That old saying “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” applies just as much to maintenance management, integrated facilities management, and the benefits of maintenance history records as it does to the rise and fall of empires.
Once you have a solid understanding of the maintenance team’s completed work, you can more effectively schedule preventive maintenance, fine-tune SOPS, forecast inventory, and even make staffing decisions. With an accurate picture of the past, you can plan a better future with less unscheduled downtime, costly repairs, and stress.
To be clear, using maintenance records to plan is not the same as predictive maintenance, where you use sensors to capture data and sophisticated software to predict future failures. Instead, you’re leveraging your records to help you strengthen and streamline your operations. As an incomplete analogy, it’s the same as a restaurant looking at their receipts and noticing that they tend to be busier on Thursday evenings and that the top–selling menu item on weekends is pizza. So, they now know when to schedule extra staff and when to prep more dough and cheese.
What are maintenance history records and what do they include?
Maintenance records are logs of your team’s work on an asset or piece of equipment. There are no set-in-stone requirements for what you must track with maintenance records, but they tend to include:
- Tasks and inspections, including associated checklists
- Dates, both when the work was assigned and completed
- Associated parts and materials for each task
- Related notes and images if the manager or technician added them
Depending on your industry and asset, you might include other data. For example, a fleet maintenance manager records a vehicle’s mileage every time the team works on it. For elevators and fire suppression systems, where there’s a lot of regulation, you always include information about the third-party vendor who completed the work or signed off on the certifications.
Now that we know what they are, let’s look at the importance of maintenance records.
Scheduling preventive maintenance
Your goal with a preventive maintenance program is to find and fix minor issues before they have a chance to develop into budget-busting problems. When first setting up your schedule for inspections and tasks, you can always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If they say you need to lubricate a pump every 12 months, simply set an annual preventive maintenance task (PM).
But over time, those recommendations can lose accuracy. You’re not trying to maintain a brand-new pump fresh from the factory. Instead, you’re working with a piece of equipment that’s been in your facility for a while under a specific set of operating conditions. So, eventually, your preventive maintenance records can tell you much more about how and when to maintain your assets than anyone else.
For example, you might discover that some of your assets are more prone to going offline in the summer, when the factory floor tends to be hotter, and more humid. In that case, you can schedule additional inspections to avoid problems before they can shut down the production line, driving up costs.
Troubleshooting repairs and fine-tuning SOPS
When a tech arrives on site, the last thing you want them to think is, “Where do I even start?”
For PMs, you can avoid this problem by including checklists and step-by-step instructions. But for on-demand work orders where you only know an asset is down — but not why — it’s much harder to give good advice. Whereas if your tech can review historical asset maintenance and repairs data, they can see what problems tended to pop up in the past and how the team handled them.
The first time the team figured out it was the industrial saw that was tripping the fuse, it took an hour of trial and error. But the second time, a tech could look at the maintenance records and devise a solution in minutes. And that second solution is going to be better than the first one. The tech knows the first one worked for a while but wasn’t a permanent fix.
Forecasting and controlling inventory
Maintenance records help you schedule the right combinations of inspections and tasks, and they help you know what to do both for PMs and on-demand work orders. And because you know all this, you also have a good sense of the parts and materials you need to keep in inventory.
For example, by leveraging your maintenance records, you know to schedule inspections for the hydraulic press that include:
- Looking for oil leaks and loose bolts
- Ensuring oil levels are correct
- Checking the lubrication on the grease plates
- Centering the ram
- Recording the oil temperature during operation
When scheduling the PM, it’s now easy to include the associated parts and materials – the right oil and lubricant for that press. If the team plans on closing out that PM mid-month, you know you need that inventory in stock by then. Techs get the right parts, right when they need them.
Staffing the maintenance team
You can also leverage maintenance records to get a good sense of who on the team does the best work and who needs more supervision and support. Remember, your records include information on who did the work and how long they took to do it. It might also have their notes and uploaded images, giving you a sense of their overall thoroughness and attention to detail.
What do the trends tell you about the team? Maintenance records reveal who on the team:
- Closes out the most work orders
- Completes repairs that last the longest
- Burns through the most parts and materials
You can also use maintenance records to help you with hiring decisions. If you notice a lot of your work orders involved welding, for example, you can make that a requirement for future hires.
Accurate, up-to-date maintenance records have many benefits, including helping you schedule preventive maintenance, improve SOBs, forecast inventory, and make better hiring decisions.
Although there is no industry-wide standard for which data to collect, records generally include data on who did the work, what they did, and any parts and materials they used. Once you understand which types of failures are more common, you can tailor your PMs to avoid problems better. You also know what to carry in inventory, ensuring techs have what they need when they need it.
For on-demand work orders, techs can quickly see what work the team did in the past, giving them important clues about how to best tackle issues. Now they know what did and didn’t work. For repair-or-replace decisions, you can use the records to determine which assets cost you the most to maintain, helping you decide when best to replace them.
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