Hippo CMMS

What is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is a routine maintenance process on a piece of equipment to lessen the likelihood of a sudden breakdown. A PM plan is critical to any maintenance management program to avoid unplanned downtime and increase productivity.

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By Reena Sommer | January 13, 2020

What a Preventive Maintenance Program Requires?

An effective preventive maintenance program requires careful planning and scheduling of maintenance on an asset before an actual breakdown. Also, it requires tracking data related to past inspections and maintenance. But it's always worth the investment. A good program delivers:

  • Reduced Costs
  • Reduced probability of failure
  • Increased productivity


Looking at the definition in Wikipedia, we can see that people often use the initials PM as a shorter form of the full phrase. "Preventive maintenance (PM) is a routine for periodical inspections, with the goal of noticing small problems, and fixing them before major ones develop. Ideally, nothing breaks down." It can be a bit confusing, because in other circles, PM is also used to mean project management. And to make it even tricker, a PM is used to mean a task that's a part of a preventive maintenance program. So, someone might say, "I have five PMs scheduled for this week." The good news is not matter what you call it, you still get all the benefits.

How do I get started with preventive maintenance?

While the decision to finally implement a preventive maintenance is the first step toward managing maintenance better, the next and most crucial step is implementing your preventive maintenance program effectively.

A 2004 survey involving 5,000 companies showed that the majority were not satisfied with the effectiveness of their preventive maintenance programs. It is crucial to remember that effectiveness most optimally occurs when 80% or more maintenance activities can be planned and scheduled at least a week in advance. This is the goal: an 80/20 split between planned and unplanned maintenance. 

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) makes reaching this goal easier by allowing you to schedule preventive maintenance with a few clicks of a mouse.

Some important steps to do while ensuring the effectiveness of a PM program are:

  • Assemble existing information
  • Compile equipment history
  • Determine PM requirements such as inspections, routine check-ups and such
  • Prioritize critical equipment
  • Create a task description sheet
  • Set up a frequency to perform a PM


The above steps were previously recorded on paper or spreadsheets that made it hard to keep track of them and therefore even an attempt at a preventive maintenance program lead to failure.

With the increase in use of CMMS software and new technology all of the above information and steps can be stored in one location and accessed anytime, anywhere.

Now, providers design systems that are user-friendly and configurable to meet the needs of their widening customer base, some of which can be explored on directories like Capterra, Software Advice, Techradar  and Predictive Analytics.


What are the steps to setting up the perfect preventive maintenance program?

A large part of keeping a company running efficiently and profitably is ensuring that all equipment is functioning optimally. To do so, routine preventive maintenance needs to be conducted. Unfortunately, regular equipment checks often go overlooked in certain areas of a company's operations mainly because attention is usually directed toward more pressing issues. However, when small tasks go overlooked for long periods of time, problems often follow; production errors, work injuries, and asset damage can all occur if careful tracking and maintenance aren’t followed. A breakdown in critical equipment is costly both regarding repairs as well as downtime and delays in a company’s productivity.

The problems outlined can be avoided with a computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) system that offers preventative maintenance as one of its key functions. With CMMS software in place, companies can get a birds-eye-view of all their facilities and locations to ensure that effective preventative maintenance schedule is a part of all standard operating procedures. Preventive maintenance software provides tools such as automatic triggers, email integration, set reminders, equipment information, and auto-assigned task which can streamline a company’s entire maintenance process. Here are the steps in creating an effective preventative maintenance plan:

1. Create a preventive maintenance plan

Before any preventive maintenance (PM) procedures are put in place, it is important first to establish who will be involved in the preventative maintenance  project. Depending on the company size, likely choices may include maintenance managers, maintenance techs and/or people from accounting or finance departments. Additionally, it is critical that staff members are fully invested in developing the program so that the PM maintenance implementation can be successful. A final aspect of creating a preventative maintenance plan is determining a goal for the project. Examples of PM maintenance project goals are: reducing reactive or corrective maintenance costs by X% or decreasing equipment downtime by X%.

Preventive Maintenance Plan E-book

2. Inventory facility equipment/assets

The most time-consuming aspect of setting up a preventive maintenance program involves going through a facility and creating an inventory of all relevant equipment. Although a time consuming exercise, it is a critical one as it ensures that preventive checks are routinely be made on key operational equipment. As part of this task, it is important to take note of equipment make/model, serial numbers, specifications, asset identification numbers and fixed locations. Finally, documenting the current condition of the equipment can help prioritize its importance as part of a preventive maintenance program. EAM software offers ways for users to digitally track the location of assets that have been physically tagged. It also stores asset information and inventory data, and can alert managers when spare parts stock is low.

3. Create preventive maintenance procedures

Once a list of equipment has been made, the next step is to determine the tasks or jobs required to maintain each piece of equipment as well as the frequency with which these tasks should occur (i.e., weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, annually). There may be times when preventive maintenance is best suited to be scheduled around run-time hours while for other assets, other meter based triggers are more appropriate. Whichever is the case, it is important to make note of these different scheduling scenarios while also estimating how much time may be needed to perform the PM with work order software.

preventive maintenance software schedule demo cta


Most preventive maintenance programs accommodate schedules based on run-time hours, but having prior knowledge of how often these may occur will assist in a company’s scheduling process. Preventive maintenance procedures can be determined based on prior corrective maintenance experiences or by referencing owner’s manuals and manufacturer recommendations and documented industry standards. An important part of creating preventive maintenance checklist is making a list of tools and internal and external resources needed to complete each job. In summary, a preventive maintenance plan should include the following: a parts list, standard operating procedures (SOPs), safety/lockout procedures and estimated time to complete the PM tasks.

4. Create preventive maintenance schedules

Preventative maintenance scheduling is critical to company operations since these occur regularly and involve time, energy and staff resources to complete. In creating a preventive maintenance schedule, it is important to make a list of high priority items; these will be the starting points.

Preventative maintenance programs take time to be created and it is best to schedule the highest priority maintenance before overloading staff with tasks that rank lower on priority. The initial preventive maintenance goals established will direct which assets should be prioritized.

For example, it is important to identify which equipment is most costly to a company regarding repairs, downtime and value to operations. Once high priority items have been identified, it is recommended to begin by scheduling preventive maintenance tasks with longer intervals first (i.e. annual, semi-annual, quarterly).

Equipment requiring preventive maintenance on longer intervals generally require the most time and resources, and because of this, scheduling may be best during specific times during the year (i.e., plant shutdown, at the beginning of heating/cooling season.)

Once high priority long term preventive maintenance is completed, scheduling tasks with shorter intervals and more frequent cycles (i.e., weekly, monthly, etc.) and low priority items should follow. Since these preventive maintenance tasks generally require less time, they can also easily fill the gaps between the long term and high priority preventive maintenance.

It is important to realistically plan preventative maintenance schedules by striking a balance between preventative maintenance and the time needed to address corrective or emergency maintenance as well as other projects that will likely surface.

Preventive Maintenance Schedule E-book

Setting up a preventive maintenance schedule

Setting up a customized preventive maintenance schedule is aimed at achieving the above outcomes. Here are five tips to make this happen:

  1. Get a Handle on Your Assets
    Since company assets are unique and vary by industry and sector, size of the organization and production activities, there is no “cookie cutter” method to developing an inventory list for the purpose of developing a preventive maintenance schedule. At the outset, determinations need to be made about which assets require routine checks and which do not. In general, company assets that will benefit most from a preventive maintenance schedule are those that have a critical operational function, failure modes that can be prevented with routine maintenance and a likelihood of failure that increases with time or use. Assets less amenable to preventive maintenance scheduling may be better handled using spreadsheet systems.
  2. Use Architectural Drawings to Locate Assets

    An architectural drawing is a rendering of an architectural design as plan and/or elevation views of a building or structure. Many CMMS software systems have the capability of integrating architectural drawings with preventive maintenance programs. Using these drawings make it possible to view supply levels visually rather than in a spreadsheet format alone. Most important, exact locations of equipment can be highlighted on the drawings. Knowing the locations of critical equipment in need of preventive maintenance system can facilitate efficient preventive maintenance scheduling because technicians can be deployed to service several pieces within close proximity in a shorter time frame as opposed to the time required to service items spread throughout a facility. This approach results in better time and resource utilization management.

  3. Gather Operating and Maintenance Manuals and Serial Codes
    An important aspect of establishing maintenance schedules is becoming familiar with equipment O&M manuals which among other things, set out recommended maintenance schedules and procedures as well as troubleshooting information. Serial codes are important to ensure that when replacement parts are needed, the correct ones are ordered. An efficient preventive maintenance will benefit from technicians who are knowledgeable about the assets they are servicing as well as having the appropriate parts on hand, when needed.
  4. Review Equipment Repair Histories
    Apart from setting preventive maintenance schedule based on O&M manual recommendations alone, gaining additional information about asset use and repair histories can be helpful. Since no two operations are identical, O&M manual recommendations are just that – recommendations. They do not replace a thorough review of repair and inspection histories. This added information is beneficial in fine tuning preventive maintenance schedules to reflect the actual usage and performance of a particular piece of equipment. Equally important, a review of the repair histories will provide valuable information about prior downtime and serve as a baseline upon which improvements can be targeted.

5. Train your maintenance team

While developing a preventive maintenance program takes time, proper CMMS implementation and adoption of the program is crucial. It is essential that companies prioritize the training of its maintenance staff as they are the core users of the system. Having staff members trained to use a program is a key determinant of successful outcomes. Do not scale back on training. Having staff that buy in to the software, adopt it and use it will ensure the highest ROI.

6. Analyze – adjust - improve

Businesses are dynamic and so are its equipment assets. Because of this, it is important always to analyze the results of a preventative maintenance program and adjust or improve it as needed. Preventive maintenance programs help companies identify equipment that require more time and money than others, leading to adjustments in the preventive maintenance procedure/schedule. Companies often seek the assistance of consultants or CMMS implementation experts to assess and adjust preventive maintenance programs. It's not a bad idea to assess and adjust your PM plan every couple of years. 

Without a doubt, developing and implementing a preventative maintenance program takes time and energy. However, once in place with staff trained to use it, the benefits of automated preventive maintenance far outweigh the costs associated with reactive or emergency maintenance that often results in unforeseen downtime, equipment replacement, and operation disruption. Having facility management software in place that monitors company assets makes it possible for flexible maintenance scheduling saving time, money and energy.

How do I know if my preventive maintenance program is working?

It is essential to ensure that all plant and facility equipment is covered by a cost-effective overall preventive maintenance program. An effective preventive maintenance program will reduce the amount of unplanned work to less than 80% of the total man-power expanded for all equipment maintenance activities.

But it's not enough to just have a plan. The effectiveness of a maintenance program depends on execution of the plan. 

comparison between types of preventive maintenance programs used in top performing facilities and overall facilities

What are the key performance indicators for preventive maintenance?

  • Productivity
    More specifically, this refers to emergency man-hours. An effective Preventive Maintenance Schedule should see a significant drop (almost negligible) in emergency hours put and therefore an increase in overall productivity.
  • Equipment downtime
    The total breakdown downtime for an equipment, a plant or even an entire facility indicates the level of effectiveness of a PM program.
  • Equipment costs
    The cost of repairs includes the cost of labor, materials, extra labor hours as well as any direct or indirect maintenance cost. This plays a major role in indicating improvements after implementing a PM program.
  • Preventive maintenance efficiency
    This would go over the amount of work orders generated from a preventive maintenance program. These should see a rise when a preventive maintenance program is installed since it would highlight whether the developing equipment problems are being identified more proactively.

What are the benefits you should be looking for with your preventive maintenance program?

If you know the benefits, one way to check your program is by working backward. If you see these benefits, you know the program is working. Preventive maintenance should deliver:
  • Reduced unplanned downtime due to asset failure.
  • Better margins and profits due to less downtime
  • Prolonged life of the assets and less unnecessary maintenance and inspections
  • Less injury risk and increased safety
  • Fewer interruptions to vital operations as timely, routine repairs ensures fewer large-scale repair

Increased safety also ensures that organizations are in compliance with the rigorous OSHA standards.

An effective preventive maintenance program, if implemented properly, will help with a boost in profit margins as assets last longer, use less time and energy for repairs, and are responsible for fewer interruption to your processes.

If you don't see these benefits, it's time to start rechecking your program. One problem area could be the types of PMs you're performing.

What are the types of preventive maintenance tasks?

PM tasks vary upon the need of the users. The three main types include:

  • Mandatory or Non-Mandatory
  • Pyramiding or Non-Pyramiding
  • Inspections or Task Oriented:

Mandatory PMs are ones that must be performed at all costs when they are due. They may involve OSHA, safety, EPA, and license inspections, among others.

Non-mandatory PMs are inspections or service PMs that can be postponed for a short time period or even eliminated for the present cycle without resulting in immediate failure or performance penalty. Each PM task should be designated in one of these categories.

Pyramiding PMs are generated each time they come due. When there is already a PM due and the next one comes due, the first one should be canceled, with a note written in the equipment history that the PM was skipped. The new PM should have a due date from the canceled PM written in, so that it is understood how overdue the task is.

Some companies, however, choose to make their PMs floating or non-pyramiding. They follow the same scenario as described above, except there is no notification that the PM was missed. The previously uncompleted PM is thrown away and the new one (without any carry over information) is issued and placed on the schedule.

Inspections will involve only filling out a check sheet and then writing work orders to cover any problems discovered during the inspection.

Task-oriented PMs allow the individual performing the PM to take time to make minor repairs or adjustments, eliminating the need to write some of the work orders when turning in the inspection sheet.

Preventive maintenance programs

Preventive maintenance system streamlines every aspect of preventive maintenance programs, including development, scheduling, and tracking. By helping maintenance departments find small issues before they grow into large problems, the software cuts costly downtime, increases profits.

Why should you use preventive maintenance system? Because without it, you're only ever reacting to problems, never getting out ahead of them. Without a structured PM program, you're stuck relying on run-to-failure and on-demand work orders. Scheduling resources and controlling inventory are challenging when you can never plan beyond the next surprise breakdown. As critical facility and production equipment gets overlooked, downtime and repair costs rise.

Preventive maintenance system,  a core module of EAM software, helps you develop, schedule, and track a PM program that cuts downtime and boosts asset and equipment life cycles. Data-packed preventive maintenance work orders include everything technicians needs to close out efficiently, including customizable step-by-step instructions, associated parts and materials, digital copies of O&M manuals, images, and schematics.

Preventive Maintenance Program E-book

Topics: Facility Management Preventive Maintenance work order management cmms equipment downtime equipment management preventative maintenance plan equipment maintenance equipment audit

Reena Sommer

Reena Sommer

Reena Sommer originally hails from Winnipeg, Manitoba and currently resides in the Houston, Texas area. In 1994, she graduated from the University of Manitoba with a Ph.D. in Psychology, Sociology and Family Studies. Reena is a regular contributor for Hippo CMMS.


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