Understanding Maintenance Plans

Thoughtful planning is the cornerstone of an effective preventive maintenance program. Your maintenance plan is the framework for everything from building a maintenance schedule and automating inventory management to streamlining work order management and improving interdepartmental communication and collaboration.

Why is maintenance planning important?

That said, effective planning is more than just the key to preventive maintenance. It may very well be what separates your manufacturing business, auto dealership, or industrial facility from chaos. Unfortunately, far too many businesses employ reactive maintenance programs or run-to-failure asset management strategies simply by default. This is the often-haphazard approach to performing maintenance services. It is the go-to approach for organizations that don’t plan for regularly scheduled equipment testing, upkeep, and maintenance.

In the absence of this proactive planning, your organization risks unplanned equipment breakdowns and failure, prolonged downtime, and in some cases, total operational disruption. These conditions can quickly cascade into missed deadlines, delayed product delivery, lost revenue, and diminished customer satisfaction. 

By contrast, effective maintenance planning fosters a more stable, predictable, and cost-effective operational environment. But what is a maintenance plan, exactly? And how can you implement or improve preventive maintenance planning for your organization?

What is a maintenance plan

A maintenance plan is a detailed document or set of documents that outlines the specific maintenance tasks required to keep your equipment, machinery, and systems operating efficiently and effectively. This plan will typically include a timeline for scheduled maintenance tasks as well as details on how to complete these tasks, specifications on the tools, materials, and spare parts required to carry out these procedures, and the assignment of maintenance technicians to specific actions. 

Together, these details provide a structured approach to your operation’s maintenance activities. This approach can ultimately improve resource allocation and help you better anticipate downtime-causing events.

Key components of a maintenance plan

Your industry, the size of your operation, and the availability of resources including capital and maintenance personnel will shape your maintenance plan. Naturally, the type of equipment your organization uses will also play a role. There is, however, a standard set of features common to most successful maintenance plans. An effective maintenance plan will typically include the following key components:

  • Comprehensive inventory of physical assets including all equipment, machinery, and systems that require maintenance
  • Risk assessment including a criticality analysis to help prioritize physical assets, and an evaluation of potential malfunctions and failure modes for high-priority equipment, systems, and subsystems
  • Manufacturer recommendations for identifying critical tasks, establishing service intervals, performing repair procedures, and more
  • Detailed routine maintenance task descriptions outlining the activities required for each asset, such as testing, inspection, cleaning, calibration, parts replacement, etc.
  • Actionable maintenance schedule indicating when each maintenance task should be performed, as well as the basis for this timeline (i.e. intervals such as weekly, seasonally, annually, etc.; or usage metrics such as hours of operation, units produced, etc.)
  • Complete lists of the resources required for task completion including tools, raw materials, and spare parts
  • Delegation of responsibilities, assigning maintenance technicians and teams to specific tasks at designated times 
  • Safety standards including industry best practices, regulatory requirements, and compliance checklists 
  • Documentation requirements, including Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for monitoring the condition of equipment, managing work orders, tracking the location of key materials, recording the completion of tasks, and more 

Maintenance plans vs. maintenance schedules

Maintenance plans and maintenance schedules are two closely related concepts, but there are a few important distinctions. 

Maintenance Plans

Your maintenance plan is a broad framework that outlines the objectives, procedures, and resources required to carry out your organization’s asset management strategy and implement an effective preventive maintenance program. A maintenance plan may also include a long-term strategic outlook for your asset management program. 

As noted in the section directly above, your maintenance plan will typically include the following:

  • Asset inventory
  • Risk assessment
  • Manufacturer guidelines
  • Task descriptions
  • Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
  • Resource allocation
  • Task delegation
  • Safety standards 
  • Documentation requirements
  • Maintenance schedule

Maintenance Schedules

As the list of components directly above demonstrates, a maintenance schedule is just one of the components that make up a maintenance plan

Whereas a maintenance plan provides a comprehensive framework for implementing a preventive maintenance program, the maintenance schedule is a critical tool for carrying this plan out. Because your maintenance schedule is a part of your broader maintenance plan, you will note some overlap between the components of each. 

The following are key components of an effective maintenance schedule: 

  • Timeline specifying when each maintenance task should be performed
  • Metrics for determining the frequency of maintenance tasks such as intervals (weekly, seasonally, annually, etc.) or usage (i.e. hours of operation, units produced, etc.)
  • Task delegation, assigning maintenance technicians and teams to particular tasks
  • Resource allocation, identifying the tools, materials, and spare parts needed to complete each task
  • Safety requirements and compliance standards applying to the performance and documentation of each task

Why are maintenance plans important? 

Maintenance plans add structure, organization, and efficiency to your maintenance operation. This, in turn, gives your maintenance personnel the data, knowledge, and resources required to be proactive in performing maintenance tasks. Below, we take a closer look at the benefits that come with this proactive approach: 

  • Increased equipment reliability, with regularly scheduled tasks like testing, inspection, and performance monitoring reducing the occurrence of unexpected equipment failures 
  • Extended equipment lifespan, with routine services like calibration, lubrication, and parts replacement reducing the impact of wear and tear, and extending the useful lifecycle of critical assets
  • Cost savings, with preventive maintenance strategies significantly offsetting the higher maintenance costs that come with emergency breakdowns, urgent inventory orders, and premature system replacements
  • Improved safety conditions, with routine equipment maintenance reducing the likelihood of equipment failure or malfunction, and subsequent accidents, injuries, and compliance failures
  • Enhanced operational efficiency, with planned maintenance reducing the occurrence of unplanned downtown and maximizing the operational performance of production equipment
  • Better resource management, with a clear outline of the tools, materials, and parts required for each maintenance task helping to streamline inventory management

Together, these benefits provide a structured remedy to common maintenance challenges such as unexpected equipment failure, maintenance task backlogs, inventory stockouts, and overburdened maintenance teams

10 steps for creating and implementing a maintenance plan

Here’s a simple guide to establishing a preventive maintenance program.

Step 1: Conduct an asset inventory

Compile a comprehensive list of equipment and other physical assets requiring maintenance. Log detailed information including the make, model, model year, serial number, warranty details, and location for each asset.

Step 2: Perform a criticality assessment

Identify the systems, equipment, and machinery that should take the highest priority in your maintenance plan based on their criticality to your operation. 

Step 3: Define your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) 

Articulate what you plan to achieve with your maintenance plan (i.e. reduced downtime, extended equipment lifespan, improved regulatory compliance, etc.); and identify the metrics and benchmarks you’ll use to gauge your success in achieving these objectives. 

Step 4: Identify essential maintenance tasks 

Create a comprehensive list of all maintenance tasks required for the upkeep of each critical asset such as inspections, testing, oil changes, filter changes, and parts replacement. Refer to OEM recommendations and industry best practices for guidance. 

Step 5: Establish metrics for task scheduling

Determine the frequency with which tasks should be performed based on intervals (i.e. daily, weekly, monthly, etc), usage (i.e. units produced, hours of operations, etc.), or according to operating conditions (i.e. climate, natural elements, etc.). 

Step 6: Allocate resources for your maintenance tasks

Compile a comprehensive list of the tools, materials, parts, and personnel required to carry out each maintenance task, as well as details on roles and responsibilities. 

Step 7: Develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) 

Create detailed instructions for the performance and documentation of each maintenance task, and ensure that these instructions are readily accessible to all relevant personnel.

Step 8: Incorporate compliance and safety standards

Use existing standards and regulatory requirements to inform all aspects of your plan, including scheduling multi-point inspections of assets and performing routine safety audits. 

Step 9: Create a maintenance schedule

Establish your timeline of maintenance tasks in close coordination with your company’s production schedule and inventory management system to minimize unplanned operational disruption. 

Step 10: Leverage a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS)

Implement an advanced asset management software solution to manage work orders, track maintenance activities, schedule tasks, document completed work, produce data insights and reporting, monitor equipment performance, and more.

Automating maintenance planning and scheduling

Many of the steps required to implement an effective maintenance plan can be simplified and automated with the help of an advanced maintenance software solution. Limble provides a user-friendly platform that includes:

Check out our comprehensive guide and learn how a CMMS platform can help you implement an effective maintenance plan, transition to a more effective preventive maintenance strategy, and, ultimately, drive your business to new heights of productivity and profitability.

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