Equipment Preventive Maintenance

In sectors like manufacturing, the very survival of your business depends on equipment that is effective, efficient, and reliable. So the maintenance strategy you use to protect and preserve this equipment is central to your broader business goals. This is why it’s so important to adopt and manage a robust preventive maintenance (PM) program for your assets.

An equipment PM program applies regular maintenance activities, routine inspections, and scheduled replacement of aging parts to preempt malfunction, avoid equipment failures, and extend the lifespan of your machinery. Equipment preventive maintenance is contrasted by strategies such as reactive maintenance, in which maintenance activities are only performed at the point of equipment malfunction, breakdown, or failure. 

The importance of an equipment preventive maintenance strategy

An equipment preventive maintenance plan incorporates routine maintenance, scheduled servicing, and proactive replacement of parts. This strategic approach is sharply contrasted by a reactive approach to maintenance.

Reactive maintenance, also sometimes referred to as corrective maintenance or run to failure maintenance, is only applied when equipment presents evidence of dysfunction, or when equipment breakdowns occur. With reactive maintenance, it can be difficult to predict:

  • When equipment might fail
  • What components might require service
  • How long it might take to repair this equipment
  • How costly repairs might become
  • How much productivity might ultimately be lost during unplanned downtime 

In short, the goal of equipment preventive maintenance is to keep your critical assets and production lines running in peak condition for as long as possible, whereas the goal of reactive maintenance is to simply get equipment back up and running after issues arise. Because the goals of these strategies are different, the outcomes are typically different as well. 

What is preventive equipment maintenance? 

Preventive equipment maintenance refers to the proactive maintenance strategy that you apply specifically to your operation’s machines and other equipment. Preventive equipment maintenance shares the same proactive approach and organizational benefits as preventive facility maintenance as well as preventive vehicle maintenance. 

The primary distinction is the area of focus. As the terminology suggests, vehicle maintenance is specific to the cars, trucks, and other vehicles among your organization’s physical assets. Preventive facility maintenance includes but is not limited to preventive equipment maintenance and vehicle maintenance. In addition to equipment and vehicle maintenance, preventive facilities maintenance also encompasses proactive maintenance activities related to the buildings, infrastructure, and grounds that constitute your facilities. 

Equipment preventive maintenance refers specifically to the proactive maintenance activities related to your equipment, and is therefore rooted in both anticipating and resolving potential mechanical issues. Goals include improving your equipment’s reliability, decreasing equipment downtime, and extending the operational life of the equipment.

The techniques used in an equipment preventive maintenance plan are not fundamentally different from those used in vehicle or facilities maintenance. However, there are specific nuances to these techniques when used in equipment maintenance.

Examples of preventive maintenance for equipment

Your team may already carry out various types of preventive maintenance work as part of your maintenance and facilities management program, such as: 

  • Conducting regular inspections for signs of wear and tear and other issues that could impede the functionality of your equipment or predict failure
  • Applying fresh lubricants at time-based intervals in order to reduce friction, overheating, and premature deterioration of moving parts
  • Cleaning equipment regularly to prevent the buildup of dirt, debris, and other contaminants that might limit efficiency, cause excess wear, or lead to malfunction
  • Replacing used and aging parts at strategically scheduled intervals to preempt failure and downtime
  • Using sophisticated condition monitoring sensors to collect performance data and perform predictive maintenance
  • Testing and calibration to ensure that equipment is in peak performance condition, and to make adjustments as needed 

Preventive equipment maintenance: benefits and potential issues

An equipment preventive maintenance plan offers several well-established benefits, including:

  • Improved equipment uptime
  • Cost savings 
  • Fewer disruptions to productivity
  • Heightened regulatory compliance 
  • Greater adherence to safety standards
  • Optimized allocation of labor resources
  • Longer lifespan for your equipment.

In other words, a preventive equipment maintenance strategy is well worth the cost and effort of implementation. There are, however, some very real challenges to implementation that your organization must account for first, especially if you are transitioning from a fully reactive maintenance strategy

Challenges of adopting a preventive equipment maintenance program

In the subsection below, we take a closer look at the challenges your organization may face as you adopt a preventive equipment maintenance strategy:

  • The upfront cost of implementation can be high as your organization invests in the training and technology required to transition toward a new maintenance system.
  • Skills shortages can make it difficult for small- and mid-sized organizations to conduct the various specialized activities (such as inspections, testing, and calibration) required with a preventive equipment maintenance strategy.  
  • Scheduling preemptive maintenance activities can be challenging for organizations adjusting to the complex logistics of coordinating with maintenance teams and minimizing planned downtime, particularly in fast-paced production environments. 
  • Resistance to change may occur in organizations undergoing a fundamental shift in their approach to maintenance.
  • Integrating sophisticated data analysis and maintenance tracking software can be complex and may come with a learning curve for end users.

All of this is to say that the benefits of preventive maintenance are clear and substantial, but the challenges to adoption reinforce the need for effective planning, proper allocation of resources, and organizational commitment at every level, from leadership to labor.

Creating a preventive maintenance program for equipment

The exact approach your organization takes to implementation will depend on a number of factors including the nature of your business, the size of your operation, the availability of resources, and your current maintenance model. However, there are several common steps that most organizations should incorporate into both the implementation and ongoing management of their preventive equipment maintenance programs. 

Implementing a preventive equipment maintenance program

Below, we outline a few key steps to implementing a preventive equipment maintenance program. 

Step 1: Conduct a criticality analysis

Identify maintenance priorities based on the importance of certain pieces of equipment to your operations. This process includes a complete identification of all equipment and machinery used by your organization; evaluation of the impact that each piece of equipment has on your production, safety, and operational costs; and a ranking of your equipment based on a combination of both criticality and the frequency of required maintenance activities.  

Step 2: Inventory and documentation

For each piece of equipment identified in the step above, catalog all details required for effective maintenance including model numbers, repair specifications, a list of all required spare parts, and a comprehensive report on maintenance history. This catalog should also include resources provided by the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) such as user manuals, service recommendations, vendor contact information, and warranty information for all components.  

Step 3: Develop Maintenance Procedures and Schedules

Create a comprehensive list of the maintenance tasks required for each piece of equipment along with a preventive maintenance schedule for the performance of each task. Use your criticality assessment as well as the manufacturer’s recommendations to determine both the type of maintenance activities required for each piece of equipment and the frequency with which these activities should be performed. 

Step 4: Implement a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

Leverage leading maintenance and asset management technologies to streamline the management of preventive maintenance activities. Start by choosing a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) that matches your organization’s resources, budget, and practical needs. Input data on your inventory, scheduling, and historical maintenance so that your CMMS can integrate all of these activities into a single, user-friendly maintenance dashboard. 

Step 5: Training and onboarding

Once you’ve implemented your CMMS software, it’s essential to ensure that the members of your maintenance technicians and operators understand how to use it and that there is uniform recognition of its broader organizational benefits. This requires comprehensive training. Your team should be prepared for the adoption of new tracking, inventory, and scheduling technology. Likewise, maintenance personnel should be prepared for a new proactive approach to performing practical tasks related to equipment maintenance, inspection, and repair. Feedback from your team can help you refine your programs and boost adoption.  

Managing a preventive equipment maintenance program

The work of driving your preventive equipment maintenance program’s success does not end with implementation. Your organization must also take steps to manage this new maintenance strategy effectively. 

Step 1: Initiate maintenance work

Naturally, the first step is to begin executing the preventive maintenance tasks that you’ve identified in the section above. Start with the most critical equipment. Work with the schedules that you’ve created using your CMMS. Be sure to document your work as well as your outcomes and findings, as these will play an important part in making strategic adjustments over time. 

Step 2: Monitor and evaluate

Assess the effectiveness of your preventive equipment maintenance program. Start by identifying Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and monitoring your maintenance program’s alignment with these indicators. Conduct regular reviews of maintenance logs as well as real-time equipment performance indicators, and leverage the data analysis tools provided by your CMMS to identify trends, areas of concern, and room for improvement. Create an open feedback loop with your maintenance team and encourage input on maintenance scheduling and procedures.

Step 3: Pursue continuous improvement

Use the findings from your monitoring, evaluation, and feedback loop to enhance maintenance practices, and be prepared to adapt to shifting operational conditions, improvements in technology, and regulatory changes. In addition to ongoing monitoring, schedule periodic reviews of the entire preventive equipment maintenance program, and make strategic improvements where needed to training, maintenance procedures, and the use of your CMMS.

Best practices for preventive equipment maintenance programs

As noted above, your equipment preventive maintenance plan will be formed in part based on the nature of your business and the equipment you use. However, there are some fairly universal best practices that can improve your chances for success both in implementation and long-term management. 

  • Develop and document standard operating procedures (SOPs) for maintenance tasks, using checklists and templates to standardize reporting.
  • Utilize a CMMS to streamline scheduling, tracking, and analysis of maintenance activities including work order management, spare parts inventory, and data collection.
  • Perform routine audits and inspections to ensure that maintenance tasks are being performed as scheduled, according to standards, and in compliance with current regulations.
  • Identify Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for tracking equipment uptime, maintenance costs, and response times, and conduct regular performance assessments around these metrics 
  • Create an open feedback loop, establishing a mechanism that allows team members to report issues, suggest improvements, and provide input on equipment performance and maintenance workflows.

Implemented correctly, your preventive equipment maintenance strategy will do more than simply optimize the functionality and reliability of your equipment. A robust preventive equipment maintenance program will translate into greater operational efficiency, reduced maintenance costs, and enhanced productivity. 

So how can you weather the challenges of implementation and ensure the success of your preventive equipment maintenance program? Start by checking out Limble’s advanced preventive maintenance software and checking out our buyer’s guide!

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