How to setup a Preventive Maintenance Program


The old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” isn’t the best advice – especially if you’re a maintenance manager. Facilities, machines, and other pieces of equipment require overhauling on an on-going basis. That’s exactly why having a preventive maintenance program is so crucial.

With an effective preventative maintenance plan, you can ensure the longevity of your company’s assets and ensure they stay up and running.

However, creating a preventive maintenance program isn’t as easy as it seems. It requires setting up a comprehensive strategy that factors in a bunch of variables.

If you’re confused and don’t know where to begin, keep reading. In this in-depth guide, we will:

  • Break down preventive maintenance
  • Share a step-by-step process of creating and implementing a PM plan
  • Discuss some fatal preventive maintenance mistakes to avoid
  • List the undeniable benefits of PM
Let’s jump right in.

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 over a fixed schedule, even when there’s apparently nothing wrong with it.

The basic purpose of performing preventive maintenance is to keep company-owned assets in optimal operating conditions. Doing so potentially increases their output and/or prevents them from breaking down (hence the terminology).

This makes it different from “reactive maintenance,” which involves responding to the failure of an asset and repairing it to bring it back to a working condition.

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The Three Main Types of Preventive Maintenance

Depending on the organization, the lines between the different “types” of PM may get blurry.

In any case, knowing the different categories can go a long way in helping you create the best strategy for your company.

These include the following:

  • Scheduled Maintenance

Generally, when people talk about preventive maintenance, they talk about maintenance that is scheduled for the maintenance team.

This entails creating certain recurring work orders over a fixed period of time.

The staff has to perform the maintenance work, regardless of the apparent condition of the equipment.

  • Usage-Based Maintenance

As opposed to scheduled maintenance, usage-based (or meter-based) maintenance doesn’t involve setting fixed schedules but leveraging “meters” to decide when maintenance is needed.

Unless the equipment in question comes with their own special meters, usage-based maintenance is almost always done with the help of special preventive maintenance software.

These meters track different metrics, such as the “total number of hours operated,” to determine if the asset requires maintenance or not.

  • Predictive Maintenance

This is another special type of preventive maintenance that requires a computer program and cannot be done manually.

With this approach, managers evaluate the history of failures, identify trends, and predict when certain pieces of equipment will break down beforehand – thereby cutting down on unscheduled downtime and maintaining those productivity levels.

Furthermore, they strive to increase the anticipated time to failure, while factoring in emergency repairs and audits.

What is a Preventive Maintenance Program?

A preventive maintenance program is a detailed maintenance strategy that details everything the maintenance technicians, supervisors, and upper-management has to know about your unplanned maintenance, including, but not limited to:

  • The type of approach you want to follow
  • All the important maintenance checklists for different assets
  • How the maintenance work is to be tracked
In other words, a solid preventative maintenance program works as a blueprint that guides all planned maintenance activities and helps managers consistently improve the performance of their teams.

Main Components of an Effective Preventive Maintenance Program

All preventative maintenance plans aren’t the same.

However, they all share certain foundational elements, without which, it would be impossible to create and execute a proper strategy.

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Some of these include:

A PM Schedule or Meters

As mentioned earlier, every PM program requires either a schedule or meters to track the condition of the assets.

You may choose to go for the predictive approach as well, however, if you’re just starting out and don’t have any historical data to work with, you’re better off with the aforementioned options.

Your maintenance teams need to know exactly when to execute the preventive maintenance tasks.

Capable Maintenance Staff

This is a no-brainer.

To ensure that your preventive maintenance program is materialized and meets certain standards, you need capable team members – from the technicians to all the way up to the director.

This entails hiring profiles that meet certain eligibility criteria, training them in the best way possible, and reviewing their performance from time to time.

Standard Operating Procedures

When it comes to preventive maintenance, there’s no concept of “winging it.”

To prevent assets from frequently breaking down, you need to ensure that all staff members follow established sets of efficient procedures.

It’s counter-productive to leave this up to the expertise of the technicians. Not only can this unnecessarily extend the maintenance/repair time, but also substantially increase risks.

Sharing manufacturer manuals (if available), along with personal experiences with certain equipment, can help.

In addition to the above, a PM program also specifies which assets need to be prioritized.

Tools (Usually a Computerized Maintenance Management System)

Finally, for true efficiency, a preventive maintenance program is based on a CMMS software.

These are special program that can automate all the preventive maintenance work with ease, leaving you with enough time to focus your administrative and managerial resources elsewhere.

How to Install a Preventive Maintenance Program [An 8-Step Guide]

Now that we’ve understood what a preventive maintenance program is (and what it’s not), let’s break down the process of creating and implementing one.

Remember – there’s no one “proper” way of doing this. That being said, we feel that the following steps – taken in order – will cover everything for your organization:

  • Assess Your Inventory

Before anything else, you need to perform an in-depth assessment of everything that comes under your domain and might require maintenance.

Keep in mind that not every asset will require preventive maintenance. For instance, we only change light bulbs when they’re fused, which falls under reactive maintenance.

This could include:

  • The buildings that your employer owns
  • Manufacturing equipment
  • Company-owned vehicles (vans, trucks, forklifts, aircraft, etc.)
  • HVAC
  • Miscellaneous assets
This entails performing an inventory count, categorizing items under “critical assets” (i.e. the ones that can directly impact the operational efficiency of the business) and “non-critical assets” (not that crucial, but still warrant attention), and prioritizing them accordingly.

In addition to basic asset management, make sure that you assess the current conditions of all items to give yourself a starting point, and determine the different maintenance tasks you’ll be performing.

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  • Determine Your End-Game

With a clear overview of your assets, the next step is to clearly define and understand why you’re creating a preventive maintenance program in the first place.

Of course, the underlying goal is the same for all, which is to reduce the downtime of critical equipment.

But you need to dig down and highlight exactly what you hope to accomplish with preventive maintenance.

Some examples include:

  • To save the company money by extending the life of certain parts
  • Avoid and reduce labor cost for reactive maintenance
  • To ensure that the output of machines meet a certain standard of quality
  • To reduce the cost of acquiring spare parts
You can further narrow down what you hope to accomplish with your PM plan 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.

  • Create Detailed Maintenance Checklists

As discussed earlier, it’s good practice to share pre-determined standard operating procedures with the maintenance staff.

To be more specific, create clear-cut maintenance checklists.

Of course, the exact set of maintenance operations will be different for every asset. Considering that, it is highly recommended to stick with the manufacturer’s recommendations and/or have someone with actual OME (operations, manufacturing, and engineering) experience create the checklists.

These checklists should be shared with the technicians through a platform that’s easily accessible by everyone.

Furthermore, there should be a system that allows the technicians to seek immediate professional assistance if they come across any irregularities while performing routine work.

  • Automate Your Maintenance Operations

The whole point of preventive maintenance planning is to automate certain maintenance tasks so that you can avoid having to perform unplanned repair work in the future.

Depending on the approach you’re considering, there are three ways you can go about doing that:

  • Create a Maintenance Schedule

This is the most common approach.

Setting up clear schedules on a calendar for recurring maintenance tasks is classic PM.

The work orders are automatically initiated over fixed intervals and the maintenance technicians ensure they are catered to without any delays.

This can be done weekly, monthly, semi-annually, or annually. It depends on the special requirements of your assets (provided by the manufacturers), the conditions they’re currently in, and their history of failures.

Preventive maintenance program - PM schedule tracking

  • Leverage Meters

You can also use meter readings to automate your preventive maintenance work.

Examples of readings include oil levels, hours operated, cycles, etc.

Keep in mind that the most efficient way isn’t to manually check for these readings from time to time and leaving it up to the on-duty supervisor to decide if maintenance is required.

Instead, the best approach is to link up the readings to a CMMS and creating triggers for work orders, so that technicians are alerted of the required work immediately.

  • Factor in Unplanned Maintenance

Now that you’ve set clear schedules for your preventive maintenance tasks, it’s time to consider the short-term maintenance activities.

Despite how effective your preventive maintenance scheduling is, assets will continue to depreciate and certain equipment will fail eventually.

Sure – you can certainly cut down the frequency at which that happens, but it’s inevitable.

Considering that, you need to factor that unplanned maintenance in your preventive maintenance program.

This entails having enough manpower and spare parts in the inventory to effectively deal with unscheduled repair work.

If you keep just enough resources to handle routine maintenance, you’re at high risk of high downtimes.

  • Start Training Employees

The last step in installing a preventive maintenance program is creating a comprehensive employee training plan.

Don’t expect the technicians that join – even the experienced ones – to know everything.

The goal is to show the ropes to existing employees and train the news ones so that they hit the ground running.

After all, maintaining and repairing critical assets can impact the long-term performance of your company.

If the people responsible for that aren’t up-to-speed with the maintenance procedures, best practices, and safety regulations, sooner or later, the plan will end up in disaster.

  • Implement Your Preventive Maintenance Program

With everything set, all that’s left is to implement and execute your preventive maintenance program.

This simply means sharing everything with the middle management, maintenance supervisors, and the technicians.

Depending on your assets, you may need to implement a short-term plan first to cater to the immediate maintenance needs of your company, and then moving on to focusing on the long-term tasks.

Simply assign the work to the technicians most-suited to deal with the PM task at hand (some CMMS platforms can even automate this task).

  • Analyze and Make Improvements if Necessary

Last but not least, it’s important to consistently analyze the performance of your preventive maintenance program.

Depending on what you intend to accomplish, you should look at the right KPIs to ensure you’re on track of achieving your objectives.

Ideally, this should be done in real-time with a preventive maintenance software that allows you to create custom dashboards.

This will allow you to easily make any adjustments to your program (if necessary).

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Common Mistakes to Avoid When Creating a PM Plan

Knowing how to create and implement a PM program is one thing.

However, it’s important to be aware of the common mistakes to avoid mishaps, get everyone onboard, and achieve maximum efficiency.

The 4 most common ones include:

Not Providing Clear Instructions

We can’t stress enough on this one.

Having maintenance checklists and standard operating procedures is a prerequisite to have a preventive maintenance plan.

But on top of that, make sure that whatever instructions you include in your plan are crystal clear.

Furthermore, technicians should be encouraged to seek help from their supervisors in case they require assistance.

Not Factoring in Emergency Maintenance
If your preventive maintenance program isn’t flexible enough to accommodate unscheduled downtime/emergency repairs and inspections, the entire schedule might get disrupted, resulting in even more downtime.

Not Tracking Assets
Another common mistake is to set a PM plan and just forgetting about it.

Keep in mind that the maintenance needs of assets don’t always stay consistent. To ensure you’re not spending too much (or too little) attention on certain equipment, you’ll need to consistently look at the data and make adjustments accordingly.

For instance, if a certain asset hasn’t broken down in a while, you might want to reduce the frequency of its maintenance.

Not Relying on a Maintenance Software
Implementing a preventive maintenance program using a software is time consuming as it is.

One can only imagine how difficult it must be to do everything manually.

With only a handful of assets, it might be manageable (but even then, you’ll at least need some sort of a program for communication, keeping maintenance logs, and analyzing data).

However, with potentially hundreds of assets, the task is nearly impossible.

The Undeniable Benefits of Having a Preventive Maintenance Plan
If you’re still skeptical about the effectiveness of preventive maintenance plans, you might miss out big time.

Let’s take a look at a few benefits of preventive maintenance:

Cut Down on Unplanned Downtime
A solid preventative maintenance program that’s executed the right way can substantially cut down on the downtimes of your assets.

At first, this might sound counter-productive, as PM requires halting the operations for repairing, cleaning, lubricating, and/or replacement work.

However, by doing so, you are actually increasing the lifespan of your assets and reducing their failure-rates.

Increase Productivity
If your company’s core business operations depend on your assets – which will rarely fail with a PM program in place – you’ll be more productive.

This also applies to your maintenance employees, who will work efficiently to keep your assets in tip-top conditions.

Impact the Bottom Line
Finally, fewer maintenance costs, higher productivity levels, and lower downtimes will impact your business bottom line.

At the end of the day, that’s all the reason you need to have a PM plan.

Final Thoughts
To summarize, a preventive maintenance plan is to not put out fires as they erupt, but having a system in place to strategically prevent them from erupting in the first place.

And it doesn’t have to be difficult.

With a modern CMMS platform, packed with cutting-edge features, you can easily create, implement, and track a PM plan in no time.

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Written by

Bryan Christiansen

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