Preventive maintenance (PM) is one of the best methods for cost-effective asset management and asset performance improvement. From small-scale equipment to heavy machinery to vehicles, nearly every item in your inventory is prone to routine wear and breakdowns.

By proactively planning maintenance, repairs, replacements and associated downtime in advance, you can save time and money.

What are the key strategies that fuel a preventive maintenance program? The specifics can vary greatly among companies, but in general, a sound plan requires:

  • An understanding of each asset’s total maintenance requirements
  • Item-specific checklists for maintenance tasks
  • Triggers that cue teams to perform preventive maintenance
  • Work orders and purchase orders required to fulfill maintenance needs

Satisfying these requirements also means you’ll need to build out several infrastructure elements, such as accurate documentation, clear communication and a complete, real-time view of your inventory.

While implementing these tactics is may be easier said than done, it’s well worth the upfront effort. Compared to unplanned maintenance, a refined preventive program leads not only to lower maintenance costs, but greater productivity, improved safety and better asset utilization.

Consider the following overview for your preventive maintenance program.

Why you need a preventive maintenance program

To answer this question, it’s important to consider the downsides of the all-too-common alternative: reactive maintenance. Also referred to as “run-to-failure” maintenance, this strategy typically costs more in the long run—three to nine times as much as planned maintenance, according to some estimates. And according to the International Journal of Engineering Science Invention, poor equipment maintenance likewise contributes to 40% of the construction industry’s overrun costs.

Reactive maintenance is also inefficient. Any unplanned failure on a piece of equipment takes that asset out of commission for far longer than if it had been briefly sidelined for scheduled maintenance. Additional delays attributed to reactive maintenance are often caused by the time investment required for diagnosing the issue after a partial or full asset failure.

Meanwhile, the asset itself becomes less profitable, and the company suffers unplanned downtime or, at the very least, the high costs of a rental or rush replacement.

Finally, for many assets, reactive maintenance is dangerous to workers. Operators understand the risks of deferring routine maintenance on their vehicles and facility assets, yet plenty of organizations run heavy machinery and equipment to failure, or near failure. Workers could be at risk for serious accidents including injuries and electrocution. Not surprisingly, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends that companies implement preventive maintenance specifically for safety purposes.

Studies demonstrate that preventive maintenance tends to be cheaper, more efficient and safer in the long run. The key findings of one Plant Engineering study found that among manufacturing facilities adopting preventive strategies, 69% saw a decrease in equipment downtime, 66% extended their assets’ operational lifetimes and 62% improved employee health and safety.

Overall, any organization aiming to maximize asset return on investment (ROI) should be employing preventive maintenance measures. Those with established PM programs should optimize them by implementing continuous monitoring and process improvement.

Best practices for a preventive maintenance program

While every organization will implement its Preventive Maintenance Plan a little differently, there are a few standards that apply broadly across industries including manufacturing, construction, facilities and fleet operations.

1. Use a selective approach

While PM offers tremendous long-term savings, its upfront costs require users to be selective in their application. In general, the assets most suitable for preventive maintenance include items that are critical to your operation, that have an increased likelihood of failure over time, and whose failures can be prevented with scheduled maintenance. This includes most heavy machinery and vehicles, but may exclude smaller pieces of equipment, components prone to random failures and assets that cost more to maintain than to replace.

For example, small hand-held devices can often be replaced for less than the cost of a repair when downtime is added into the equation. Rechargeable batteries can also lose their integrity over time, so monitor battery health often and decide when a replacement device makes more sense than a replacement battery.

2. Time preventive maintenance tasks correctly

Obviously, the same PM strategies won’t apply uniformly to every asset. One common distinction is the use of either time-based or usage-based triggers. A common example of a time-based trigger might be performing monthly inspections of a critical, high-cost piece of equipment, such as an excavator at a construction site. The trigger is the time: once a month.

On the other hand, a usage-based trigger calls for routine maintenance based on a threshold of operator use. For a vehicle, the use is often based on miles driven. For machinery, it could be hours of use or production cycles sustained. Perhaps a cutting blade needs to be replaced at the end of every production cycle, for example.

Also increasingly common is the use of predictive, or condition-based maintenance. This type of scheduling involves the use of ultrasound, infrared, vibration sensors and other technologies to gauge the changing condition of an asset. For items that are expensive to maintain and require specialized skills to repair, predictive maintenance can be a more cost-effective alternative to both time- and usage-based strategies, allowing organizations to only invest in maintenance when absolutely necessary.

3. Document tasks accurately

Complete, consistent documentation is one of the cornerstones of any viable PM program. To gauge how often or under what conditions you need to plan maintenance, you must first understand each asset’s service history, as well as its manufacturer-recommended maintenance procedures. Detailed documentation also provides proof of your due diligence, which may be necessary to qualify for warranty coverage and replacements.

Your organization’s documentation should be centralized, particularly if assets are spread out and moved between multiple facilities and job sites. Any team member responsible for an item’s maintenance should be able to review and update its history. The data resulting from good documentation can also be useful in ensuring accurate return-on-investment calculations.

4. Train teams on the end-to-end PM process

From updating schedules to writing work orders to documenting failures, planned and unplanned maintenance both require a wide variety of supporting tasks. Employees throughout your organization should understand exactly how to perform these tasks within the context of your PM system.

Where can they access maintenance histories? How can they alert supervisors and safety managers of equipment failure? How should they submit work orders that can be integrated with both your accounting and analytics systems? Everyone involved in a preventive maintenance plan should be able to answer these questions.

Likewise, trained operators will be more productive while causing less wear and tear on the equipment they use. If you’re aiming for high asset ROI, it pays to train and retrain employees as necessary on each asset they use. Employees who are knowledgeable about their equipment will also be more likely to spot failure warning signs and schedule repairs before a real breakdown occurs.

Map your preventive maintenance

With best practices in mind, you’ll need to tailor your preventive maintenance program to your organization’s needs. Which assets stand to produce the greatest improvements in ROI? How can you bring your team up to speed on your new program? How will you measure success? Following are a few guidelines for helping you answer those questions and more.

1. Survey your inventory

A good preventive maintenance program must begin with a thorough view of your entire inventory. From critical machinery to tiny replacement parts, make sure you’re accounting for everything. Don’t skimp on the details, as a granular view will allow you to fulfill work orders far more efficiently. With the right work order software in place, you can set your inventory to update as parts are used and issue replacement orders to your vendors automatically.

2. Determine your key performance indicators

What gets measured gets managed. To gauge the ROI of your PM program and make necessary changes, you must first determine your measures of success: your key performance indicators (KPIs). Specific KPIs will vary from one organization to the next, but they generally fall into one of a few categories: asset performance, operations and inventory.

Asset metrics include average repair completion time, time between failures and per-item productivity. On the operations side, you might measure the ratio of planned to unplanned maintenance, as well as compliance with specified maintenance timeframes. Finally, inventory metrics include work order backlogs, parts turnover and average stock.

3. Prioritize your assets

PM won’t produce ROI for every asset, and there may be items you want to repair or replace reactively. Consider which pieces of equipment, which heavy machinery and which vehicles currently incur the highest maintenance costs, and start there.

Just as importantly, compare current maintenance costs in totality against the costs of preventive maintenance. Even for a high-dollar critical asset, an impromptu repair may not cost much more than routine maintenance. If you consider the downstream effects, however—namely unplanned downtime and reduced productivity—you will likely find tremendous savings opportunities.

4. Create triggers

You’ll need to determine maintenance triggers for each of the assets you’ve prioritized: events that lead to work orders, planned downtime and, when necessary, calls to third-party technicians. These triggers may be based on time, use or equipment condition, but they must be well-defined. With clear triggers in place, you’ll be equipped to gauge KPIs such as compliance and time to repair.

5. Assign teams

Your facilities management team might be planning your program, but preventive maintenance is an organization-wide effort. Assign responsibilities to specific teams. These responsibilities may include documentation updates, task tracking, inventory management and physical maintenance tasks. Even if these tasks are largely managed electronically, it’s important to designate specific personnel who are accountable for ensuring their completion.

6. Constantly refine your approach

Even the best preventive maintenance program is never complete. There is always a balance to strike between too much planned maintenance and too little. The “sweet spot” is a moving target whose position changes based on company growth, customer demands, equipment depreciation and a host of other factors.

Improve PM with enterprise asset management software

An effective preventive maintenance program intertwines several variables: downtime, uptime, KPIs, sensor data, maintenance schedules and more; not to mention an inventory that may include hundreds, if not millions, of items.

Fortunately, the right preventive maintenance software platform can organize all of these moving parts into a centralized, easy-to-understand, actionable interface. From basic maintenance checklists to customized analytics, you can gain a snapshot of your organization’s asset performance.

As you search for a PM software system, consider whether it offers the following:

  • Flexible, cloud-based service: Access and update data from any location on any platform—mobile or otherwise.
  • Automatic anomaly detection: Receive alerts as predictive maintenance sensors find faults and initiate triggers.
  • Automated inventory management: Update stock and order replacements in real time in accordance with work orders.
  • Business intelligence analytics: Gain insight into which equipment is most failure-prone and why.

ManagerPlus Lightning can streamline your preventive maintenance program with all these capabilities and more. ManagerPlus is a leader in enterprise asset management (EAM) software for the construction, manufacturing, fleet and facilities management industries. From highly detailed inventory management to work order automation to high-tech predictive maintenance capabilities, the ManagerPlus platform offers everything modern enterprises need to deploy an effective, efficient PM program.

For more information on how ManagerPlus can operationalize your preventive maintenance program, schedule a personalized demo.

About the author


ManagerPlus is the preferred solution across the most asset-intensive industries, including Fortune 500 companies, to improve reliability and minimize downtime.
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