team to diagnose and repair an asset after it’s gone offline. To calculate MTTR, you add together all your downtime and divide it by the number of repairs. So, the smaller you can get this maintenance KPI, the better, because it means the team is able to respond quickly.  

Another good maintenance KPI is overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), which shows you an asset’s overall effectiveness. Basically, it tells you how close you are getting to 100% of possible quality, performance, and availability for a given asset.

It’s important to remember that it’s not a direct indication of the relative success of the pre-maintenance steps you’ve been taking, but OEE is tightly connected to the effectiveness of all your maintenance programs, including pre-maintenance, preventive, and corrective.

If your numbers are good, there’s a good chance your doing pre-maintenance correctly. 


Pre-maintenance is how you get a step ahead of costly downtime, even before setting up all your other preventive maintenance programs, including predetermined, condition-based, and predictive.

By adding to the list of things to consider before choosing new assets and equipment, you can ensure less of the costly downtime connected to corrective maintenance.

In most cases, an organization looks at a set list of factors when making purchasing decisions, including output, space, and price. All of these are important, but they don’t tell you how much it’s going to cost you to keep the asset up and running or repair it when it breaks.

By looking at warranties, prices and availability for parts, documentation, and access points, you can better predict how easy and how costly an asset is to maintain.

When trying to judge the overall effectiveness of your pre-maintenance, you can look at related maintenance KPIs. For example, mean time to repair and overall equipment effectiveness. 

About the author

Jonathan Davis

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