In competitive industries, sometimes the best way to out-perform the competition is to run a lean operation. And since a huge part of any budget is tied up in maintenance and materials, becoming “lean” requires breaking down those parts of your business to spot the inefficiencies. The real question when it comes to operational costs, however, is how much time, money and labor in your current maintenance budget is wasted, and how can you increase efficiency to drive down those costs?

The answers are complex. But as with most business management problems, achieving efficiency in maintenance has a lot to do with following sound principles. Preventive maintenance principles that matter most, I think, are those that have to do with organizing the information that your entire system is based on so that you can then make data-driven decisions that can cut waste and work out of the way your company does maintenance altogether.

You Need to Centralize Your Information

One system that tracks everything is like a giant lever that you can use to move your entire business; such is the power of relevant data. When inventory tracking, asset maintenance and maintenance scheduling are handled by separate systems, it’s hard to see how those parts of your operations relate to and affect one another. If it isn’t easy to see where your time, labor and materials are going, it’d difficult to make changes to your process that will help you save any money, let alone coordinate between departments. You need a system that makes it easy to tell how your resources are being spent, what your current inventory looks like, or who is fulfilling what work orders, at a glance.

You Can’t Maintain What You Don’t Track

How can you know what preventative measures you need to put in place to manage a fleet of vehicles or schedule upgrades to vacant residential units unless you have historical trends that show you where the problems are?

If a certain brand of dishwashers is prone to leaks, and leads to expensive repairs in your residential units, you can identify that trend early, based on historical data rather than relying on anecdotes from your staff and tenants. You can meet new fuel-efficiency targets by adjusting fleet maintenance. These are offensive rather than defensive stances toward preventative maintenance that can only really be possible once you have the information on which to alter your best practices and operational procedures. Otherwise, you’re really only guessing, right?

Automation is Essential for a Growing Organization

Paper tracking is simply impractical when the number of facilities, vehicles and employees you have to manage rises beyond a certain level. No matter how organized the hard-copy system, filtering all those work orders, maintenance requests and inventory lists through one or more employees becomes impossible as your company grows.

The power of preventative maintenance software or inventory tracking programs is that they automate so many of the manual tasks and paperwork, freeing up your staff to manage actual operations. That’s not to mention the time- and labor-saving effects it has on financial reporting and accounting processes.

Defining Maintenance Tasks and Solid Record Keeping

Another very important preventive maintenance principle, of course, one of the primary benefits of digitizing your maintenance tracking in the ways I’ve been talking about is the documentation of your existing maintenance process. With a solid book of record documenting your regular and preventative maintenance tasks, you have a verifiable paper trail to prove compliance. Just defining your operations in such a granular way helps to expose gaps in your strategy. Gaining that birds-eye view of your workload, with a historical perspective of your processes in the past, allows you to tweak processes for efficiency and flexibility as well. Access to data gives you leverage to shore up your existing best practices and adapt to your organization’s growing needs.

Preventative maintenance is about more than just scheduling periodic maintenance tasks; it’s about predicting problems before they arise based on the historical data. When you can look at your past maintenance records, you can get ahead of possible problems before they turn into something bigger, costlier and possibly even more dangerous to your staff and guests.

Preventive maintenance Principles are only the beginning of any business strategy. And while these are worthy basics to keep in mind, the real details of your own company’s processes will require some concerted analysis to reform. With the right tools, I’m sure you can make great changes.

Author bio: Derek Smith is a marketing manager for ManagerPlus. When he isn’t writing about CMMS software, you can find him in the canyons along the Wasatch Front, climbing, hiking, fishing and smelling like campfire smoke.

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