We’ve all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s a catchy phrase, but it’s not a good rule of thumb, especially if you’re running a business that relies heavily on machinery, equipment, or technical systems—assets that power your operation.
When one piece of equipment breaks down, it can halt an entire production, burden a company with unexpected costs, and create safety hazards. But malfunctions and failures are disruptions that companies can easily avoid with preventative maintenance.
Like most car owners know, to get a longer life out of a vehicle and avoid a breakdown, it’s essential to perform routine maintenance, like getting annual inspections and having the oil changed.
Preventative maintenance (also sometimes called preventive maintenance) is the same idea for business assets—performing a regular under-the-hood check up on equipment can help companies avoid the dreaded downtime, which costs the manufacturing industry alone $50 billion a year.
For companies that rely on operational tools and equipment, preventative maintenance can maximize productivity and ensure a company maintains peak performance without disruption.
What Is Preventive Maintenance?
Preventative maintenance is the practice of regularly inspecting and maintaining equipment, machines, vehicles, or systems in order to optimize their performance and extend their life. Routinely checking an asset for condition allows a company to identify and address any functional issues before they snowball into bigger, more expensive problems, or worse, a complete failure of the asset.
Companies create preventative maintenance schedules based on several factors, including:
- Manufacturer’s suggestions
- Hours of operation
- Specific usage milestones
- Component life expectancy
- Maintenance team’s discretion
- Equipment alerts
Yes, your equipment can tell you when it needs to be inspected. With the acceleration of digital transformation, many companies are investing in smart technology which can automate the tasks of a preventative maintenance process.
While preventative maintenance might take a piece of equipment out of service temporarily, it is much more cost-effective than unplanned downtime caused by a malfunction. Downtime is the length of time a workflow experiences a disruption.
42% of downtime is caused by equipment failure.
Preventive maintenance programs are a proactive approach to taking care of critical infrastructure before something goes wrong. On the flip side, reactive maintenance takes the opposite approach to asset management.
Preventive Maintenance vs. Reactive Maintenance
While the goal of preventive maintenance is to actively monitor assets for potential risks, reactive maintenance is addressing a problem after it’s happened. In other words, reactive maintenance follows the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” style. Reactive maintenance can be the right move for low-cost pieces of equipment where taking the machine off line numerous times might be more expensive than eventually replacing it. But more often than not, waiting until a problem arises is not the right way to handle asset maintenance.
Here are some of the disadvantages of reactive maintenance:
- Waiting until it’s too late and the equipment is beyond repair
- Every breakdown negatively impacts the lifespan of equipment
- Allowing equipment to malfunction can pose a safety risk to workers
- Waiting until a problem happens can lead to unplanned downtime which can cost companies up to $250,000 per hour
- With the current global supply chain backlog, replacing a broken part or machine can lead to an indefinite disruption
Despite these issues, more than half of businesses use reactive maintenance as their go-to for equipment upkeep. But waiting for something to go wrong can be a costly mistake.
Manufacturers lose 3.3 million operational hours of time due to downtime. The price tag? $864 billion.
What Are the Benefits of Preventive Maintenance?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, non-agricultural companies spend over $1.149 trillion a year on new equipment. Preventive maintenance takes a little extra work in coordination and scheduling, but the benefits of setting this routine far outweigh the costs.
Here are five of the top benefits of creating a preventative maintenance program in your company:
- Better asset ROI: When you routinely inspect and tend to equipment, it lasts longer. Preventative maintenance maximizes performance of your assets and improves their longevity on your production line.
- More cost efficient: When small issues are ignored, they often become bigger, more expensive problems. Tending to assets regularly can avoid the expense of major repairs or replacing the asset. Preventative maintenance optimizes performance which also means less unplanned downtime, saving companies hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Creates a safer workplace: There are an average of 2.8 million workplace accidents and injuries a year, costing companies $171 billion in 2019 alone. Many of those incidents are attributed to equipment malfunction. Keeping assets performing as designed through a regular preventative maintenance program reduces the risk of workplace incidents.
- Higher productivity: Proactive maintenance reduces the chance of unexpected downtime, keeping supply chains in motion and enabling companies to hit their targets and stay on schedule.
- Automated maintenance: Preventative maintenance is not always a human-driven task. Now, Industry 4.0 is enabling the automation of asset maintenance. As companies invest in more smart machines, assets can now perform their own check ups, and send alerts when there’s an issue. This keeps workers focused on value-adding tasks and only taking machines offline as needed.
Types of Preventive Maintenance
Companies can choose a few different ways to conduct maintenance on their equipment and assets.
Here are four types of preventative maintenance.
- Predictive Maintenance: This type of preventative maintenance is a more precise approach, using a data-based determination of when to perform maintenance. Often working in conjunction with computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), preventative maintenance software, workers can track and analyze data specific to a system or machine to detect patterns of function and failure to predict the best time to inspect equipment.
- Meter-Based Maintenance: Some equipment comes with a meter to track usage. Companies inspect an asset when the meter hits a target number of hours or operation.
- Periodic Maintenance: When a company performs maintenance at predetermined times, it’s known as periodic maintenance. For example, a company might inspect fleet vehicles every six months. The schedule can be based on manufacturer recommendations or determined by internal personnel.
- Prescriptive Maintenance: This is the most advanced type of preventive maintenance, leveraging AI and machine learning for condition monitoring to determine when an asset needs attention. This creates a maintenance plan based on analytics specific to an asset.
Which Type of Preventive Maintenance Is Right for Your Business?
With the different ways to design a preventive maintenance program, companies need to review each one and select the option that works best for their business. It also comes down to an initial investment of time and money.
Both meter-based and periodic maintenance have low barriers to entry. It’s simply a matter of assigning the task of tracking the meter or schedule to a specific worker or group of workers. But like any human-powered tasks, there’s ample room for error. Maintenance can also be labor-intensive and sometimes unnecessary.
Predictive and prescriptive maintenance are both data-driven calculations of when to inspect an asset-based on actual performance numbers. Maintenance happens on an as-needed basis as it relates to the health of an asset, avoiding unnecessarily taking a machine offline to inspect it simply because it’s reached a certain operational threshold or time criteria.
According to Deloitte, asset “uptime” can increase by 20% when companies use advanced analytics of predictive maintenance.
With the ability to automate predictive and prescriptive maintenance with AI-powered software, these approaches will require a bigger investment into smart solutions. But with industries accelerating their digital transformation, having newer technology not only supports a better maintenance program, but can also lead to an overall competitive advantage.
Preventive Maintenance Tools
Sure, a pen and paper can serve you well with a preventative maintenance program. In fact, that’s how companies have tracked asset performance for decades. But manually scheduling, conducting, and recording maintenance is labor-intensive. Then there’s the issue of filing the paperwork and accessing it when you need to reference past data.
Digitizing preventative maintenance programs means a more accurate and cost-efficient manner of asset management. Here are a few of the tools companies can use to establish and conduct preventive maintenance faster and easier than ever before.
- A CMMS program is designed to support a preventative maintenance system. The preventative maintenance software can help with preventative maintenance scheduling, record asset data and history, and generate maintenance-related tasks.
- Sensors can monitor equipment, sending alerts when a problem is on the horizon. There are different kinds of sensors, like infrared sensors that measure pressure and temperature and vibration that can perform condition monitoring and predict trouble based on irregular movements, that can connect with a CMMS system to accurately track asset function.
- Mobile communication tools loop humans into the preventive maintenance routine. Through an app on their phone, workers can connect to CMMS software to track assets and receive real-time alerts to address problems as they happen.
Businesses That Can Benefit from Preventive Maintenance Programs
It’s easy to associate preventative maintenance with manufacturing and industrial operations that rely on big factories and powerful machinery. But the reality is any company with assets should have a preventive maintenance program in place.
Assets can include anything from IT systems, point of sale systems, construction equipment, computers, or vehicles. That means any business that’s made an investment into workplace assets should have a preventative maintenance plan and schedule in place.
Types of businesses that can benefit from a preventive maintenance program include:
- Hospitals and healthcare facilities
- Retail stores
- Food service and dining establishments
- Construction contractors
- Educational institutions
- Logistics companies
- Transportation companies
How To Create A Preventive Maintenance Plan That Actually Works
To be effective, preventative maintenance programs should be well-planned strategies.
Here are five tips for building a preventive maintenance program in your organization.
- Identify the assets that will be a part of your company’s preventive maintenance program. If you’re not sure if a piece of equipment should be included on this list, run the costs of maintenance versus downtime to find the most cost effective strategy.
- Create preventative maintenance checklists for each asset so the worker who performs the maintenance has a step-by-step guide to follow. Building a preventative maintenance checklist ensures continuity of care so assets are inspected properly each time. Include relevant information for each asset, like tools needed to perform the maintenance.
- Use a preventative maintenance schedule template to create a maintenance calendar. Schedule your maintenance calendar a year out (or more) for each asset. Then, fill in the details like who will perform the task on each asset. Make sure to adjust schedules as needed based on outcomes.
- Digitize workplace communication with a mobile-first tool. The people performing preventive maintenance will most likely be frontline workers. Connecting them to a workplace tool will give them immediate access to all of the information they need to perform the task, like digitized equipment manuals and checklists. They’ll even be able to look up maintenance history and save their own report so all of the asset’s history is kept in one centralized hub. Creating a digital record of maintenance can also help a company stay in compliance with industry regulations.
- Train employees on preventive maintenance. While employees might know how to operate a piece of machinery, they probably don’t know how to take it apart to inspect it and make repairs. Train your team on preventative maintenance right on their smart device with a mobile productivity tool.
No matter the size of your company or how many assets you have, creating a preventive maintenance routine can help extend the life of your investments, ensure a safer workplace, and create the foundation for a resilient operation.