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A good preventive maintenance program helps you find and fix small issues before they grow into big problems. You get more uptime for less money. But if you want the most out of your program, you need to see every preventive maintenance work order as a "living document." 

What does that mean? And what does it mean for you? 

When something is a living document, you can go back and make changes, updating and expanding it. The goal is to have something that's always relevant and reflects current best practices. 

According to Hippo Implementation Specialist Carla Prentice, when it comes to preventive maintenance success, the secret is never writing anything in stone. She says you should always be ready to make adjustments and improvements. And because it's January, now's the perfect time to get your PM program lined up for 2021. 

Start by defining preventive maintenance success 

Before making any changes, it's a good idea to have a clear goal. Every organization is different, but most should aim for achievable PMs completed on time to help boost reliability and avoid costly corrective maintenance. 

Just how costly can it be? According to one study, roughly 82% of companies suffered at least one instance of unplanned downtime in the last three years, costing an average $260,000 per hour.  

Let's look at the concrete steps you can take with your PM program. 

Make small changes for big improvements with your preventive maintenance program 

Remember, your program is already up and running, so there's no need to rebuild it from the ground up. In fact, you should start by focusing on small changes. For example, things as basic as names and notification emails. 

Name your PMs precisely 

Aim for this standard: just by looking at the PM's name, someone should have a good sense of the required tasks. So, a name like "Biweekly Test" is not helpful because it could be anything. Shoot for names like "Building 1 Boiler 3 Seals Inspection." Right away, you know the location, the asset, and the necessary work. 

And make sure you use names that make sense to everyone. Think of it this way: When you make a shopping list for yourself, it can be a barebones list of what you need. 

  • Milk 
  • Eggs 
  • Bread 

But if you were writing that list for someone else, you would need to include a lot more detail. You know the brand of milk you usually buy and which eggs you like, but it's likely the other person doesn't. That list needs more detail. 

  • Happy Cow's 2% milk 
  • Pleasant Farm's eggs (12) 
  • Rye bread 

At the same time, make sure you're not overshooting with overly long names for your PMs. Remember, you still have lots of room in the email notifications for details about the required inspections and tasks. 

Pack PM email notifications completely 

Once you have a good name for your PM, you can look at the email notification your preventive maintenance software sends out. It's some of the information your tech gets about the inspections and tasks they need to do. 

According to Carla, the goal is to be as clear as possible. Ask yourself, "Do techs have what they need to understand the PM and close out efficiently?" 

Include updates for better preventive maintenance best practices 

It's possible to create a perfect preventive maintenance program with exactly the right tasks at exactly the right frequencies. 

But it's impossible for that program to remain perfect forever. 

Assets fail for various reasons, and they're vulnerable to different types of failures at different points in the life cycle. Assets change, so you need your program to change to best protect them. 

Double-check asset associations 

PMs are always directly tied to assets, but those assets can change. You need to confirm all the associations inside your PMs. In some cases, you'll need to add assets that came online since the last time you updated the PM program. In others, you'll need to remove the ones you decommissioned. 

Review PM task steps and checklists 

Go into each PM and review the data, which is likely a combination of checklists for inspections and step-by-step instructions for tasks. Your senior techs can be a huge help here, and it's a great idea to have them look over everything for small mistakes and omissions. 

You also need to check for anything that's fallen out of date. For example, manufacturers often issue new guidelines for preventive maintenance practices. It could be something as simple as encouraging you to switch to a different lubrication. Or it could be something more serious and failing to implement the right PMs could void your warranty. 

Pause and un-pause affected PMs 

Good preventive maintenance software makes it easy to pause and then restart preventive maintenance schedules, and Carla suggests organizations pause the PMs they know they're not going to complete. For example, if Building A is scheduled for renovations for the first six months of 2021, it makes sense to pause all associated PMs. That way, the PMs for Building A don't: 

  • Clutter the schedule 
  • Confuse the techs 
  • Corrupt PM completion rates 

That last one is worth looking at a bit more closely. Basically, if you know you're not going to complete a set of PMs, you want to make sure they don't get counted against you in your maintenance KPIs, especially your percentage of scheduled work orders completed on time. It looks bad for the department, but more than that, that bad data can trip you up later on when you're finding weaknesses and looking for improvements in your PM program. Remember, the golden rule of data: Garbage in, garbage out. 

Later, when things go back to normal, the department can easily restart any PMs using the software's pause-and-play feature. 

Leverage related KPIs for scheduling    

You've looked at the PMs, but now it's time to look at the data they generated. Good preventive maintenance software makes this easy because it calculates and tracks all the related KPIs for you. 

Review completion rates 

Here, you want to look at your highest and lowest rates. If techs are always able to close out a PM on time, it could be because you're setting it too frequently, and you could free up some of your resources by putting more space between the PMs. 

For PMs where the team is consistently late, Carla suggests looking more closely at the causes. Itould be that your window is too small. For many PMs, usually, there're no hard due dates. Instead, there's a window of time in which the team needs to complete each PM. And the size of that window is related to the PM's frequency. 

For example, with a daily PM, you have a window of one day to complete it. But for a weekly PM, the team has three days. Annual PMs might have a window of 30 days. It could be that all you need to do is open up the window a bit to improve that KPI drastically. So, instead of giving the team three days to complete a weekly PM, you give them four. Or, 35 for a monthly. 

Another thing to look for is what Carla calls "stacking," which is where you have a lot of PMs coming due around the same time. It's often because on top of the regular monthly PMs, you now have a bunch of seasonal ones. Where possible, move PMs around so there's more space between them.     

Review downtime and costs 

With the right preventive maintenance solution and automated reports, you can quickly see which asset suffered the most unscheduled downtime and which one cost you the most to keep up and running. It's not always the case, but there's a chance it's the same asset. 

Look closely at the associated PMs. Depending on what caused the downtime and drove up the costs, you can adjust the work and the frequency. If an asset is giving you trouble with increased temperatures, add PMs to inspect and add lubricant. Or, if a forklift keeps breaking down every three months, set up PMs to check it every two and a half. 

Next steps 

At every point in the process, the right preventive maintenance solution makes everything easier. The software keeps all your data safe and secure in one location, up to date and accessible from any computer or mobile device. You can easily set up and schedule PMs. Making changes takes a few clicks. Moving PMs is as simple as drag and drop. 

If you don't have preventive maintenance software, or you have one that's not living up to what you were promised, it's time to reach out and start talking with providers. They can help you better understand your options and opportunities. 

Speak to CMMS specialist

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan Davis started out writing for textbooks before branching out to video games and marketing collateral. He has a master’s degree in journalism and a certificate in technical writing.
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