Preventive maintenance (PM) is the cornerstone of your asset management strategy. It’s the key to getting the longest lifecycle out of the equipment, machines, and vehicles that your business counts on.
The best preventive maintenance plans aim to streamline tasks and operationalize the workflow in an efficient way. In other words, you shouldn’t spend more time scheduling each maintenance task than actually doing it. But preventive maintenance also goes beyond scheduling to include the business intelligence that leads to a better bottom line.
What is preventive maintenance?
Preventive maintenance is a strategy of maintaining assets proactively to keep them in optimal condition and to reduce the risk of unscheduled repairs and certain safety concerns. It essentially combats anything that would put production on hold, delay projects, or call the company's reputation into question.
As part of the larger asset management process, your Preventive maintenance plan must include:
- Documented maintenance needs for individual assets
- Schedules of maintenance tasks required before an asset’s performance is compromised
- Cues for teams to begin the Preventive maintenance work
- Methods for tracking the status of Preventive maintenance tasks through completion
- An inventory of parts and materials used with each Preventive maintenance task
- Documentation of what was done, when, and by whom
What are the benefits of preventive maintenance?
The No. 1 benefit of a well-designed Preventive maintenance strategy is cost savings. Those savings come from two areas: savings from not having to purchase a new asset to replace an old one; and savings from avoiding asset failures that reduce your uptime.
You can quickly calculate the value gained by getting additional life out of an asset. For example, if you can get six year’s use out of a $2,000 piece of equipment instead of just four, you’ve saved $1,000 in replacement costs. If preventive maintenance costs were $200, your net gain is $800.
Avoided failures can be harder to measure—those breakdowns that didn’t happen. But you can probably put a price on downtime for your business. How much revenue would you lose if your business had to shut down for several hours unexpectedly while a critical asset was repaired? What about for a whole day?
Certainly, each asset has a number of variables to consider beyond just replacement costs and equipment downtime. For example, when it comes to vehicles used in the fleet industry, replacing an older car or truck might yield a greater fuel economy. The variables are endless.
Even so, some estimates place the financial return on investment for PM at 500% or more.
Another clear benefit of preventive maintenance is improved safety. Assets that are in good working order are less likely to create safety risks for workers who use them routinely and for the teams that are responsible for making repairs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 199,000 nonfatal injuries in construction and 430,000 in manufacturing in 2018. The National Safety Council notes that 26% of occupational injuries are caused by contact with objects or equipment. Transportation, manufacturing, installation and construction are four of the top five occupations with a high rate of work-related injuries. Safety is always a priority.
How to develop a preventive maintenance plan
No one wants to skimp on maintenance, cutting corners, or deferring upkeep so many times that the potential for asset failure becomes inevitable. However, it’s important to note that too high a frequency of preventive maintenance can also result in excess cost because of the wasted work hours and replacement parts.
A solid preventive maintenance plan must be balanced, taking many variables into account, and must be quantified with data whenever possible.
To develop a preventive maintenance plan, several departments within your organization must evaluate needs and determine priorities. Leadership must be involved to consider the big-picture of the business overall, especially the financial impact of the preventive maintenance plan. Engineering or operations teams must look at the effect preventive maintenance will have on the enterprise, and maintenance teams must consider historical asset performance, manpower, and budgets.
The asset manager should have data that supports the decision-making process, helping the multidisciplinary team judge costs and benefits with some level of detail. Your plan will begin with the goal of maximum uptime, which then can be broken down into smaller, more specific maintenance schedules for each type of asset.
As you create your maintenance schedules, you’ll have some tasks that can be done on certain days, but most will be scheduled more dynamically based on use of the asset. For example, you might set a goal of removing debris from an injection molding machine at the end of every production cycle, or changing the oil on a vehicle after a certain number of miles on the road.
How to use asset management software for preventive maintenance
Knowing that the goal of preventive maintenance is to thwart potential problems before they arise and minimize the risk of asset failure, you also have the equally important goal of managing the preventive maintenance process effectively and efficiently. While you might be tempted to invest in an application specifically geared towards preventive maintenance, doing so often results in practical limitations.
The more sound advice is to choose a cloud-based, integrated preventive maintenance software platform that handles the full range of asset management responsibilities. By using a comprehensive tool that also allows you to access it from any location, you can streamline preventive maintenance tasks and get a better insight into asset performance across your entire business.
One-off tools simply can’t provide the data points that most businesses need to ensure their assets are optimized. But an integrated platform can.
With a cloud-based asset management platform, you can collect data that answer key business questions about your preventive maintenance plan:
- What assets do we have, how many, and where are they located?
- How often do we perform PM on each type of asset?
- What triggers PM on each type of asset?
- What maintenance measures have we taken for regulatory compliance or inspections?
- What is our most common maintenance task?
- What parts are we using for PM? Do we have enough? Too much?
- How much manpower is needed for PM?
- Who completed which PM task and when?
- Which assets are going to need replacement in the next 90 days? 6 months?
- How are we predicting our future PM needs?
Your preventive maintenance plan is about more than just scheduling. It’s a strategy that has business implications and a measurable impact on the bottom line.
Of course, you want to revisit your preventive maintenance strategy often—at least once a year, or any time you bring new assets into the fold. You’ll also want to revisit the plan on an ongoing basis with an eye for continuous improvement.