Companies large and small, and across all industry, service and corporate sectors, rely on efficient functioning of equipment in order to operate and be profitable. When a piece of equipment breaks down or fails, operations are impeded and can impact a company’s bottom line. Until recent years, the approach to maintenance tended to be reactive; in other words, taking care of problems as they arose. While there may be some short-term gains to this approach, the costs of operation shutdowns as well as replacing (rather than repairing) equipment over time tend to be much higher. One way for businesses to overcome unforeseen and costly repairs is putting in place a preventative maintenance program for all its assets. Preventative maintenance is performed while the equipment is still working so that it does not break down unexpectedly. While a growing number of companies are moving toward Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) systems, others rely upon spreadsheets to monitor the status and upkeep of their equipment.
Before establishing a preventative maintenance program, the following steps should be followed:
1. Gather information on equipment
A starting point in any preventative maintenance program is becoming familiar with company equipment. It is important to document the make, model and serials numbers of each piece of equipment along with maintenance guidelines and specifics on installations, repairs and parts replacement.
2. Develop a baseline on equipment usage
To gauge the functioning of a piece of equipment, it is important to establish machine downtime, meantime-between-failure (i.e., amount of time between repairs), the cost of parts replacement, the amount of time spent by technicians, the technician’s response time and percentage of parts deliveries made on time. From this information, it is possible to calculate the average cost of one hour of downtime and thus form a baseline from which a preventative maintenance program can be evaluated.
Once the above information has been gathered, the outlines the best practices to follow when instituting a preventative maintenance program:
1. Plan an efficient preventative maintenance program
It is important to take a realistic approach to preventative maintenance. The allocated technician time should be based on the size of the company and the number of pieces of equipment to be maintained. Once this variable is determined then a preventative maintenance plan can begin to be budgeted for.
2. Consider if a Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) system is appropriate
While CMMSs are costly in terms of upfront costs and/or subscriber fees, they are sophisticated and robust systems that utilize thousands of data points and at any given time, can provide a user with an overview of a facility’s operation or alternatively, the status of an individual piece of equipment. These systems have the ability to monitor inventory levels, track work orders, quickly generate accurate reports, and instantly determine which of their assets required preventive maintenance. When factored against manually monitoring all these variables and functions, CMMSs may increase technician response time, which in turn lowers the mean time to repair and reduces the amount of downtime. Maintenance management software may be a more viable solution for many companies.
3. Have supplies and parts on hand
In executing a preventative maintenance program, it is important to have supplies and parts on hand to avoid unnecessary downtime. By ordering in advance, companies may be able to take advantage of discounts that may not be available when supplies and parts are purchased on an urgent basis.
4. Establish preventative maintenance checklists
Equipment often has specific maintenance protocols to be followed. Establishing task checklists in advance help to estimate the amount of time needed to maintain a particular piece of equipment.
5. Develop an efficient preventative maintenance schedule
Since some pieces of equipment need to be maintained more often than others, examine the information gathered previously to guide the frequency with which servicing needs to be conducted. Based on the findings, then technician time can be allocated. As well, for large operations, preventative maintenance can be carried out based on the location of several pieces needing servicing at the same time. This type of coordination is more cost saving and more efficient than deploying technicians to conduct maintenance in different areas of a facility.
6. Select trained technicians
Equipment only will operate as efficiently as those who use and service it. Therefore, it makes most sense to select technicians with the necessary skills to maintain specific company assets. For small operations, it may be more cost effective to use third party technicians rather than hire in-house service providers. By having several pieces of equipment serviced at once utilizing a preventative maintenance program, makes subcontracting servicing an optimal choice.
7. Monitor costs and performance, and adjust as needed
Once in place for several months, companies should monitor their preventative maintenance programs by evaluating associated cost/benefit effects. Results may vary depending on conditions or changes within the company’s activities. Maintenance managers can adjust PMs as needed with an eye toward increasing overall operations efficiency.
The shift from reactive maintenance and toward preventative maintenance is seen as beneficial for many companies whose operations are highly dependent on reliable equipment functioning. The benefits of preventative maintenanceinclude: uninterrupted manufacturing runs by eliminating machine breakdowns, increased product quality as well as decreased capital expenditures by increasing machine lifespans and reducing spare parts costs.