What is Preventive Maintenance, and Why is it Important?

Equipment maintenance is a vital step in securing a company’s return on investment for its assets, and most operations use a combination of corrective, predictive, and preventive maintenance to create a complete program that is optimized for their unique needs. By using an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) or Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) a company can also achieve greater efficiency by organizing all critical information in a single location.

Preventive Maintenance (PM) is an accessible form of equipment care for many facilities because it requires a great deal of planning but reasonable costs when compared to other methodologies. The typical PM workflow uses time-based or usage-based triggers to initiate maintenance work and performance checks. This creates a reliable schedule with regular maintenance that helps minimize the number of equipment failures over time. In order to better understand this work, we’ll take a look at the types of preventive maintenance work, why it is important, and how to implement a basic PM program.

Types of Preventive Maintenance Work

Engineer with diagram

Since preventive maintenance uses triggers based on time and usage, proper work planning is key. Managing work orders in a CMMS or EAM will certainly help to organize activities, and it is also necessary to prioritize maintenance tasks. Preventive maintenance work activities generally can be broken down into the following three categories:

Mandatory and Non-Mandatory Tasks

Mandatory work is defined as any tasks that should be finished as soon as they are due for completion. Tasks that receive a mandatory label are often related to critical components or safety procedures. Anything else would be considered non-mandatory and could be completed after a due date if necessary, without any particular risk or concern. Categorizing your tasks as mandatory and non-mandatory can help with prioritization.

Inspection and Task-Oriented Tasks

Inspections are routine checks of equipment that can be done quickly and help identify any particular issues that should be converted into official maintenance work orders. An inspection can also be used to perform minor maintenance activities to prevent or delay the need for a formal maintenance task. When inspections are performed at optimized intervals, they can help reduce the number of open maintenance tasks.

Pyramiding and Non-Pyramiding Tasks

Part of the issue with any delayed maintenance task is that it will often overlap with additional tasks that are next on the schedule. When a pyramiding schedule is used, a previous work task would be canceled if it overlaps with the next instance of the same task. A non-pyramiding schedule would keep all instances of the task and continue to track them individually. Each format can be used effectively, and the most important point is to make sure that the team is using only one method.

Which Assets are Suitable for Preventive Maintenance?

Since preventive maintenance seeks to anticipate potential failures, it can be easy to overengineer too many activities and increase costs without a realized benefit. Therefore, it is necessary to determine which assets are best suited for preventive maintenance work. The highest performing factories and warehouses will use a combination of maintenance types that are optimized for each unique piece of equipment. Assets that are most suitable for preventive maintenance work are those which:

  • Serve a critical functional
  • Have potential failures that are directly tied to maintenance activities
  • Experience failures that increase with use or time

One clear example of assets that fit these criteria is vehicles. Fleet managers often must set clear schedules for oil changes, tire rotations, and maintenance checks that are based on time or miles traveled. This ensures that each vehicle is in proper operating order and helps prevent roadside breakdowns or potential accidents.

Why Is Preventive Maintenance Important?

Female engineer or worker performs preventive maintenance on equipment with laptop

When implemented properly, the use of preventive maintenance can have several benefits for an operation. In addition to reducing unplanned maintenance work, it is also possible to extend the useful life of the equipment. Since preventive maintenance does not require conditions-based monitoring like predictive maintenance, it can also be a cost-effective way to schedule routine tasks.

Industries such as trucking and transportation, manufacturing, telecom and cable, and utilities can benefit greatly from preventive maintenance practices as they typically utilize a number of critical assets that are operated continuously. The ultimate benefit of preventive maintenance is a reduction in the total cost of maintenance required to keep equipment in good working order.

Implementing Preventive Maintenance Practices

A preventive maintenance program should strike a reasonable balance between proactive activity and efficiency. Having a reliable process is a must, as this gives your team the structure to make regular improvements. Using a PDCA model is one way to implement a PM program:

  • Plan – Develop a good preventive maintenance baseline and track a detailed history for each asset
  • Do – Create consistency among your maintenance team by following the plan
  • Check – Monitor key metrics and make adjustments as needed
  • Act – Whenever you experience an equipment failure, make clear changes to the maintenance plan to address future issues

With proper planning, it is possible to implement preventive maintenance activities that increase the useful life of your assets. By using a centralized CMMS or EAM platform, it is possible to monitor and track all maintenance work orders and important information in a single location. Tagging assets with barcodes such as facilities asset management tags and using integrated scanners can further help automate your workflows and reduce entry errors while performing maintenance work. Preventive maintenance can be an important tool for any business that maintains critical and high-value assets.