Preventive Maintenance

Everything you ever needed to know about preventive maintenance.

(Free Guide) Switch from Reactive to Preventive Maintenance

What is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance, also referred to as preventative maintenance or PM, is maintenance work that is performed on assets or facilities before issues arise in order to minimize wear, maintain performance, and prevent breakdowns. 

By performing maintenance on assets before issues or breakdowns occur, organizations can avoid the costly repairs, machine malfunctions, unplanned downtime, and unnecessary replacements that often come with a more reactive maintenance approach. 

To learn more about how preventive maintenance compares to other maintenance strategies check out our post: Is There A Best Maintenance Strategy? 5 Maintenance Strategies Compared.

The two types of preventative maintenance

By nature, preventive maintenance is performed while the machine is still in good working condition. So without a breakdown or malfunction, how do you know when to perform maintenance work? 

There are two types of preventive maintenance based on what triggers are used to initiate proactive maintenance work: time-based and usage-based.

Time-based maintenance (a.k.a. calendar-based maintenance)

With time-based maintenance, tasks occur based on set time intervals. The task is performed after a certain amount of time passes, regardless of the condition or usage of the equipment.

Here are a few examples of time-based maintenance:

  • Changing a filter every couple of months.
  • Changing oil every three weeks.
  • Monthly visual inspection of the conveyor belt.
  • Testing the fire protection system every six months.
  • Checking pump lubrication every other week.

The main risk with this approach is overdoing it.  There is an infinite amount of preventive work that could be done. When things are running smoothly and no event is required to trigger that a task is required, it can be difficult to achieve the right balance between enough, but not more than necessary. 

A good place to start is the time intervals outlined in equipment manufacturer recommendations and company and state regulations. Experienced maintenance technicians can also rely on their history of what works and what doesn’t. In addition, high-end computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) offer tools that make it easy to find the right balance.

Usage-based maintenance

Usage-based maintenance is when routine maintenance is performed on an asset after a specific amount of use. It is done regardless of the condition or time passed since the last service.

Here are some examples of usage-based maintenance:

  • Changing a vehicle’s oil after X miles/kilometers.
  • Servicing an asset after X number of operating hours.
  • Performing maintenance every X production cycles.

This introduces a new — and sometimes intimidating — task: keeping track of the usage of all your assets.

Most organizations using this approach leverage tools like a CMMS to prompt employees to record asset usage regularly. Once a defined usage has been logged, the CMMS creates and assigns a preventive maintenance task, complete with a checklist.

Preventive maintenance checklist in Limble CMMS

Maintenance based on usage is more precise than time-based maintenance. While it would be great to use this level of detail with all your assets, not all equipment usage can be tracked. That is why most organizations use a combination of usage- and time-based preventive maintenance when designing their PM strategy.

The benefits of a preventive maintenance strategy

While reactive maintenance is straightforward and easy to understand, there are numerous advantages to getting ahead with a preventative approach. Here are the top benefits that you can cite — and likely backup with data — when Management resists investing in a preventive strategy:

Improved asset lifespan

Unexpected breakdowns rarely happen without severe damage to equipment. By preventing breakdowns, a good PM program minimizes that damage and extends the lifespan of your equipment.

Organizations that go from a largely reactive strategy to a well-organized preventive strategy can find themselves replacing expensive equipment half as often, doubling your asset life cycle and cost savings for replacements! That is a great ROI.

Reduced spare parts inventory costs

When you do a lot of unplanned work, you use a lot of spare parts with little to no warning. This requires you to keep an extensive spare parts inventory on hand or pay for expensive emergency shipping. But with a planned preventive maintenance schedule, you know precisely which spare parts you need and when. Inventory management becomes a science instead of a guessing game.

In addition, when planned PMs are managed within CMMS software, parts usage is tracked for you. This allows more accurate forecasting, threshold ordering, and streamlined purchasing workflows.

Reduced labor costs

Relying on time-consuming reactive fixes can easily lead to overtime work which increases your labor costs. A good preventive maintenance program helps you avoid that.

Reduced energy consumption

Assets kept in peak operating condition require less energy to run. Some estimates show HVAC systems that are properly cared for use up to 20% less energy than those that are not.

Improved compliance and safety

Some assets have a high risk of safety issues and accidents. As a result, government regulations require them to be tested and maintained regularly. By adding this compliance to your PM schedule ⁠— and actually doing it — your organization is at a much lower risk for safety incidents and costly lawsuits.

Reduces equipment downtime

As with our physical health, the health of our critical equipment will need attention at some point. And finding what needs fixing early can make all the difference in the frequency and length of equipment breakdowns.

Parts will wear out in unexpected ways and deterioration will happen. A good preventive maintenance plan ensures regular inspections by a maintenance technician. As a result, they are more likely to notice issues or signs of wear before they cause a breakdown or productivity or quality issues. And when they do, you get to make careful decisions about how and when to resolve them rather than waiting until you have no choice.

Boosts your uptime 

A breakdown can range from a minor annoyance to a major crisis. All it takes is one piece of equipment to bring down an entire production line. Even a broken HVAC in the middle of the summer can reduce productivity in your office.

Reliable equipment means staff can stay on task. Underperforming assets can lead to idle time. And idle time is a waste of THE most important and expensive asset a company has — its staff.

Also, the team that plays together (safely, with well-functioning equipment) stays together. Staff and management need to trust that their equipment is safe and productive. In addition, your maintenance team needs to feel like their sanity matters to the company. When you have a culture of prevention, they get to be ahead of the curve rather than players in a very un-fun game of whac-a-mole.

Where preventive maintenance can go wrong

There are pros and cons to any maintenance strategy. While the benefits of PM are numerous, it is important to balance them against the risks and take steps to minimize them so that you can get the most out of preventive maintenance. 

Risk of “excessive maintenance” 

The most likely of all the drawbacks is that you may perform regular maintenance activities that are not needed. No one wants to waste human-hours on visual inspections that are not needed or throw away parts that could endure additional wear and tear. It is easy for that to happen if you do not closely track your activities and their effectiveness.

total maintenance cost

Optimising the cost of maintenance. Source: Risktec

To stay in the optimal maintenance zone, use control measures like those offered in a CMMS. CMMS software features can track parts usage to ensure that you are stocking only the items you actually use. It also has productivity metrics that can tell you with impressive accuracy when an equipment failure may occur, helping to plan your preventive maintenance with precision.

With these tools, you can be sure you are doing enough — but not too much — to keep things running smoothly.

More time up-front

Yes, it can take time to research and examine your equipment and develop a PM schedule. But many organizations have used Limble to manage their PM and are now seeing 70% fewer reactive maintenance work orders.

One customer saved over 3,000 labor-hours in just the first few months. So is it a heavy lift? A little. Does it take a forklift? No. Is it totally worth it? Totally indeed.

More complexity up-front

Planning, communication, and tracking are required for a PM plan to work well. You will have to adjust some of your existing maintenance systems and procedures when switching from reactive to preventive maintenance.

Here is the good news. This downside can be almost completely mitigated with the right software tools. Here is how it looks in Limble:

time and preventive maintenance

How Limble saves you time when implementing and running preventive maintenance

With reactive maintenance costing between three and ten times more than a good PM program, and preventive maintenance so easy to implement when you have the right tools, there is simply no reason to live in emergency mode.

Every facility uses a broad range of assets. Some are critical to production, some are less important, and some are on the chopping block. Each of these assets will provide a different return on investing in preventive maintenance.

The best approach to maintenance involves a mix of different maintenance strategies. 

  • Use run-to-failure maintenance for low-priority, non-repairable, and soon-to-be-replaced assets
  • Use preventive maintenance for medium to high-priority assets
  • Use predictive maintenance for critical assets responsible for core business processes and/or very expensive to repair or replace

While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, preventative maintenance is about as close as it gets. So if you want to focus on a single strategy and your budget is limited, the choice is clear.

Want to see Limble in action? Get started for free today!

CMMS is the ultimate preventive maintenance software

A modern CMMS is indispensable for running an efficient and effective preventive maintenance program. By streamlining many of the administrative elements of a PM strategy, a CMMS is the ultimate preventive maintenance software that helps you reap all the benefits of preventative maintenance.

  • Quickly set up preventive maintenance schedules for any asset based on time or usage.
  • Track and manage all preventive maintenance work with an easy-to-use maintenance calendar.
  • Create PM checklists and attach them to your work orders.
  • Automate the administrative part of maintenance by sharing electronic work orders and letting the CMMS automatically log performed work.
  • Get instant access to all maintenance data which technicians can access with their mobile devices via mobile CMMS app even when out in the field.
  • Improve control over your spare parts inventory through automatic parts usage tracking and low-in-stock notifications.
  • Monitor maintenance costs with real-time reporting and custom dashboards.

Keep a close eye on your preventative maintenance program by tracking important metrics and KPIs.

How to get started with Limble CMMS

Limble offers a variety of plans and all the useful features mentioned in this article. It will help you design and execute a top-notch preventive maintenance program in no time.  

If you are not ready but are curious, try our free task ticketing system based on Google Sheets. It is a great way to see how automation through technology can help streamline what you do.

Be a success story

There are hundreds of success stories out there of organizations taking steps towards prevention. They all have one thing in common: they only regret not doing it sooner.

So, congratulations on mastering the theory behind preventive maintenance! Put it into action and reap the rewards.


Why use preventive maintenance software?

Preventive maintenance software streamlines processes, reduces errors and downtime, while enabling informed, data-driven decisions. It also helps with inventory management, lifespan of assets, and assists in meeting regulatory compliance, thereby enhancing overall productivity and profitability.

What do the best preventive maintenance software have in common?

The best preventive maintenance software are user-friendly and provide robust work order management, real-time monitoring, and detailed reporting. They also excel in asset and inventory management, integrate well with other systems, scale with business growth, offer mobile access, and come with strong customer support and training. Learn how Limble’s CMMS software can help you today.

Is Limble Mobile CMMS app user friendly?

Limble is consistently rated Easiest-to-Use CMMS on review sites like G2, Capterra, and Software Advice. And our customers agree. With our mobile CMMS app, teams experience 30%+ better productivity, on average, requiring little to no training or ramp-up time. Our CMMS app can travel with your team, no matter where they go! Visit our App Store or Google Play for more information.

Can I connect to other systems?

Limble provides seamless, pre-built CMMS Integrations with the most widely used software systems. That means no help from a developer or your IT team is required. Learn more about our integrations.

How secure is the Limble CMMS platform?

At Limble, our world-class data security practices ensure your account information is safe. We use state-of-the-art technologies and industry best practices to maintain a secure infrastructure, including SOC-II Type II certification, regular penetration testing, and continuous security training for our staff.

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