Maintenance departments often view equipment failure as a fact of life. Managers come to expect breakdowns and often wait for “problem equipment” to simply stop working. Even if a reactive attack plan seems to work, the long term strategy is short-sighted. If your assets breakdown in the first place, it’s a sign your company may not be following preventive best practices. Preventive equipment maintenance may take time to setup and implement, but the cost savings will be well worth the wait.
What is preventive maintenance? Any maintenance you do to keep equipment from breaking down can be considered preventive maintenance. You’re probably doing some of it already. When you take your car for oil and filter changes, or clean and inspect the furnace to make sure it’s in good working order, you’re doing preventative maintenance.
But while it’s easy for most people to remember to change the oil, it can be difficult to keep track of the service needs of all your organization’s assets — let alone, find time to do the work. Many organizations are so busy fixing broken equipment and renovating or replacing old gear that they don’t even consider it.
But the “don’t fix it if it ain’t broken” approach — called reactive maintenance — is wasteful and inefficient. It’s more difficult, more time consuming and more expensive to repair and replace than it is to tune and inspect.
Why don’t all companies use preventative maintenance? Strange as it may sound, lack of organization is probably the single biggest factor. Companies have been quick to take advantage of slick apps and productivity suites to optimize HR, logistics, marketing and other occupations that drive profit, but many maintenance departments are still using pen and paper, or at best, Excel.
This makes it hard to prioritize and track work orders, and even harder to schedule tune-ups ahead of time. Preventative equipment maintenance doesn’t work on a neat, weekly schedule — your company might own vehicles that need tune-ups every 10,000 miles, industrial machines that require inspections every 200 hours, a heating and cooling system that needs to be tweaked twice a year, and hundreds of other pieces of equipment, each with its own requirements. When everything is on paper or in a spreadsheet, it’s almost impossible to keep track of everything.
Another problem is organizational culture. The maintenance department waits until things break because that’s the way it’s always been, and management assumes frequent downtime and equipment failure is just part of doing business.
How does preventive maintenance benefit your business as a whole? Alejandro Aguilar, co-founder and CEO of Miami Business Consulting, Inc., has extensive experience in the food industry, including seven years as a McDonald’s Finance Manager and running multiple Checkers franchises. “Preventive maintenance has only positive impacts on your bottom line,” says Aguilar.
Aguilar notes that preventative maintenance comes with multiple benefits, such as:
- Lower labor costs
- Ensuring warranty requirements are met for various manufacturers
- Guaranteeing continuous operation
It also protects you from the damage to your reputation that unexpected downtime can bring. Aguilar points out that downtime can cause your operation to lose sales and customers in an unpredictable way.
“A dissatisfied customer has more than one negative impact -- that’s not just one customer lost. All of a sudden, your reputation is in question, and an entire chain of companies might not do business with you in the future.”
“Keep in mind that companies that have systems of continuous production (like McDonald’s) heavily rely on being able to schedule equipment maintenance at non-peak hours. They even schedule their backup equipment, so it can be fresh when it’s needed -- ensuring a smooth transition between lines. Imagine owning a chain restaurant and all of a sudden your fryers stop working -- that’s doesn’t just mean your fryer is down, it means your whole business is going to grind to a halt. It’s complete chaos. Usually, unscheduled maintenance has a cascade effect that goes well beyond the point of occurrence, and reaching normalcy requires a lot more effort (and time) than you anticipate,” says Aguilar.
How does preventive maintenance protect my business?
Preventive maintenance doesn’t just save money over time — it can also prevent catastrophic events that could damage or even destroy your business. As J. Colin Petersen, President and CEO of I.T. support and service company J - I.T Outsource, points out, a pattern of neglecting equipment maintenance can cause severe and pricey disruption of mission critical tasks:
“Don't just think about tools and hardware. We've had more than one client come to us in dire straits because they didn't do any preventative maintenance on one of the most important business systems they had: their computer network.
While it does cost time and effort each month to check systems, run tests, and upgrade where needed, the cost of total system failure is far worse. We had a local mega-church reach out to us because one day, everything stopped working. We went to investigate and found $100,000 in network and telecommunications equipment rotting on the vine in their server closet. We were able to save a lot of the infrastructure, but the cost in time and additional equipment was significant.”
A similar sentiment was echoed by Aguilar, noting that preventative maintenance plays a role in “avoiding cash flow emergencies” caused by equipment failure. This safeguards investments, and prevents your business from needing to take out new lines of credit, which can have long-term financial consequences.
Do I need skilled maintenance technicians? While some preventive maintenance requires specialized training, even simple activities can usually make a big difference, according to James Leach Jr., General Manager
of Hobart Sales and Service — a company that sells and services commercial food equipment:
“Refrigeration is a very important part of anyone’s kitchen and it is one of the most taken for granted pieces. As long as it’s working no one notices it. As soon as it isn’t it is a huge priority. Tasks such as checking gaskets and cleaning the condenser and fans are essential for the correct operation of an industrial refrigerator. Operators have enough going on in their kitchen and it is easy to forget to complete these simple tasks.”
If something goes wrong, you’ll have to call a specialized technician in -- but performing routine maintenance isn’t something that requires a trained tech: you just need to be aware of what specific tasks your team has to perform to keep everything running smoothly. A huge advantage of scheduled work orders are their ability to hold specific task checklists unique to each PM which outlines a step-by-step guide to properly clean or inspect that particular equipment. Any maintenance technician can be assigned to complete the tasks correctly, providing a standardized approach to maintenance management.
How do I start a preventive maintenance program? Short answer: a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and lots of planning. The planning part (we’ll discuss the CMMS in a minute) starts with inventorying everything that needs to be maintained. This includes standard facility assets like your HVAC system and your water heater, along with safety equipment like smoke alarms.
You’ll also have to do preventive equipment maintenance on tools the maintenance department uses — such as shop vacs, lawn mowers and compressors. Don’t forget facilities maintenance and inspection to keep your buildings in good shape. Beyond that, it depends on your industry. Equipment and manufacturing maintenance will have different needs than educational facilities and school maintenance, for example. If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of assets that require preventive maintenance within your operations, then start by prioritize critical assets that are fundamental to your product or service offering.
Next, you’ll have to list preventive maintenance requirements for each piece of equipment, and divide them into tasks. O&M manuals can show you maintenance best practices for each piece of equipment, including how often it needs to be serviced. You’ll need a way to keep track of all repairs and tune-ups. For example, if you have to service a vehicle every 30,000 miles, your technicians will have to regularly log the mileage.
You might already feel a little overwhelmed, and there’s still a lot to do, including:
- Dividing up tasks between onsite workers and contractors
- Developing a system to track work orders
- Communicating with contractors
- Managing inventory and vendors
- Creating a system to submit work requests and feedback.
It sounds like a massive undertaking (and it often is), but CMMS software can turn it from an impossible task into something manageable.
What is CMMS software? Computerized maintenance management software is a set of apps and tools designed to organize and help your team run maintenance procedures. The right CMMS software can provide a complete preventive maintenance software solution by tackling PM’s most difficult aspects: organizing information, scheduling maintenance, and making sure everything gets done.
CMMS systems such as, Hippo CMMS’ asset and equipment management, will make it much easier to organize data as you put your program together. You’ll be able to associate relevant information to each piece of equipment including:
- Warranty card
- O&M manual
- Associated parts (e.g. replacement filters or spare gears)
- Contact and vendor information
That means, instead of scanning through file cabinets, you can instantly view the O&M manual or contact the vendor from the app.
The program also drastically simplifies the process of organizing and scheduling preventive equipment maintenance tasks. You’ll be able to generate as many work orders as necessary for each asset, and use it’s meter-based PM frequency feature to automatically trigger tasks based on mileage, dates, meter readings or other metrics.
Hippo’s preventative maintenance software solutions automatically remind workers and managers when it’s time for a repair, and can be configured with flexible timeframes, multiple reminders and other settings to make sure the work gets done on time and on budget.
Can CMMS help me automate my work orders? Definitely! Hippo’s Work Order Management Software handles it from start to finish. A maintenance portal lets staff or customers sign in and request work, which is assigned to a manager. The manager can then approve or decline the request, create a work order, and assign it to an employee or outside contractor.
They’ll be able to use Hippo to access step-by-step instructions, find needed parts, make notes, and close the work order. The Hippo mobile app gives them access from any Wi-Fi enabled smartphone or tablet, meaning they’ll never have to run back to the office to look up their latest job or check off a task. You’ll have instantaneous access to all work orders, so you’ll always know which tasks are completed, and which still need to be done.
Will CMMS software let me see maintenance costs? Yes — and not just maintenance costs. You’ll have a history of repairs for every asset. With powerful filters and simple charts, Hippo Reports makes it easy to view performance across your maintenance department. Want to see if productivity is improving, or how long work orders are taking to get done? No problem. Want to find out if contractors have been more cost-effective than your staff, or which vendor can save you the most? It’s just a matter of selecting the right filters to create a comprehensive report from. Reports are also emailed to your team at any schedule you choose, making for convenient and real-time data monitoring.
With preventive maintenance, waiting for a breakdown is a thing of the past. Too many companies are still accepting random hardware failures as a fact of life, but they don’t have to be. CMMS can help you implement preventive maintenance best practices across the board, increasing the lifespan of key assets and equipment, and removing chance from the equation. That means less spending, fewer disruptions, and more satisfied customers.
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