If you want to implement preventive maintenance, you need a preventive maintenance schedule. You can’t have one without the other. But once you get one that works for you, you can avoid unnecessary downtime, keeping assets online and saving yourself time, money, and headaches.  

So, now the pressing questions are “What is a preventive maintenance schedule?” and “How can you create and implement one?” 

On one level, the first answer is obvious. A preventive maintenance schedule is where you keep track of your PMs. On the most basic level, it’s just a calendar with PMs scheduled on different dates.  

But it’s also a lot more than that. 

What is a preventive maintenance schedule?  

Preventive maintenance is when you’re doing a combination of inspections and tasks on assets, equipment, and vehicles at regular intervals to reduce the likelihood of equipment failure leading to unplanned downtime.  

To keep ahead of failure, you need to create a schedule of who does what and to which assets and equipment. And, of course, you also need to include when. 

Let’s look a bit more closely at the when part. 

An effective preventive maintenance schedule includes all the maintenance tasks and inspections the team performs on your critical assets based on specific times or triggers. So, you might have an asset like a pump checked every three months. Or you could look at it every so many cycles. In the first case, you’re going by time. In the second, usage.  

Once you have a sense of how often you need to schedule the work, you can then look at all the other things that need to come together to make it happen. So, you should consider the availability of skilled technicians, inventory such as spare parts and tools, and the timeframes for completing tasks to determine when the best time is to do the work. 

For example, you might schedule an inspection on that pump for a Monday early in November, when you know that the tech who knows the most about it is not scheduled to be away on holiday. And you also know that doing it then gives you more than enough time to get in the right parts. On top of that, looking at the production schedule, you know that that pump is already scheduled to be offline. So, you can have the right tech look at it prepped with the right parts and supplies without having to worry about any operators standing around waiting for the line to be back up and running.  

Who should make the preventive maintenance schedule? 

Even though we’ve used “you” up till now, it could be that you’re not going to be making the schedule yourself. Creating preventive maintenance schedules is usually the job of maintenance supervisors, maintenance planners, or dedicated maintenance schedulers. It really depends on the size and set up of the maintenance department.  

As a quick side note, don’t confuse preventive maintenance scheduling with preventive maintenance planning, which focuses on what tasks your techs need to do and how they should do it. The easiest way to understand the difference is to think of them as sequential. First, you plan what the team needs to do and how it needs to do it. From there, you make a schedule.  

Why is a preventive maintenance schedule important?  

A preventive maintenance schedule helps you stay up to date with the maintenance tasks on all critical assets within your organization. It makes it possible to keep ahead of the maintenance curve, catching and fixing small issues before they have a chance to make their way down the P-F curve, where everything is a lot more expensive and frustrating. 

The benefits of creating a preventive maintenance schedule can include:  

  • Reducing the likelihood of equipment failure  
  • Keeping equipment running at optimum levels  
  • Increasing your overall wrench time 
  • Extending the life spans of your assets   
  • Reducing your unplanned downtime 

On benefit that people don’t often consider is how a strong PM program helps with safety. When you can actively avoid failures, there is less chance of injury to both the maintenance techs and operators. Remember, when equipment fails, it can do more than just suddenly stop working. You might be dealing with anything from toxic materials to fires.  

How often should you perform preventive maintenance? 

It’s all about finding the sweet spot, because if you do them too soon and too often, you end up not only wasting time and money but also risking damaging your assets. Remember, every time you lock out and tag out an asset to open it up, there is a non-zero chance that something is going to go wrong. From damaging the access panels to accidentally leaving tools inside before closing the asset up and turning it back on. 

You can schedule your preventive maintenance based on time, usage, or condition-based triggers. The trigger you use can differ from asset to asset depending on the most suitable approach for each. Your risk assessment, historical data, advice from the manufacturer, and health and safety regulations help you determine when you should inspect your equipment and the right trigger to use.   

Time-based preventive maintenance uses a set time interval, such as every 10 days or on the first day of every month, to determine when you inspect your assets. An example might be replacing an air filter every three months or changing the engine oil in a vehicle every six months.  

This works well when you have an asset that gets consistent use with parts that degrade at predictable rates. So, changing the air filter every six months only makes sense if it’s in an engine that runs about the same amount of time every six months. But if it’s the engine on your snowblower, it’s getting a lot of use in the winter before sitting idle for the spring, summer, and fall.  

Usage-based scheduling sets maintenance intervals according to your usage of an asset. You can track usage with equipment monitors and set up maintenance schedules based on operating hours, distance covered, production cycles, and other predetermined parameters. Once the asset reaches that number, a work order is created for your techs to perform the necessary maintenance.   

Condition-based maintenance uses sensors to monitor the condition of your equipment. You can then schedule maintenance when you hit certain parameters. For example, you can schedule a maintenance task when the vibration or temperature of a component moves past a certain threshold. Your techs can then inspect and/or repair the equipment before its performance declines or it fails. 

How do you make and implement a preventive maintenance schedule?  

Creating a preventive maintenance schedule can take time, but it could be one of the best long-term investments you make. The key is to identify the optimum maintenance interval for each asset, enabling you to maximize your resources while reducing the costs and downtime associated with going from one crisis to the next. 

No matter how good you are at putting out fires, it’s always easier and cheaper and less stressful to just avoid them altogether in the first place.  

Step 1: Create an inventory of your assets   

Your first job is to create an inventory of your most critical assets. These are the assets that would cause considerable disruption if they were to fail. The assets that benefit most from a preventive maintenance schedule are those that:  

  • Have high repair and replacement costs  
  • Are more likely to fail as time goes by  
  • Are vital to the function and success of your operations  
  • Have failure modes that you can prevent with routine maintenance  

You should record the make and model, serial number, unit number, location, category, primary users, and parts for each asset in a spreadsheet or your enterprise asset management system (EAM).  

If this is your first time doing preventive maintenance, it’s worth scheduling tasks for newer assets and equipment initially. Taking that approach will help you generate a better return than if you choose equipment that’s already reaching the end of its life cycle and is ready to be replaced. It can also help you prove value more quickly if you’re still in the process of pitching preventive maintenance to the rest of the organization.   

Step 2: Determine your priorities  

Preventive maintenance can help you make big savings on critical assets; however, it can be expensive, unnecessary, and wasteful on non-critical assets that can easily be replaced. So, you need to determine which assets you’re going to perform preventive maintenance on and conducting a criticality analysis is a good way to do it.    

Just assign a score to your assets based on their criticality to production and safety, how much regular maintenance they require, and how high their repair and replacement costs are. Those assets with the highest scores should be prioritized and scheduled for preventive maintenance.    

Step 3: Identify appropriate maintenance intervals  

Over-maintaining your assets can be just as wasteful as under-maintaining them, so always do your research to determine the most appropriate maintenance intervals.   

Every asset differs in terms of its maintenance needs, which is why reviewing your historical maintenance data is such a valuable source of insights. It can reveal past failure patterns and the components you should pay the most attention to.   

As well as historical data, you should consult the equipment manufacturer’s manual, which will contain instructions, schedules, and information about the usage of spare parts. The machine operators and your more experienced technicians will also have some insight into the asset’s failure patterns.    

Step 4: Schedule recurring inspections and tasks  

Now you know how frequently you need to inspect and maintain each asset; you can create recurring work orders for those tasks. Using an EAM solution like ManagerPlus® allows you to generate, assign, track, and store recurring work orders in a centralized and easy-to-use platform. The software also allows you to automate short-term and long-term schedules and capture all the minor maintenance tasks that can fall through the cracks, so you don’t miss a trick.   

Step 5: Check your progress and keep fine-tuning  

Your preventive maintenance schedule is not something you can set and leave. Instead, you should monitor your progress and identify areas where you can make improvements. There are several metrics that you can use to see how well you’re doing, including:  

  • Mean Time Before Failure (MTBF) – This measures the average time between asset failures (number of operational hours/number of failures).  
  • Preventive Maintenance Compliance (PMC) – PMC measures how many of your scheduled tasks you complete within a given period (number of completed tasks/number of scheduled tasks x 100).  
  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) – OEE combines asset availability, performance, and production quality to determine the overall productivity of your assets. Here’s how you can calculate OEE 

The metrics that best align with your maintenance goals should be your benchmarks of success. When monitoring your progress, it’s important to remember that your preventive maintenance schedule may not be perfect from the off. Another benefit of using EAM software to create and implement your PM schedule is that you can adjust quickly and with minimal effort.   

How can EAM software help?  

EAM software can be a lifesaver when you’re scheduling preventive maintenance tasks. Just program the usage or time triggers and your EAM will do the rest by scheduling the tasks for your techs to complete.   

ManagerPlus® can help you with every aspect of your preventive maintenance, from scheduling your tasks to managing work orders and controlling your inventory.   

You can stay on top of your maintenance by setting ManagerPlus to automatically trigger tasks based on preset conditions such as time and mileage. It also helps you monitor equipment performance so you can make informed decisions about whether to replace or maintain your assets. You can also produce historical equipment maintenance reports to show you how often you have repaired equipment and at what total cost.   

Next steps  

Ready to create and implement a preventive maintenance schedule?  

Then book a live demo of ManagerPlus with one of our experts or get in touch so we can answer your questions.    

Executive summary  

A preventive maintenance schedule sets out who will perform your planned maintenance tasks and when and is an important part of a preventive maintenance strategy. Your preventive maintenance schedule should consider the availability of skilled technicians, your inventory of tools and spare parts, and the priority of different maintenance tasks to determine when the best time is to do the work.    

You can determine how often you should perform preventive maintenance tasks based on time, usage, or condition-based triggers. Your risk assessment, historical data, and advice from the manufacturer will help you decide which trigger to use.   

Making and implementing your preventive maintenance schedule is a relatively simple process. A great way to start is by creating a schedule for a few of your most critical assets. Once you have a schedule that works, you can then apply the same principles to any other assets that you want to routinely maintain.   

The right EAM solution can help with every aspect of the preventive maintenance process, from scheduling your tasks to managing work orders and controlling your inventory. It also helps you monitor your equipment closely so you can make more informed maintenance decisions 

About the author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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Preventive Maintenance Effectiveness: Better Maintenance, On Time

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