There is currently no single all-time best maintenance program. And there never will be. Every industry is different, and each facility faces its own challenges.
That said, there are maintenance best practices you can follow to help you get the program that works best for you.
But before we look at the best practices and the facility maintenance software that makes them possible, let's quickly cover some important related topics.
Importance of asset, equipment, and machine maintenance
When you boil it down, maintenance is important because of how well it delivers less.
With the right maintenance, you spend less money. Instead of paying for costly repairs and replacements, you make little cost-efficient fixes. Checking and changing the oil is always going to cost less than having to remove and replace a seized engine.
And with the right maintenance, you get less stress, too. Instead of always wondering what's going to go wrong next, you can look at your maintenance schedule and know with a high level of accuracy and consistency what you're going to be doing on any given day.
Now that we know why maintenance is important, we can start to look at how to make it happen. But there's a bit of planning that goes into getting a system up and running and then implementing best practices.
For example, one of the things you need to do is decide which type of maintenance you need.
Different types of maintenance strategies
Although preventive maintenance is a popular option, it's not the only one. In fact, in some cases, it's better to implement a different maintenance strategy. It all comes down to the asset and its relative level of criticality.
There are four basic maintenance strategies:
- Condition based
And each has its own set of pros and cons.
Run-to-failure tends to get a bad name, but in some cases, it's actually your best bet. The first step to reforming its reputation is rethinking its name.
Because it has "failure" right there in the name, it simply sounds like something you'd want to avoid. But, if you change the name to something like "max value extraction" maintenance, you can see the benefits more easily.
Basically, for a part that's cheap and easy to replace, has a low criticality, and is easy to carry in inventory because it's cheap and has a long shelf life, it makes more sense to just let it run until it fails. Let's rephrase that... it makes more sense to let it keep going until you have extracted the maximum possible value from it.
The classic example is light bulbs. They're cheap, easy to replace, not going to shut down the entire production line when it dies, and easy to carry in inventory. They also have the added advantage of being nearly impossible to inspect and very hard to maintain.
For condition based and predictive maintenance, you're looking at the opposite types of assets and associated parts and materials. Here, you need to make substantial upfront investments in special sensors to capture data and skilled technicians with fancy software to read that data, but you still save money if the assets you're maintaining are both critical and expensive.
Right in the middle, in the sweet spot, is preventive maintenance. For many different asset types, it's the perfect solution. Instead of waiting for things to break, you find and fix small problems before they have a chance to blow up your budget. And because all the work is scheduled far in advance, it's a lot easier for you to organize both your labor and inventory.
So, how can you set up a preventive maintenance program and implement current best practices?
Implementing a preventive maintenance program
Instead of worrying about organizing and overseeing a giant project, it's more helpful to think of this as a multi-step process. Once you break the project into smaller, discrete steps, it feels a lot more manageable.
Let's look at the individual steps.
Gather information on assets and equipment
It's a bit surprising, but a lot of organizations do not know exactly how many assets they have, where they are, and what shape they're currently in.
So, the first step is building out the asset list, including as much information as you can about every asset and piece of equipment, including:
- Serial numbers
- Images and schematics
You also need to collect all the "paperwork" you have for each asset, including OEM manuals, warranties, and any other specifics on installations, repairs, and parts replacement.
Develop a baseline on labor and costs
Like a lot of multi-step processes, setting up a preventive maintenance program has some optional steps. So, you can do this one if it's possible but can also skip it if you feel like it's just not possible.
The goal here is to create a baseline that you can use later to track how well your new PM program is performing. If you know the numbers from before the program, it helps you put the numbers from after the program into context. Basically, it's a lot easier to track progress if you know exactly where you started.
That said, some organizations find it challenging to find this data and produce these numbers. And it's easy to see why. If they had reliable tracking, they would likely already be using it for preventive maintenance.
If possible, you should try to calculate how much an asset is currently costing you. Specifically, you can look at how much you're spending on technicians, replacement parts and materials, including anything you're spending on rush deliveries and downtime.
Establish preventative maintenance inspection checklists
You can think of PMs as coming in two varieties, inspections and tasks. Inspections are basically checklists of things to look for, small clues that suggest bigger problems are in the process of developing.
For each asset, develop a standardized checklist that technicians can follow to ensure they're not missing anything. You should set up the checklists as pass/fail. When there's a fail, techs know it's time to generate an associated work order.
Develop preventative maintenance tasks
It makes sense to start with whatever PM tasks are in the OEM manuals. You should also reach out to the manufacturers' to see if there have been any updates to their suggested best practices. It's actually common for companies to send out new guidelines, so it's worth checking.
But it makes even more sense to talk with your technicians. The people who designed and manufactured the assets knew a lot about them back when you first bought and installed them. But since then, there's a chance your techs now know more. Think of it this way: no one knows someone better than their mom does, except for their spouse.
Bring the right MRO supplies into inventory
Once you know what you're going to do, you need to make sure you have what you need to do it.
Think of it this way: once you know you're going to barbecue chicken, you need to make sure you have all the right sauces and spices. If you had decided on hot dogs, you'd need different supplies.
Looking at the PM inspections and tasks, you should be able to make a list of associated parts and materials. The trick here, though, isn't stocking up on everything at once. Instead, you want to make sure you have enough for now, and then schedule the rest to arrive later on, when you need it. And for that, you need a clearly defined PM schedule, which is the next step.
Develop an efficient preventative maintenance schedule
Here again, you can start by looking at what the asset manufacturer suggests before getting input from your technicians. From there, you can start to work out how often to schedule the PMs.
But it's more than just thinking about when to perform the PM inspections and tasks. It's also thinking about how long each PM takes. If you have a PM for a filter on an AC unit, you have to give the tech enough time to get the asset open, check the filter, which could involve removing it, then replacing it, then closing the asset back up. Make sure when setting up the schedule, techs have enough time to do things properly.
With larger facilities, it also makes sense to schedule PMs for assets that are close together. Sending techs out to check the furnace in the basement? That's a good time to also schedule PMs for the water tanks. Scheduling some PMs for the AC units on the roof? It makes sense to also schedule a quick inspection of the gutters.
Cultivate trained technicians and bring in vendors, too
Make sure to divide PMs into in-house and third-party work.
In some cases, you don't have a choice. For example, in most jurisdictions, only licensed professionals can perform PMs on your fire suppression systems, and it's also likely the case for any work done on your elevators.
But for everything else, you have a choice between assigning the work to your techs or bringing in vendors. If there's something you know you want done regularly, it might be worth investing in additional training for your maintenance techs.
Monitor maintenance costs and performance and adjust as needed
When it comes to preventive maintenance programs, you need to set it up and then fine-tune everything from the inspection checklists and PM tasks to the frequencies.
If you notice that an asset is running into trouble every three months, but you have PMs scheduled for every four, you need to adjust. Or, you might have an asset that keeps going out of alignment. In that case, you need to look at increasing the frequency and also the parts and materials.
And it's not just the assets you need to be looking at but the whole program itself. One thing you need to track is the percentage of PMs closed out on time each month. If you're closing out everything on time, you know there's some room to add more PMs. But, if the maintenance team is always behind, missing PMs and having to play catch up to close them out, you know you need to make changes. It might be that you need to pull back a bit and schedule fewer PMs. Or, it might be time to think about bringing in more techs.
Implementing best practices with facility maintenance software
Although it's possible to implement a maintenance program using old-fashioned paper- and spreadsheet-based methods, it's also nearly impossible to do it well. And you're guaranteed a lot of frustration along the way.
But modern maintenance software makes it a lot easier, at every step, from starting up to fine-tuning.
The key is how modern software helps you capture data, keep it safe, and make it searchable. Instead of scribbles on scraps of paper, you have everything in a cloud-based database. With paper and spreadsheets, everyone is looking at different data, and any changes are only ever local. If a tech updates a spreadsheet, that new data exists in one spot, where no one else can see it.
Modern solutions allow everyone on the maintenance team access to the same data, keeping everyone in the loop.
Building on that, there are specific CMMS features that help implement maintenance best practices.
Asset lists, knowledge transfer, and data-packed PMs
Part of the process of setting up a maintenance program is collecting every possible piece of data you can on your assets. But once you have it, the best way to keep it safe and also accessible is with CMMS software. Instead of easily misplaced paper manuals, you can keep everything safe in the database. And because everyone has access to the data, you never have to worry about techs wasting time trying to track it down.
And it's not just manuals and serial numbers. Remember, another step in the process is working with technicians to get their insights into how best to inspect assets and perform maintenance and repairs. Using the template function, you can build checklists and step-by-step instructions which you can then quickly add to future PMs.
Drag-and-drop calendar view dashboards
Once you have the PMs, you need to set up their schedules. With the right software solution, you can set both meter- and calendar-based PMs. For example, you can set a PM to automatically trigger after X number of cycles of an outdoor pump. But for the same asset, you set other PMs based on the calendar. So, when the season changes and things are getting colder, you switch to a different grease.
Adding PMs to the calendar is simple and takes just a few clicks. Later, if you decide to move things around to better leverage your labor and inventory levels, you can reschedule PMs with a simple drag-and-drop to a new date on the calendar.
Maintenance KPIs and automated reports
You've always been producing a ton of data, but with facility maintenance software, it's now easy to both capture and leverage it. Because the software is already safeguarding all that data for you in the central database, it already has everything it needs to crunch the numbers for you. Modern software solutions' reporting module allows you to take raw data and turn it into reports packed with easy-to-read graphs, maintenance metrics, and KPIs.
Now, instead of gut instinct, you can make decisions driven by data.
Ready to get started with maintenance best practices? Or, are you still early in the process and want a basic rundown of your options, including features and prices?
Quick, complete summary
There is never going to be a one-size-fits-all maintenance program. Industries and individual facilities each face different sets of challenges. But there are maintenance best practices that every maintenance department can follow to help them develop a program that works best for them. First, you need to decide which maintenance strategy best fits your needs. For many, preventive maintenance offers the best balance. When setting up a program, start by collecting all your asset data. If possible, also collect data on how much maintenance is currently costing. From there, work with techs to develop inspection checklists, PM tasks, and a schedule. In the end, you need to keep fine-tuning your program for the best results. At every step of the process, facility maintenance software makes your life easier with templates, calendar dashboards, and automated reports.