A Guide to Preventive Maintenance Schedules

Preventive maintenance is a proactive approach to equipment maintenance work, asset management, and facility management. A preventive maintenance strategy relies on the performance of routine maintenance, regularly scheduled servicing, and usage-based repairs. This approach carries several distinct benefits including:

  • An extended lifespan for your critical assets
  • Reduced operational downtime
  • Optimal equipment performance
  • Improved safety conditions
  • Stronger regulatory compliance

Your preventive maintenance (PM) schedule will play a central role in helping your organization see these benefits. Preventive maintenance scheduling facilitates the organization, collaboration, timeliness, resource allocation, and documentation essential to an effective preventive maintenance program.

In the discussion below, we’ll take a closer look at preventive maintenance scheduling and the critical role it plays in carrying out an effective preventive maintenance program.

What is a preventive maintenance schedule

A preventive maintenance schedule (PM schedule) is a critical tool for implementing a preventive maintenance plan. Maintenance technicians rely on PM schedules for the timely performance of preventive maintenance tasks as well as the allocation of resources and personnel for these tasks.

The components of a preventive maintenance schedule

Preventive maintenance schedules provide maintenance technicians with a clear timeline and checklist of tasks to perform as well as details on how to perform these tasks including: 

  • Physical asset specifications such as make, model, and serial number
  • Regular maintenance tasks such as inspections, calibration, testing, lubrication, part replacements, etc.
  • Frequency and intervals (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc.) at which maintenance should be performed
  • Task delegation, assigning maintenance technicians to specific tasks at specific times
  • Resource allocation, including a list of the tools, spare parts, and materials required to complete maintenance tasks
  • Documentation requirements including logging completed tasks, reporting issues, and managing work orders

Preventive maintenance schedules vs. preventive maintenance plans

Before we proceed, it’s important to clearly define a few key terms. Preventive maintenance schedules and preventive maintenance plans are two closely related concepts, but there are a few important distinctions. 

Preventive Maintenance Plans

Your maintenance plan is the broad strategic framework guiding the overarching approach and objectives of your asset management and PM programs. Key components of your plan may include:

Preventive Maintenance Schedules

Whereas the preventive maintenance plan provides a comprehensive framework for implementing a preventive maintenance program, the preventive maintenance schedule is a critical tool for carrying this plan out. Key components of a preventive maintenance schedule will include: 

  • Timeline specifying when and how PM tasks should be performed
  • Delineation of task interval and frequency
  • Task delegation, assigning specific maintenance technicians to particular tasks
  • Resource allocation, including details on the tools, materials, and spare parts needed
  • Safety requirements during the performance of maintenance tasks and in compliance with current regulatory standards

Fixed maintenance schedules vs. floating maintenance schedules

Preventive maintenance relies on scheduled maintenance activities. There are, however, a few different approaches to preventive maintenance scheduling. For instance, you may choose to employ a fixed maintenance schedule or a floating maintenance schedule. Or, depending on the nature of your operation, you may choose to employ a measured combination of both.

Before choosing the right preventive maintenance schedule format for your operation, consider a few of the key differences. 

  • Fixed maintenance schedules, also known as calendar-based schedules, set maintenance tasks at predetermined intervals (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually), and are performed at these intervals regardless of the condition of your equipment. This approach:
    • Ensures that servicing and testing are performed regularly and consistently
    • Simplifies planning by providing maintenance teams with a clear and predictable schedule
    • Allows for proactive allocation of resources, including parts, tools, and materials
  • Floating maintenance schedules, also known as condition-based or usage-based schedules, set maintenance tasks based on equipment usage and condition, as opposed to fixed calendar intervals. This approach:
    • Enables flexibility, triggering maintenance activities only when dictated by usage metrics, such as runtime hours, production cycles, or performance indicators
    • Prioritizes efficiency, requiring the performance of maintenance activity only when necessary
    • Utilizes condition monitoring to track the performance of equipment in real time

How to create and implement preventive maintenance schedules

Preventive maintenance carries some measurable benefits including reduced repair costs, minimal unplanned downtime, and a longer life expectancy for your physical assets. But to realize these benefits, it’s important to build out a logical and practical preventive maintenance schedule (PM schedule).

Below, we outline the steps your organization must take to create and implement an effective preventive maintenance schedule:

Step 1: Prioritize assets by maintenance needs

This is not just the initial step you must take to build a PM schedule, but also the first step in implementing a preventive maintenance program. The assets that you identify and prioritize during this step will form the basis for your PM schedule

As you identify your top priorities, focus on components, equipment, and systems that:

  • Are critical to operational continuity, productivity, and profitability 
  • Have failure modes that can be prevented with routine servicing and scheduled maintenance 
  • Are more prone to failure as a result of age and condition
  • Come with potentially high repair and replacement costs

Step 2: Identify preferred maintenance triggers

Before you can determine when to perform certain maintenance activities, you’ll need to determine how best to devise your schedule. This begins by first identifying the metrics that you’ll be using to trigger specific maintenance tasks

Commonplace maintenance triggers include:

  • Time-based maintenance, in which tasks are scheduled at predetermined intervals (e.g. daily, monthly, seasonally, yearly, etc.);
  • Usage-based maintenance, in which tasks are entered into the schedule based on preset usage thresholds (e.g. units produced, miles driven, hours of operation, etc.);
  • Condition-based maintenance, in which tasks are entered into the schedule based on performance indicators (e.g. temperature, vibration, sonic output, etc.); and
  • Predictive maintenance, in which real-time monitoring, machine learning, and historical data are used to anticipate issues and schedule preemptive service. 

You may find that certain triggers work better for some assets than for others. You may also find that some physical assets can benefit from a combination of maintenance triggers. It’s worth noting that the right Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) may allow you to integrate a variety of triggers and maintenance intervals into your PM schedule

Step 3: Prioritize maintenance tasks

One of the major benefits of an effective preventive maintenance schedule is the framework it provides for allocating labor resources. Your maintenance team has a finite amount of bandwidth in a given day, week, or month. It’s important to build a preventive maintenance schedule that works within these limitations. The best way to do this is to stagger maintenance tasks across your PM schedule based on priority. 

To prioritize maintenance tasks effectively, you’ll need to determine:

  • Criticality of each asset to the overall production process
  • Safety risks that may result from unmanaged maintenance issues
  • Operational disruption that may occur as a consequence of unplanned downtime
  • Resource investment, including the time, labor, and resources required to complete each task

Step 4: Delegate tasks to your team

Your preventive maintenance schedule is an important tool for helping maintenance technicians understand their roles and responsibilities in the execution of specific tasks. This means that your PM schedule will provide a framework for assigning maintenance team members to their duties, along with details for completing the task at hand. Task assignment considerations will include:

  • Areas of specialization, skill sets, and on-the-job experience
  • Asset location as it relates to the geographic availability of specific technicians and teams
  • Planned downtime including close coordination with machine operators to prepare for and minimize operational disruption 

Step 5: Document your work

Use preventive maintenance checklists to document the completion of scheduled maintenance activities as well as details such as time spent, resources used, and outcomes achieved. These details can be critical for optimizing future PM schedules and refining the completion of tasks outlined within. This is another area where the right CMMS can:

  • Streamline and automate documentation
  • Save time and energy for your maintenance teams 
  • Reduce the likelihood of human error

Step 6: Pursue continuous improvements 

Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of your PM schedule by monitoring outcomes, reviewing historical data, and encouraging feedback from maintenance teams. Use the resulting data to refine your approach to PM scheduling.

For instance, if your primary goal is to reduce breakdowns on a particular piece of equipment, you may want to compare useful maintenance metrics like MTBF (Mean Time Between Failures) both before and after implementing the PM schedule

This will give you a measurable way of determining whether your current schedule is actually reducing the frequency, severity, and cost of required maintenance tasks. If you fall short of expectations, this can provide an imperative for reexamining your PM scheduling strategy. 

Addressing common maintenance scheduling challenges

When correctly implemented, your preventive maintenance schedule should help to streamline maintenance workflows, heighten workplace safety, and ultimately extend the lifespan of your most critical physical assets. But implementation of your PM schedule may come with certain challenges. 

Below, we take a look at some of the most common implementation challenges and identify proven solutions. 

  • A shortage of skilled technicians can lead to improperly executed maintenance tasks and increased downtime. Solutions include:
    • More effective training programs
    • Internal mentorship programs 
    • More robust recruitment and hiring efforts 
  • Procedural inefficiencies in your maintenance processes can lead to longer task completion times, increased costs, and prolonged downtime. Solutions may include:
  • Poor communication between maintenance teams and other departments may lead to scheduling conflicts, system redundancies, and less-than-optimal distribution of labor. Proven solutions include: 
    • Clearer documentation of activities
    • Regularly scheduled cross-team coordination meetings
    • Centralization of data and access using CMMS technology

Take maintenance scheduling digital with Limble

As noted in the section above, the right CMMS can help to mitigate many of the challenges that come with PM scheduling. For instance, Limble’s leading-edge CMMS offers powerful features that can simplify the creation, implementation, and management of preventive maintenance schedules

Some of Limble’s key schedule management features include:

  • Custom dashboards for real-time access to performance data, task completion times, equipment failure rates, and more
  • PM calendar for centralized access to open tasks, upcoming maintenance assignments, and details on task completion 
  • Automated PM scheduling, allowing managers to easily adjust due dates and task assignments as conditions change
  • Preventive maintenance checklists, streamlining task documentation, and improving the accuracy of reporting on all maintenance activities
  • Mobile access to reporting and schedule management, allowing maintenance teams to view and manage tasks from anywhere

Limble’s industry-leading CMMS software can both simplify the implementation of preventive maintenance scheduling and provide the controls needed to continuously monitor outcomes and improve your broader preventive maintenance program

To find out how Limble can ensure the successful implementation of your PM schedule and ultimately transform your maintenance program, reach out for a quick product demo today.

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