Preventive maintenance programs cut downtime, boost productivity, and save you money. And it's easy to see why. Taking care of little issues before they have a chance to grow into giant problems puts you ahead of the maintenance curve. But you're never going to get there if you don't set up your program properly.
Here's 4 steps to get your PM program off on the right foot.
1. Include the right assets and equipment
Because there will always be limits on your time and resources, you need to be choosy when deciding which assets to include in your PM program. When deciding to include an asset or not, start by looking at its level of criticality, which is the answer to the question "If this asset fails, how much trouble are we in?" Here, trouble can mean everything from lost production to costly repairs, from hefty government fines to increased safety risks.
There's a whole art and science to determining criticality. To learn more, check out How to Pick the Right Preventive Maintenance Strategy.
And remember, run-to-failure is the right strategy if something is cheap to carry in inventory, has a low criticality, and can be repaired or replaced easily. Light bulbs are the classic example. They're cheap and don't expire or degrade. Also, they're never mission critical. Think about the headlights on your car. You never do any maintenance on them and only replace them after they burn out. Their criticality is so low, you don't even carry spares with you. But it's very different for something like the tires. You're not going anywhere with a flat, even if the other three are working perfectly. That's why you need to rebalance and rotate them regularly. It's also why you always carry a spare.
2. Set up preventive maintenance tasks with data from more than one source
For each asset, you need to decide on both the tasks and their frequency. Basically, what work do you need to do and how often. It's straightforward for newer assets: simply follow the manufacturers' recommendations. They're the ones who designed and built it, so at the beginning no one knows the asset better than they do. On top of that, if you don't follow the official maintenance recommendations, you might inadvertently void the warranties.
But as time goes on, fine-tune your preventive maintenance program. Generally, as an asset gets older, you need to check it more often. More specifically, the longer you look after an asset, the better you know it. When it was new, the manufacturer was the expert. Now, you are. When deciding on PMs, make sure to review historical work orders. That gives you an idea of both the failure modes and frequencies. If you know the timing belt slipped once every three months, set a PM to check and adjust the belt once every two and a half months. If the belt broke six months ago and six months before that, set a PM to replace it every five months.
If you have CMMS software, all the information you need is in the historical work orders, safe and searchable. If you don't have a CMMS, instead of shuffling all that paperwork or clicking through all those spreadsheet files, save time by sitting down with the more senior maintenance technicians and asking them for their insights. It's an imperfect but workable alternative.
3. Set your technicians up for success
You've looked at all your assets and decided which to include in the program and their associated tasks and schedules. Now it's time to focus on the technicians.
Delegate preventive maintenance tasks based on skill sets
With reactive, on-demand work orders, you often have little to no choice when it comes to choosing resources. It's simply a question of who's closest and available. But with PMs, you're scheduling everything ahead of time, which means you can now match your resources' skill sets to specific tasks. For more routine maintenance, assign newer technicians, while more senior technicians are likely better suited to more complex tasks. It's often not a question of experience but background trade. Your electricians can check fuses while mechanics work on the fleet.
Create data-packed PMs
Here's one of the many places a good CMMS makes setting up a good PM program so much easier. Unlike a few lines on a scrap of paper or tiny cells in a spreadsheet, there's endless room to add information on a CMMS work order. You can include everything technicians need to close out PMs properly and efficiently, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Digital images, schematics, and O&M manuals
- Associated parts and materials
- Complete asset maintenance and repair histories
A good CMMS even has interactive digital floor plans.
Every task gets done properly because technicians never have to run back to the office for a manual, chase down a supervisor for help, or, and this is the worst one, just wing it and hope for the best.
4. Define your preventive maintenance program success
Make sure to set realistic goals. Even traveling down Easy Street, you'll still hit the odd pothole. It's important to remember that your PM program is only going to help prevent certain types of failures, ones connected to misuse and general wear-out. But it won't reduce the number of infant mortality failures, which are usually the result of poorly manufactured assets, and random failures, which are by definition hard to predict.
And make sure to set quantifiable goals that help you track the program's success. When people go on a diet, they get on the scale once a week. They don't bother tracking their height or shoe size because those numbers don't tell them anything about their progress.
Finding and using the right key performance indicators (KPIs) is a whole topic itself. To learn more, check out Classic KPIs for CMMS ROI and Best KPIs to Track with Maintenance Management Software.