Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance (PM) involves routine, scheduled maintenance to prevent equipment failure, reduce downtime, and extend asset lifespan.

(Free Guide) Switch from Reactive to Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance has numerous proven benefits including reduced repair costs, improved inventory control, and optimized allocation of resources. Despite these clear benefits, more than 60% of businesses still rely on strictly reactive maintenance strategies—addressing equipment malfunctions and failures only after they have already occurred. 

A strictly reactive approach can lead to prolonged downtime, elevated maintenance costs, penalties for non-compliance, and safety risks to your employees and customers. Preventive maintenance offers a powerful antidote–a proactive framework for avoiding these outcomes. But what is preventive maintenance (PM) exactly, and how can your organization build or improve your preventive maintenance program?

Below, we offer a comprehensive guide to help you refine your preventive maintenance strategy, and ultimately improve performance and productivity across the entire organization.

What is preventive maintenance (PM)?

Preventive maintenance (PM), sometimes also referred to as preventative maintenance or planned maintenance, is a proactive approach to asset management that relies on the planned performance of maintenance activities such as inspections, testing, parts replacement, calibration, and more. 

An effective preventive maintenance program will be built on several key tenets:

  • Regular maintenance activities, typically based on the passage of time, preset usage thresholds, or performance-based triggers, and often informed by manufacturer recommendations
  • Detailed documentation of all maintenance activities, including inspections, repairs, and replacements for each piece of equipment in your facility
  • Standard operating procedures (SOPs) aimed at ensuring consistency, guiding quality assurance, and forming the basis for training maintenance technicians on the upkeep of critical assets
  • Streamlined resource allocation ensuring the availability of spare parts, tools, materials, and personnel for the timely execution of preventive maintenance tasks
  • Data analysis, reporting, and feedback to measure preventive maintenance program outcomes and drive continuous improvement

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Types of preventive maintenance

Broadly speaking, preventive maintenance refers to a proactive maintenance strategy in which maintenance tasks are performed at planned intervals. However, preventative maintenance models can take several different forms. Below, we take a closer look at some notable PM strategies: 

  • Time-based maintenance refers to an approach in which maintenance activities are scheduled at regular, pre-planned intervals.
  • Condition-based maintenance employs monitoring tools and sensor-based technology to provide real-time data on equipment performance and illuminate issues that might predict equipment failure
  • Usage-based maintenance calls for servicing at pre-set usage intervals and may be based on such indicators as the number of units produced by a manufacturing component or the number of miles driven by a service vehicle. 
  • Predictive maintenance relies on machine learning, historical data, and real-time monitoring to predict when maintenance should be performed.

Preventive maintenance and inspections

Preventive maintenance (PM) and inspections are closely related, but they serve different purposes as part of your broader maintenance program. In short, the purpose of preventive maintenance is to deploy preemptive maintenance tasks to prevent equipment failure. The purpose of inspections is to assess the current condition of equipment and identify issues that might need to be addressed. 

As such, inspections are a critical part of an effective preventive maintenance program. Inspections provide the data and insights needed to perform targeted maintenance activities. For instance, inspections can provide: 

  • Early detection of wear, corrosion, misalignment, or other issues that could lead to equipment failure
  • Real-time data on the performance and condition of equipment
  • Compliance recommendations aimed at addressing safety hazards, aligning with industry standards, and adhering to regulatory conditions
  • Documentation of inspection findings, reports generated from inspections, and a historical log of maintenance actions
  • Feedback loop allowing for adjustments and improvements based on observed conditions and outcomes

Benefits of preventive maintenance 

The benefits of a preventive maintenance program are considerable. Below, we consider just a few reasons a preventive maintenance strategy can help drive improvements for your organization:

  • Time-based maintenance activities such as cleaning, lubrication, and parts replacement increase uptime and improve equipment longevity.
  • Routine servicing reduces the occurrence of equipment failure and unplanned downtime.
  • Preemptive repairs can prevent major breakdowns and the consequent need for more costly repairs.
  • Regular inspections ensure that equipment is operating safely and in compliance with regulatory requirements.
  • Scheduled maintenance tasks allow for better coordination, refined resource allocation, and minimal operational disruptions

Drawbacks of preventive maintenance

While an effective preventive maintenance program comes with several clear benefits, there are also some practical challenges to implementation. Consider the following potential drawbacks before initiating your preventive maintenance strategy

  • High up-front costs for the tools and equipment required to track and schedule maintenance activities, as well as the training to ensure your maintenance team understands the procedures, technology, and best practices involved in PM strategy
  • Increased complexity of maintenance scheduling, work order management, task delegation, and cross-department coordination
  • Increased workloads for maintenance teams as a consequence of new administrative tasks including documentation, tracking, and reporting
  • Resistance to change, with heightened complexity and increased workload leading to internal resistance from maintenance personnel who are accustomed to reactive maintenance strategies
  • ROI uncertainty, where the long-term financial benefits of preventive maintenance may at first be overshadowed by high upfront costs

When should I use PM? 

Despite the potential drawbacks noted above, preventive maintenance is always a better approach to certain operational challenges. For instance, preventive maintenance is the preferred approach when managing:

  • High-priced equipment with hefty replacement costs such as industrial machinery, HVAC systems, or medical devices
  • Critical production equipment, the failure of which can lead to prolonged downtime, operational disruption, and financial loss
  • Seasonal equipment with predictable peak usage and off-peak periods, such as snow removal equipment, air conditioning units, or landscaping vehicles
  • Complex systems with interdependent components, such as power plants, aircraft, or manufacturing robots, where the malfunction of a single component can result in system-wide failure
  • Aging equipment that could be more prone to breakdowns and more vulnerable to eventual inoperability

Who uses preventive maintenance? 

Preventive maintenance is a preferred approach to asset management across multiple industries. Below, we highlight just a few of the many industries in which PM is used to ensure the reliability, efficiency, and safety of equipment, machinery, and facilities.

  • Manufacturing operations perform regularly scheduled maintenance activities such as lubrication, parts replacement, and system calibration to ensure assembly line robots and machinery are in optimal working condition. 
  • Healthcare facilities such as hospitals and clinics conduct routine checks and calibrations to ensure that medical devices such as MRI machines, ventilators, and surgical instruments are operating safely, accurately, and reliably.
  • Energy producers such as power plants conduct regularly scheduled inspections and equipment testing to ensure the continued functionality of turbines, generators, and other critical infrastructure. 
  • Hospitality operations such as hotels, resorts and casinos rely on routine maintenance and optimal performance of HVAC systems, elevators, kitchen equipment, and more to ensure guest comfort and safety.
  • Food and beverage processing plants conduct routine servicing of production line equipment, refrigeration units, and packaging machines to reduce spoilage, prevent contamination, and meet rigorous food health and safety compliance standards. 

Preventive maintenance vs. reactive maintenance

As we’ve noted throughout this discussion, preventive maintenance offers several advantages over reactive maintenance. But in reality, many businesses will employ some combination of both strategies. With that in mind, we take a closer look at the differences between these two maintenance strategies below.

Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance is an approach to asset management in which repairs are performed only after equipment has malfunctioned or failed. In this context, maintenance tasks are performed only as needed and are meant to restore functionality as quickly as possible. 

Reactive maintenance also includes the following notable subsets:

  • Breakdown maintenance, in which equipment is repaired only after it has completely failed. This situation typically results from unforeseen issues or a lack of preventive measures.
  • Emergency maintenance, in which urgent repairs are used to address immediate threats to safety or operations, is similar to breakdown maintenance but with a higher sense of urgency.

Characteristics of these approaches include reduced upfront costs and a lower planning burden alongside higher long-term repair costs, prolonged equipment downtime, and shortened life expectancy for critical physical assets.

These maintenance strategies are sharply contrasted by preventive maintenance, in which maintenance tasks are performed at predetermined intervals or usage thresholds. By acting to preempt failure, preventive maintenance strategies typically offset higher upfront costs and planning burdens with lower long-term repair costs, reduced equipment downtime, and longer life expectancy for physical assets.

Drawbacks of reactive maintenance

As the section above demonstrates, relying solely on reactive maintenance can carry significant drawbacks, such as: 

  • Increased downtime, with equipment failures causing unexpected operational halts, unplanned downtime, delayed production schedules, and a loss of revenue
  • Higher long-term upkeep costs as a result of regular breakdowns, frequent repairs, and increasingly expensive parts replacements
  • Reduced equipment lifespan as a consequence of accelerated wear and tear, and the escalation of minor issues into major problems
  • Heightened safety risks, with unexpected equipment failures posing risks to personnel and customers
  • Regulatory non-compliance, with the failure to properly maintain equipment resulting in inspection failures, penalties, and fines

When is reactive maintenance sufficient? 

Despite its drawbacks, reactive maintenance is sufficient, and perhaps even preferred, in certain instances. For example, reactive maintenance may be more cost-effective for the upkeep of:

  • Non-critical equipment whose failure will not significantly impact operations
  • Low-cost assets that may be repaired or replaced quickly and with minimal expense
  • Equipment with predictable failure patterns such as light bulbs or printer cartridges
  • Systems with built-in redundancy such that the failure of a single component will not disrupt operations
  • Infrequently used equipment, where downtime has little to no impact on regular operations

Preventive maintenance plans and schedules

Preventive maintenance plans and schedules play several critical roles in PM programs, providing a structured and systemic approach to maintenance tasks; helping to more efficiently allocate resources including parts, materials, and personnel; and informing the performance of maintenance tasks with historical and real-time performance data.

Below, we highlight some of the key functions performed by preventive maintenance plans and preventive maintenance schedules, respectively. 

Preventive maintenance plans

This detailed strategy should outline specific maintenance tasks and serve as a blueprint for physical asset management. The typical preventive maintenance plan will include the following elements:

  • Equipment inventory
  • Maintenance tasks
  • Frequency and timing
  • Resources required
  • Documentation and reporting

Preventive maintenance schedules

Your preventive maintenance schedule should serve as a calendar for your maintenance personnel, providing a clear timeline of task assignments and duties. The typical PM schedule will include the following elements:

  • Calendar-Based Scheduling
  • Usage-Based Scheduling
  • Condition-Based Scheduling
  • Priority and Criticality scores
  • Responsibilities and Assignments

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CMMS: software for preventive maintenance

A Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) can play a pivotal role in simplifying preventive maintenance, especially for businesses attempting to make the challenging transition from reactive maintenance to the proactive strategies highlighted throughout this discussion. 

The right CMMS software can simplify this process in several ways including:

  • Automated scheduling and delegation of maintenance tasks 
  • Centralized data including equipment details, maintenance history, and work orders
  • Inventory management, ensuring the availability of spare parts, tools, and raw materials as needed
  • Real-time monitoring of equipment conditions through integrated sensors and diagnostics
  • Data-driven insights into equipment performance, maintenance effectiveness, and opportunities for continuous improvement

The tech-enabled future of preventive maintenance

Emerging technologies like IoT sensors and advanced condition monitoring tools are transforming how maintenance is performed, offering significant benefits such as:

  • Real-time data collection, with sensors continuously collecting data on equipment performance, such as temperature, vibration, and pressure;
  • Predictive maintenance, with advanced data analytics and machine learning technology helping to predict when equipment is most likely to fail;
  • Remote monitoring, enabling the implementation of timely interventions without the need for physical inspections
  • Condition monitoring tools using techniques like thermal imaging and ultrasonic testing to evaluate equipment health
  • Preventive maintenance software, such as Limble’s CMMS, which enables seamless integration of systems, tools, and data all on a single platform.

Learn more about software for preventive maintenance

For a deeper look at the transformative impact a CMMS platform can have on your maintenance operation, check out a few of our invaluable resources: 

  • If your goal is to launch a new preventive maintenance strategy or reduce inefficiencies in your existing program, we urge you to check out our: Essential Guide to CMMS
  • If you’re already planning to implement a CMMS platform but you’d like to make a more informed purchasing decision, you could benefit from a look at our CMMS Buyer’s Guide.
  • And if you’re ready to make the leap with the Limble CMMS but want to learn more, we invite you to explore our library of articles, case studies, and success stories.

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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.

How secure is the Limble CMMS platform?

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