Preventive Maintenance Program: Creating an Effective PM Plan

How to Set Up a Preventive Maintenance Program

If you do not have an effective preventive maintenance plan at your organization, chances are your company is losing thousands of dollars every year – maybe even every month. That could come in the form of downtime, lost production, quality issues, and other forms of waste. 

The good news is creating an effective preventive maintenance plan doesn’t have to be difficult, especially with the right resources and tools. We’ll show you how. 

What is preventive maintenance?

“Preventive maintenance” (also known as “preventative maintenance” and “planned maintenance”) is a proactive approach to maintenance management that involves performing maintenance tasks intended to prevent breakdowns, rather than relying on repairs after they occur. 

There are three main types of preventive maintenance; scheduled, usage-based, and predictive. Check out our blogs to learn more about what preventive maintenance is, the benefits of preventive maintenance, and why you should be using it. 

What is a preventive maintenance program?

A preventive maintenance program is the maintenance department’s strategy for leveraging proactive maintenance work to reduce breakdowns and the costs and consequences that come with them. 

A comprehensive maintenance strategy will address everything the maintenance technicians, supervisors, and upper management must consider when creating a preventive maintenance plan including:

  • The type of approach you want to follow
  • Goals for an acceptable balance between proactive and reactive maintenance work
  • The source of maintenance requirements and checklists for different assets
  • How maintenance work will be logged and tracked

What is a preventive maintenance plan?

A preventive maintenance plan is simply the steps taken to implement the strategy defined in your preventive maintenance program. These steps are performed while equipment is still in working condition to minimize the chance that a piece of equipment will fail and cause costly unscheduled downtime. 

A solid preventative maintenance program works as a blueprint that guides all planned maintenance activities. It helps managers consistently improve the performance of their teams.

Main components of effective maintenance programs and plans

No two preventive maintenance programs are the same. However, they all share certain foundational elements, without which, it would be impossible to create and execute a proper strategy.

Defined triggers for maintenance work

Every PM program requires some defined events that trigger maintenance work. Triggers are pre-determined events such as time passed, oil level reached, hours operated, or cycles run. Once the event occurs, it is time to review the equipment or perform predetermined preventive maintenance. 

Triggers are important because they take the guesswork out of your preventive maintenance plan by automating known, repetitive maintenance. Triggers will fall into one of three categories: 

  • Time-based (changing the batteries in your fire detectors every 6 months)
  • Usage-based (changing the oil in your vehicle every 3,000 miles)
  • Predictive (performing maintenance when sensors detect the need based on an equipment’s condition)

Many organizations work toward the predictive maintenance approach. However, if you’re just starting out and don’t have any historical data to work with, time- or usage-based preventive maintenance is likely right for you.

Capable maintenance staff

To ensure your preventive maintenance program materializes and meets certain standards, you need capable team members at every level.

This entails hiring practices that attract qualified individuals, training programs that ensure the right skills and competencies, and regular feedback and performance reviews that ensure accountability.

Standard operating procedures

When it comes to preventive maintenance, there is no “winging it.” To prevent assets from frequently breaking down, you need to establish efficient standard operating procedures based on what you know works. SOPs also aid in prioritizing work.

Manufacturer manuals (if available), and the experience and expertise of staff are good resources for the development of SOPs.  

A computerized maintenance management system

Finally, for true efficiency, a preventive maintenance program should be supported by the right technology. CMMS software (or Computerized Maintenance Management System software) facilitates and tracks all preventive maintenance work with ease. 

A CMMS can provide valuable direction and feedback on productivity to your team, and allow you to monitor performance and report on efficiency easily, leaving you with enough time to focus your administrative and managerial resources elsewhere.

Checklist for Creating a Preventive Maintenance Plan

Following a consistent Preventive Maintenance Plan can make life easier. Use this checklist to create your own!

Defining your preventive maintenance program

First, it is important to clearly define and understand what you hope to achieve with preventive maintenance in the first place. This will help inform your strategy, and guide you as you create your plan.

The goal will be different based on your organization’s mission, needs, challenges, and status. Some examples include:

  • Save the company money by extending the life of certain assets or parts
  • Avoid and reduce labor costs for reactive maintenance
  • Improve the quality of production output 
  • To reduce the cost of acquiring spare parts

No doubt, your strategy will focus on having a positive impact on the company’s bottom line in some way. But not all organizations are coming at that goal from the same place. 

You can further narrow down what you hope to accomplish with your PM program by assigning numeric goals, such as the exact number of hours you want to cut your downtime by, the exact amount you hope to save in maintenance costs, etc.

Creating a preventive maintenance plan

Now let’s break down the process of creating and implementing a preventive maintenance plan, based on your strategy.

Assess your inventory

Before anything else, you need to perform an in-depth asset assessment. This should include everything that comes under your domain and might require maintenance or repair.

This could include:

  • The buildings your employer owns
  • Manufacturing equipment
  • Company-owned vehicles (vans, trucks, forklifts, aircraft, etc.)
  • HVAC systems
  • Miscellaneous assets and equipment

Perform an inventory count, make note of their current condition, and categorize them by criticality to the goal of your preventive maintenance program. This will help you prioritize maintenance work accordingly. 

Identify maintenance tasks and their triggers

Once you’ve assessed your equipment, it is time to document all the maintenance that must occur for that equipment. Initially, you may not do this for all of your equipment but rather a small number of the most critically important ones to get you started.

There are two key sources of information on the maintenance tasks and triggers for your equipment. 

  • Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) recommendations: Manufacturer manuals contain recommended schedules for maintenance, usage of critical spare parts, and basic instructions.
  • Data from your maintenance historyLook at past failures and maintenance needed for your asset. It is likely that there are patterns upon which you can build a preventive maintenance plan.  

Also useful can be external resources for preventive maintenance best practices such as this resource for the frequency of preventive maintenance inspections.

Document the maintenance tasks you know must be completed regularly, and identify their triggers (based on time, usage, or condition). In the end, you will have a long list that looks something like this: 

List of maintenance tasks example

Create checklists for consistent execution of each task

Using the same resources as above, along with the expertise of your team, document detailed checklists for each of the unique tasks on your list. Documenting each step of each task will ensure thoroughness and consistency across team members and assets. 

Set up the tools to execute and document the tasks in your plan

You should now have a list of all preventive maintenance tasks, their frequencies, and detailed steps to complete them. The only thing left is how it will be executed and documented. 

It is likely that your list of tasks is long and your documentation is very detailed. Many organizations start with pen and paper or spreadsheets to help coordinate execution of their preventive maintenance plan.  Other organizations may already have a CMMS or other software to help them manage this work.

We strongly recommend using CMMS software which requires slightly more financial investment, but pays off dividends in efficiency.  

Implement your preventive maintenance program

Share your finished preventive maintenance plan with your team and management and discuss a plan for work assignment and documentation. In addition, the roll-out of preventive maintenance will involve the following steps: 

  • Train your team on the maintenance plan and any software or tools involved
  • Clearly communicate expectations for following checklists and documenting work
  • Inform management of this shift in strategy so they can provide support and resources

Depending on your assets and their condition, you may need to prioritize certain tasks or assets at first and then move on to relying on the triggers you’ve identified in your plan.

Tasks can be assigned to technicians based on expertise, qualifications, available work capacity, or location. 

The Essential Guide to CMMS

The Essential Guide to CMMS

Using CMMS software to execute your preventive maintenance plan

Having a preventive maintenance plan in place is a huge step in the right direction. A CMMS will ensure you squeeze every last drop of value from it by doing the heavy lifting of sending notifications, copying PM schedules, tracking work history, reporting KPIs, and much more.

CMMS software systems are specifically designed for the job. In fact, they are frequently referred to as “preventive maintenance software.” They can simplify, automate, and organize your maintenance operations. In addition, Limble CMMS has the tools to help you manage, measure, and optimize your preventive maintenance program.

  • Allow for more sophisticated organization of tasks by priority
  • Assign tasks or move them between technicians to help manage workload
  • Track data on time to task completion, preventive versus reactive maintenance, MTTR/MTBF/MTTF, and more
  • Streamline work order management, spare parts inventory, and purchase ordering

Preventive maintenance program - PM schedule tracking

Common mistakes to avoid when creating a PM plan

Implementing any new strategy or project can come with potential pitfalls. We’re here to prepare you so you can avoid them. 

Performing too much preventive maintenance

It is possible to perform preventive maintenance too often, wasting time and resources on assets that are (and may continue) running just fine.  You don’t want to give too much attention to assets that don’t need it. 

Good asset management keeps equipment running, but is careful not to interrupt operations unnecessarily. 

The Solution

The good news is that this challenge is easily identified and solved, especially if you are tracking basic maintenance, budget, and productivity data. Here are some signs you are overdoing it:

  • Your preventive maintenance costs (including labor and parts usage) are rising, but your machine efficiency or productivity is not improving 
  • Your assets haven’t experienced a single breakdown in a lengthy period of time
  • More than 80% of your maintenance tasks are proactive (industry standard is 20% reactive, 80% preventive)

If you see these clues, it is time to ease up on the throttle with preventive maintenance. Adjust your schedule triggers and widen your task intervals little by little until you achieve the right balance and start seeing results. 

Asset reports in CMMS

Not obtaining team and management buy-in

Your maintenance team is the most active and critical component to an effective preventive maintenance program. Getting them on board is essential to successful execution. 

In addition, management needs to believe a preventive maintenance program is worthwhile.  They hold the keys to the resources and support needed for your team and program to succeed.

The Solution

The key to gaining the enthusiasm of your maintenance team is to show them how the new plan will make their lives easier.

  • reducing the number of emergency calls on nights and weekends
  • simplifying workflows and administration
  • eliminating paperwork
  • making their work safer and less unpredictable

And the list goes on and on. Once they understand the benefits, they’ll be the program’s greatest champions. 

As for your management team, it is all about the bottom line. So show them the ROI. 

If your organization tracks metrics on the costs of unplanned downtime or equipment failure and their repair costs, you’re halfway there. If not, it is surprisingly easy to start machine downtime tracking and reporting on maintenance costs.

Compare that to the labor and parts cost required for your preventive maintenance plan to see the difference. You can expect to reduce corrective maintenance costs by up to 70% with a good preventive maintenance plan.

Here is a simplified example for a forklift that averages 3 breakdowns per year with corrective maintenance, compared to the costs of a PM plan that would reduce breakdowns to just once per year:

PM plan ROI calculation example

If you want to learn more about calculating ROI for maintenance initiatives, our guide on calculating CMMS ROI includes an interactive calculator to help you get the hang of it.

Not clearly communicating expectations to your team

Switching from reactive to preventive maintenance is not just a functional change, but a change in perspective as well. Make the transition smoother by openly discussing this shift, explaining the “why,” and outlining expectations for taking a proactive approach.  

The Solution

Create a comprehensive employee training plan. The goal is not just to inform the team of the technical aspects of the plan but to achieve the following: 

  • Instill ownership over the successful execution of the plan
  • Inform about changes to the preventive maintenance schedule
  • Set expectations for documentation and adherence to preventive maintenance checklists
  • Orient to tools used for management of the preventive maintenance program
  • Shift in perspective to a proactive approach to maintenance

Not factoring in emergency maintenance

A good preventive maintenance program minimizes unexpected downtime – but it doesn’t eliminate it completely. 

If your preventive maintenance program doesn’t allocate a certain amount of time and resources to equipment downtime or emergency repairs, you’ll eventually end up in a bind. It could disrupt the preventive maintenance plan you’re trying to put in place, inadvertently resulting in even more downtime.

The Solution

Use any existing or historical data on downtime frequencies, rates, and timing to anticipate those needs. Ensure that you have planned your schedules accordingly so that there are team members available to address emergency situations. 

Not tracking assets

Another common mistake is to create a PM plan, train your team, and then forget about it. 

The maintenance needs of assets aren’t consistent. Neither is the performance of your team. Even with the greatest training available, old habits can creep back in and busy days can make thoroughness difficult to maintain. Solid asset tracking can help improve your program, and keep your team accountable.

The Solution

To make sure your preventive maintenance strategy is hitting the mark, you must consistently log regular maintenance and monitor asset performance and condition. 

This will help you adjust and improve your maintenance over time. And even better, it will also demonstrate how your preventive maintenance plan has increased the lifespan of your most critical assets. 

Not relying on a maintenance software

A paper or excel-based process for organizing the work performed in your preventive maintenance plan can be an acceptable short term solution. However, the amount of data that must be documented in step-by-step checklists and maintenance histories is unsustainable in those platforms over time. 

The Solution

The longer your plan is in place, the more data you will have to organize.  Depending on the pricing, investing in a software solution designed specifically to manage this information is worthwhile. 

The right software can make the difference between a successful preventive maintenance program, and one that never gets off the ground.

Final thoughts

Now that you understand what a preventive maintenance program is and what it can do for your company, you can get started. 

Creating your preventive maintenance plan and supporting it with a world-class software like Limble will set you on a path toward improved uptime, greater efficiency, and extended asset lifecycles. See for yourself what Limble can do for you, schedule a quick product demo or start a free trial.

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