These days, running a warehouse or factory is a complex job, with numerous factors, processes, and issues to consider at all times. While technology may be bolstering efficiency, there is still a constant stream of data to review, as well as decisions to be made. If you head up an operation, chances are you’re constantly in the midst of upgrading systems and/or investing in time-saving automation — and, of course, training your associates on the new changes. But, operational logistics aside, one of the most important and long-established ways to keep your processes running smoothly and avoid unnecessary holdups is to implement a robust preventive maintenance program.
Preventive maintenance consists of regular, scheduled maintenance activities that are performed on equipment to reduce the chance of failure and extend uptime. When practiced diligently, preventative maintenance programs allow businesses to take note of any small problems as they arise and address them before they cause costly hitches.
A well-designed preventive maintenance program can streamline productivity, prevent unnecessary downtime, and even bring a positive benefit to your overall bottom line. Unexpected breakdowns are among the worst disruptions to operations, resulting in massive delays and high repair costs. In today’s world of constant movement, maintaining continuous operations for factories and warehouses is as critical as ever.
This guide contains an in-depth overview of the important steps needed to properly scope, design, and implement an effective preventive maintenance plan. Being organized and deliberate in the way you set up your plan is the best way to ensure a great balance between risk and cost. Below, you will find the best tips and recommendations for designing your preventative maintenance plan the right way, on your first attempt.
In this guide, we’ll cover:
- The Definition of Preventive Maintenance
- How To Organize Your Maintenance Team
- Auditing Your Equipment and Assets
- Setting Preventive Maintenance Goals and Budgets
- Developing Your PM Tasks
- Setting up Long Term PM Schedules
- Tracking, Adjustments, and Improvements
- Additional Resources on Preventive Maintenance
Definition of Preventive Maintenance
When considering the vast realm of the operations fields, there are various maintenance strategies with which preventive maintenance might be attributed and, thus, confused. So, before we delve into the specifics, let’s define the concept of preventive maintenance.
Business Dictionary defines preventive maintenance as being the “systematic inspection, detection, correction, and prevention of incipient failures, before they become actual or major failures.”
This definition is in direct contrast with ‘corrective maintenance,’ a maintenance “plan” — or lack thereof — that forces the operation to fix problems as they arise. While corrective maintenance might be a necessary evil for micro-operations with micro-budgets, its inherent lack of planning, ownership, and organization can be extremely dangerous for the overall health of the business.
In a nutshell, operations that adopt and implement preventive maintenance procedures are forced to do a lot of important legwork which, in turn, provides a more comprehensive, holistic understanding of their equipment. Operations that implement preventive maintenance programs are guaranteeing that every single part that operates within it:
- Has a regular maintenance schedule
- Considers all warranties
- Is linked to an adjoining software system (like an EAM or CMMS) for automated updating
- Has an assigned team
- Has a budget and an expected expiration date
How to Organize Your Maintenance Team
There are a number of people involved in your operations from equipment operators to facility management. After establishing a preventative maintenance program, identify the key stakeholders and take the time to talk to them. This will be the very first, and perhaps most pivotal step you will take in shaping the program.
In this investigative step, you will learn a lot of details about the existing workflows, potential points of failure, and current understanding among the team. By actively engaging the team, it also helps support a proactive environment – having self-motivated employees can make all the difference between a mediocre preventive maintenance program and a world-class one. The insights you gain from your initial team discussions will allow you to set clear roles for your preventive maintenance plan, structure the right kind of training, and put the entire team on the same page.
Another important consideration, especially if starting a new program or making major improvements, is to form a task force focused on seeing the implementation through. In a perfect world, this task force would be streamlined to include a few key members that “own” their preventive maintenance roles. Depending on the specifics of your operation, this may include maintenance associates, upper-management, and members of your IT team that maintain/personalize your CMMS/EAM software.
Auditing Your Equipment and Assets
In order to properly scope a preventive maintenance program, you will need to have a complete inventory of all equipment and assets. By conducting a thorough audit, you are ensuring that you have captured all of the important equipment information that can be used in your maintenance plan. Some examples include serial numbers, specifications, and locations.
Once complete, you are then ready to decide which equipment should be part of your preventive maintenance plans. Not all equipment may be suitable for preventive maintenance, but you should carefully consider any equipment that:
- Have high repair and replacement costs
- Play a critical function in the health of your operation
- Require regular routine maintenance
- Are new to your operation or are new to the market, in general (pieces that are so new, you have yet to gather reliable maintenance data)
For those high-priority assets that are selected for preventive maintenance, it can be useful to create an asset hierarchy. Generally, asset hierarchies display the location, equipment, and parts in an easy-to-read outline. Having all your equipment information recorded and organized in one place is a crucial step in building the rest of your plan.
Setting Preventive Maintenance Goals and Budgets
Once the scope is set for your team roles and all of your high priority equipment, you are then ready to set the goals for your preventive maintenance program. A best practice is to ensure that you set realistic goals for your team that will allow them to make measurable progress with lasting changes.
As you’ll see in the following steps, there is plenty of opportunity for future improvement, so start somewhere and iterate over time.
One good initial goal for a team new to preventive maintenance is reviewing equipment operations manuals and compiling the OEM recommendations for equipment. Reviewing existing software records and logbooks can also give you valuable insights into your past equipment performance. Whether your current maintenance goals are short or focused on the long-term, you can’t go wrong in being thorough when it comes to a preventive maintenance program.
Now that you have this info, it’s time to compile a job resource plan for each piece of equipment. Job resource plans outline important details such as:
- Operating procedures
- Tools and supplies needed for the maintenance job
- Skills and training requirements
- Parts lists
- Safety documentation and instructions
Developing Your Preventive Maintenance Tasks
A preventive maintenance plan is so much more than just recording repair activities and scheduling maintenance. One of the most valuable aspects of the program is that it facilitates important decisions about your equipment with your most talented personnel. When should a piece of equipment be decommissioned? Should we add an upgrade? Should we train staff to perform maintenance on the equipment or outsource? These are valuable conversation-starters which could save you plenty of time and money in the long run.
These conversations should result in the creation of maintenance task schedules that are thorough and easy-to-follow. Here is a good example of a maintenance task schedule from Limble CMMS that was developed from OEM recommendations:
Task #1: Clean & examine knife heads
Task #2: Replace belts x 1
Task #3: Inspect lag rings x 2 (meaning 2 times per week)
Task #4: Grease the lubricator nipple of the cutter housing x 2
Task #5: Change perforated plates x 2
Task #6: Examine the sealing rubber x1
After writing out such tasks and organizing them into a schedule, you’ll have a better understanding of the resources and time required to perform maintenance tasks. Based on the parts maintained, you can also clarify the operational criteria that specify the range of performance measures needed to consider the equipment in good working order. In addition to the regular preventive work that will be scheduled, these criteria grant you a clear outline for both your staff and any outsource partners, as well.
Setting up Long-Term Preventive Maintenance Schedules
Strong preventive maintenance plans always contain clear schedules that outline the responsibilities for daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks. These schedules ensure that the work gets done at the appropriate time without delays or skipping. Once you have all your high priority equipment needs to be determined by task, you can compile the PM schedule for your entire facility. (Here is a good schedule example to consider.)
To manage the schedules efficiently, there are a number of ways that you can set up your maintenance triggers. The following types are especially suited for preventive styles of maintenance:
- Time trigger – One of the most frequently used and based on time intervals between maintenance activities. It is best suited for simple tasks and those that utilize parts (such as filters) that may have expiration dates.
- Usage trigger – Requires maintenance after a specific amount of usage, such as the number of hours in operation. This is best used for equipment with steady or irregular usage that has known usage-based failure rates.
- Event trigger – Utilizes specific events to trigger maintenance checks, like in the event of a power failure. It is useful for equipment that may be highly impacted by external forces.
Tracking, Adjustments, and Improvements
Once an operation has a basic preventive maintenance plan in place, there are a number of potential directions to explore to improve maintenance efficiency. Utilizing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help you streamline the record-keeping and reporting of your activities. You could also consider barcoding and/or adding asset tags to further enhance automation and bolster your inventory and parts management processes.
Regardless of your chosen systems, you can leverage your maintenance program to drive continuous improvement in your operation. You may seek to utilize tools such as Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) or Risk Analysis (PHA, HAZOP) to identify improvement points for specific processes. With all of your compiled records and data, you are in a great place to conduct cost analysis studies and find potential cost reduction opportunities in your maintenance budget.
One of the newest and most interesting developments in the preventive maintenance space has been the rise of predictive maintenance capabilities. This form of maintenance seeks to understand the current condition of the equipment as it utilizes real-time data to determine when a process could fail or even when intervention is recommended, aside from the preventive schedule. It builds upon the fundamentals of preventive maintenance and adds yet another dimension to your facility management plans.
Preventive maintenance plans are a must for modern operations, particularly those that want to maintain lean operations and minimize overhead costs. Following these steps will help you create a comprehensive preventive maintenance plan that benefits the bottom line.
Additional Resources on Preventative Maintenance
To learn more about preventive maintenance, including the best tips and tricks for creating task schedules, visit the following resources:
- Imperfect Maintenance Models, from Theory to Practice
- Preventive Maintenance is Improved Through Predictive Analysis
- Preventive Maintenance: 6 Elements to an Essential Program
- Why You Shouldn’t Postpone Planned Preventive Maintenance
- Preventive Maintenance Can Reduce Fleet Times Drastically
- Preventive Maintenance Software Comparison
- Examples of Preventive Maintenance That Save and Waste You Money
- Ways to Schedule Preventive Maintenance for Equipment and Machinery
- Optimizing Preventive Maintenance Using a CMMS
- The Pros and Cons of Different Maintenance Strategies