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Published: Mar 08 2021

What is Preventive Maintenance? The Ultimate Guide to Preventive Maintenance Concepts and Tools

Preventive maintenance (PM) is the routine maintenance of assets and equipment to reduce equipment failure, maximize uptime and optimize long-term asset management. And effective facility and asset management today requires great preventive maintenance. But what are the details of preventive maintenance, what are its benefits, and how can organizations effectively execute preventive maintenance strategies? This comprehensive guide to PM concepts and tools will cover everything you need to know.

What is preventive maintenance?

Accruent - Blog Post - What is Preventive Maintenance? The Ultimate Guide to Preventive Maintenance Concepts and Tools

Preventive maintenance is routine, systematic, and planned asset and facilities maintenance that is performed to reduce equipment failure, cut costs and maximize efficiency over time. When it comes to the broader range of maintenance practices, preventive maintenance falls in complexity between reactive maintenance (whereby organizations perform maintenance after an asset has failed) and predictive maintenance, whereby maintenance needs are fully predicted and automated using artificial intelligence (AI) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT).

While it’s more forward-thinking than reactive maintenance, preventive maintenance can’t magically predict problems before they happen. Instead, it uses data to develop effective maintenance schedules and correct issues before they become equipment failures. In this way, PM can slow down failures, depreciation and rate of malfunction over time.

What Does Preventive Maintenance Include?

To get it right, preventive maintenance efforts must include:

The right software can help organizations automate, access and organize their PM tasks, which is particularly important for organizations with many assets or complex maintenance schedules.

What is the difference between preventive maintenance, preventative maintenance, reactive maintenance and corrective maintenance?

There are many differences between preventive maintenance, reactive maintenance and predictive maintenance.

Preventive Maintenance vs Corrective/Reactive Maintenance

While preventive maintenance practices dictate that users must address maintenance concerns before they become issues, reactive or corrective maintenance strategy encourage users to wait until the problem or malfunction is already there before action is taken. This is also known as the “run-to-failure" method, and it comes with significant drawbacks like:

  • High asset downtime and emergency breakdowns, which cost Industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion annually
  • Unplanned expenses
  • Low productivity
  • High labor costs
  • Difficulty meeting deadlines
  • High costs for parts, storage and shipping
  • Time lost waiting for diagnoses and emergency resolution

In the modern maintenance world, these reactive/corrective/run-to-failure strategies just don’t cut it, and organizations that deploy reactive maintenance practices will find it difficult to remain competitive in their industry.

Preventive Maintenance vs Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance (PdM), on the other hand, is essentially advanced preventive maintenance powered by AI, the IIoT and other smart manufacturing tools. More specifically, predictive maintenance utilizes equipment readers, historical data and industry data to automate and predict maintenance needs. When compared directly to preventive maintenance, PdM is:

  • More complex, requiring more data and IoT
  • More costly, with higher setup cost and higher variable cost over time
  • Riskier, with higher possibility of initial errors

Overall, though, predictive strategies can reduce the number of necessary planned tasks and maximize efficiency – and the more data you have, the more effective your PdM efforts will be. Many modern organizations are moving ever closer toward a predictive environment, though it’s complex, expensive, time-consuming and extremely difficult to achieve.

What are the benefits of preventive maintenance?

Accruent - Blog Post - What is Preventive Maintenance? The Ultimate Guide to Preventive Maintenance Concepts and Tools

There are many benefits to effective preventive maintenance, particularly related to ROI, safety and efficiency. Namely, preventive maintenance can lead to:

  • Improved asset life and reliability: By addressing asset maintenance needs proactively, preventive maintenance can increase asset life and reduce the number of failures that require equipment repair and replacement.
  • Increased safety: Maintaining assets before they reach failure can mitigate the risk of injury. What’s more, a CMMS can help you stay on top of compliance and training over time.
  • Fewer costly repairs unexpected downtime associated with equipment failure: Running an equipment to failure can cost ten times more than running regular maintenance. Preventive maintenance drastically reduces these costs as well as costs associated with lower technician productivity, poor inventory maintenance and lack of insight.
  • Fewer employee errors: With comprehensive work order information and centralized, comprehensive documentation, employees will make fewer mistakes on the floor.
  • Simplified compliance: PM automations, triggers and documentation can streamline compliance efforts.
  • Sustainable operations: Well-maintained assets utilize less energy over time, so optimizing your asset maintenance can lead to lower energy bills and more sustainable operations over time.
  • Improved employee productivity: High downtime or disconnected information can impact productivity and production capacity. A CMMS can resolve these concerns.
  • Faster repairs: Using PM, teams can make sure that maintenance coincides with planned downtime. They can also ensure that they have all the parts, personnel and supplies they need to effectively complete maintenance tasks, which can decrease the total time and costs of maintenance.

When is it suitable to use preventive maintenance strategies?

Preventive maintenance may not always be the most necessary or appropriate approach, but it is suitable to use preventive maintenance when asset have:

  • Critical operational functions.
  • Failure modes that can be prevented with routine maintenance.
  • An increased likelihood of failure over time or with increased use.

Conversely, preventive maintenance may not be suitable for assets that:

  • Have random or unpredictable failures.
  • Don’t have a mission-critical function.
  • Have a cost of maintenance that is higher than the cost of failure.

What are possible disadvantages of preventive maintenance?

There are a few disadvantages – or, more accurately, challenges – associated with preventive maintenance, including:

  • Time and bandwidth: Preventive maintenance requires time and strategizing, both of which aren’t really required for reactive maintenance practices (and both of which are lessened by predictive maintenance automations). What’s more, effective PM requires routine inspections of complex assets, which can be time-consuming and frustrating, particularly for technicians that aren’t used to the investment.
  • Resources: Preventive maintenance generally requires that more tasks are completed on a regular basis, which means that it can require more time, staff and spare parts. This can be limiting, particularly for smaller and more constrained organizations.
  • Budget concerns: A great maintenance management software will require up-front investment. Plus, organizations that want to execute effective PM need to hire experts if they want to get it right – and this can strain budgets.
  • Organizational limitations: For organizations that are currently practicing reactive maintenance (or those who are running on disparate legacy systems), it can be difficult getting preventive maintenance efforts up and running.

What does a preventive maintenance program look like?

Effective preventive maintenance requires the right program or strategy, which will help determine maintenance tasks and frequency. Getting this right is important. If you maintain assets to infrequently and you risk breakdowns. Maintain them too frequently and it’ll cost too much time and money. Perform the wrong maintenance on an asset and you miss the point altogether.

The strategy, then, is all-important. To get it right, there a few things you can do:

Follow the PDCA Model

The PDCA model is as follows:

  • Plan: Use data, industry expertise repair histories and usage patterns to come up with a baseline PM plan.
  • Do: Execute your plan consistently and effectively.
  • Check: Check how it’s going by looking at failure metrics and seeing if your PM strategy is effective.
  • Act: Adjust accordingly.

This, of course, can be simplified using the right CMMS software for your business, which can help you organize work orders, trigger maintenance requests, keep technicians accountable and update maintenance plans for critical equipment.

What are the types of maintenance?

Preventive maintenance can be divided into many categories and organization types, including:

  • Time-based maintenance: Otherwise known as periodic maintenance, time-based maintenance is when a maintenance task is performed at scheduled intervals (weekly, monthly, yearly, etc.).
  • Usage-based preventive maintenance: Also known as meter-based maintenance, usage-based maintenance triggers action based on equipment usage variables like hours or number of production cycles.

The type of maintenance trigger you set will vary based on the asset, manufacturer recommendations and other key data. You can also prioritize preventive maintenance based on task importance and prioritization. This includes:

  • Mandatory vs nonmandatory tasks: Mandatory tasks include any actions that must be completed immediately, including anything related to safety. Nonmandatory maintenance can be delayed without risking equipment failure or lower productivity. It will be helpful to distinguish between the two, particularly if you have a tight budget or limited internal bandwidth.
  • Inspection tasks: These tasks require physical checks of the asset before a work order can be created and a task can be completed. If you want to save time, you can complete minor repairs or maintenance while conducting an inspection.

What are examples of preventive maintenance?

Examples of preventive maintenance tasks include:

  • Cleaning of assets or parts
  • Lubrication of equipment
  • Parts replacement or repair
  • Partial or complete asset overhauls
  • Ensuring that production line equipment is working
  • Inspection of heating, ventilation, HVAC systems or air conditioning element
  • Inspection and repair of electrical systems
  • Checking doors, flooring and lighting
  • Checking water supplies

How can you create a preventive maintenance checklist?

You can create a preventive maintenance checklist to ensure that your workflow runs smoothly and that you have a clear roadmap outlining how and when to maintain your assets. There are many approaches to making this checklist – and no one-size-fits-all approach – but here are some general steps to getting started.

  1. Choose a format for your checklist. The right CMMS will offer checklists for individual work orders and larger workflows. That way, users always have accountability and clarity into next steps. Inputting this data into a CMMS will also help save time and effort that would be wasted sorting through emails trails, paper check lists and other legacy solutions.
  2. Make sure your logic and plans are complete. Have a comprehensive understanding of what tasks should be prioritized, how to maintain accountability, how often tasks should happen, which workers will be assigned to work orders, what parts are needed and other key data points. Here, it’s important that the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY are crystal clear. This will guard against inconsistency and confusion amongst team members.
  3. Clarify schedules. Your workflow will likely include many checklists based on daily, weekly or monthly intervals. It will be important to maintain complete clarity when it comes to time-dependent tasks so everything is completed correctly and on time.
  4. Update your procedures. At least bi-annually, you should update your manufacturing schedules and guidelines based on performance. Review data like asset age, equipment efficiency, breakdown statistics and make informed changes and find areas of improvement.
  5. Clearly determine goals and KPIs. Clearly defined goals and KPIs are the backbone of any effective preventive maintenance strategy – you need to know where you’re going to know how you’re doing. That’s why it’ll be important to establish SMART goals and maintain transparency across departments and verticals so everyone knows that they’re working toward.

What industries can benefit from preventive maintenance?

Maintenance management software can help organizations in many asset-heavy industries streamline their asset management, maximize productivity and ultimately increase uptime and ROI. This includes:

  • Industrial & Manufacturing: The right CMMS can help industrial teams and plant technicians manage their plant’s health comprehensively, thereby decreasing equipment downtime and effectively managing assets across devices and locations.
  • Hospitality: An excellent guest experience in resorts and hotels requires that everything is running smoothly behind the scenes. A robust maintenance management software can facilitate these efforts by helping users track and schedule service requests, reduce maintenance costs, keep important equipment (like swimming pools, fitness equipment, elevators and dining equipment) running and more.
  • Healthcare: Asset maintenance in the healthcare industry isn’t just about increasing effectiveness and lowering costs – it's about patient safety. The right maintenance management software can help professionals in the healthcare industry to reduce downtime on critical assets, minimize inventory stockout and overages, improve efficiency and ultimately facilitate patient care.
  • Education: In higher education, facility and asset management involves preventive maintenance schedules and procedures for a facility and equipment like theaters, libraries, labs, classrooms, dorms, administrative offices and athletic facilities. A CMMS can facilitate this maintenance, helping to establish a preventive maintenance schedule and ensure that maintenance requests are completed quickly and proactively.
  • Government: Government operations face many ongoing maintenance pain points, including disparate records, high downtime, out of control budgets and poor asset management. Maintenance management software and reports can help resolve these concerns by automating maintenance requests, generating data-driven reports and more.
  • Retail: A maintenance management system can help retail outlets and chains develop preventive maintenance schedules for all their assets, including POS systems, signs, pipes, ceiling fans, HVAC units, computers, lighting and more. This can ultimately help stores deliver a consistently excellent customer experience.

What is a preventive maintenance software?

Preventive maintenance software, as we’ve mentioned, is a tool that helps users execute preventive maintenance and effectively maintain, analyze and manage their physical assets and infrastructure. Whether your preventive maintenance software classifies itself as a CMMS or an EAM doesn’t matter too much these days (there is a lot of overlap between the two, which you can read more about here).

What does matter is that your software includes key features like:

  • Preventive maintenance scheduling
  • Planned maintenance work order management
  • Planned maintenance inspection schedules
  • A mobile-friendly preventive maintenance app
  • MRO inventory management
  • Comprehensive, historical asset information
  • Real-time reporting and dashboards
  • Labor management
  • Asset tracking and history information
  • Escalation protocols

You can learn more about each feature and its importance here. That said, these features will generally help you reap the benefits of your preventive maintenance software, which include:

  • Maximized equipment and staff safety
  • Under control budgets and maintenance costs
  • Long-lasting, effective preventive maintenance plans
  • Increased repair efficiency
  • Actionable, strategy-changing transparency
  • Improved technician and manager satisfaction
  • Increased revenue due to lower asset downtime
  • Simplified asset tracking and maintenance
  • On-the-go asset management and maintenance
  • Fewer recurring pain points

Just make sure that you choose the right CMMS software for your business. In general, this will be a system that your team is on board with (since adoption is the key to successful implementation), that integrates with your existing technological ecosystem and that is user-friendly and intuitive. You can learn more about how to choose the right system for your business here.

Final Thoughts

Bottom line? Preventive maintenance is routine, systematic and planned asset and facilities maintenance that is performed to reduce equipment failure, cut costs and maximize efficiency over time – and effective preventive maintenance is key to asset and facility management.

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