According to a recent survey, around 33% of organizations say they have a preventive maintenance program. But they also say these programs are ineffective. 

A good PM program helps the maintenance department run smoothly, making the whole organization more efficient overall. So it’s easy to see why people want to implement them. The real question, then, is, “Where are organizations going wrong?” And most importantly: How can you avoid the same mistakes?

But before looking at ways to make one more effective, let’s look at the telltale signs of an ineffective PM program. We have to be able to recognize the problem before we can fix it.

Steady maintenance costs

One of the easiest ways to see how well your PM program is working is to look at your costs before and after implementation. Look specifically at pre- and post-implementation numbers for labor and unscheduled maintenance. If you don’t see a general decrease, it may mean your PM program is not delivering what it should.

Steady downtime numbers

An efficient preventive maintenance plan should reduce the amount of unplanned work to less than 20% of the total. If there’s no change in the amount of unscheduled downtime, your preventive maintenance plan is not working the way it should. You can also look at other costs associated with unscheduled downtime. For example, overtime hours for company technicians and emergency calls to third-party vendors. If these numbers are also not decreasing, your program is not working.

Disorganized inventory management

Proper inventory management boosts profits by minimizing costs through optimized resource consumption. Said with fewer fancy words, inventory management means having the right stock, at the right time, at the right cost. If you find yourself always short of the parts and materials you need and it’s costing you a lot in extra express shipping, your PM program is letting you down.

Now that we know the symptoms of a bad PM program, let’s look at the cures.

How to Fix Your Preventive Maintenance Problems

Which of these will work for you depends on why you’re having problems in the first place. You might need to implement only a few changes. But even if there’s more than a few, they’ll still be worth it. An effective PM program delivers a strong ROI that looks great on the annual company report. Maybe, more importantly, it takes a huge weight off the maintenance department’s collective shoulders.   

Take the time to implement the program properly

A PM program is only as effective as its implementation. Think of it this way: What do you need to grow the perfect crop? Is it just seeds? That’s an important part of it, but you’ll also need water and fertilizer — and the time, knowledge, and patience to combine them properly.

 So, what are the ingredients for a good implementation? They’re the same: time, knowledge, and patience.

 First, make sure you allow for enough time. Things aren’t going to happen overnight. You and your team will likely have to work with a CMMS or a Preventive Maintenance Software to get things set up on the software side. Then there’s time for proper training. When looking at the time investment, always remind yourself that it’s going to pay off in the long run. 

Second, make sure you have the right knowledge. A good CMMS provider is going to be able to walk you through the necessary steps to ensure everything is done properly. They should have lots of experience, which means they can help you avoid all the common pitfalls.

 Third, and for some people this is the hardest one, don’t rush and don’t expect immediate results.

Set up PMs based on criticality, age, and work order history

Every asset matters, but some matter a lot more than others, and you need to organize your PMs accordingly. What happens when the motor of the main conveyor belt dies? Until you can get it fixed, your operations are at a standstill. But what about the microwave in the breakroom?

 For each asset, you need to determine the level of criticality. The more critical an asset is, the more PMs it gets. But criticality isn’t the only metric. You also need to look at things like age and past history. The older a machine is, the more you have to look after it. And assets that have given you problems in the past, they also need more PMs.

Make sure your CMMS is getting a steady diet of high-quality data

Remember, the power of the PM program comes from its ability to leverage data. So, you need to ensure it’s being regularly updated and that all the data related to maintenance gets into the system. You need to feed the program lots of data so it can produce the right schedules. For example, how do you know when to change the oil in your car? You’re only guessing unless you know:

  •  the current mileage and the mileage at the last change
  •  the manufacturer’s recommendations for when to change the oil
  •  any work that was done on the engine that might affect the oil

During the early stages of implementation, stress the importance of keeping the CMMS up to date. It’s an important habit everyone on the team needs to develop. Once the PM program is in place, you’ll want to keep checking at regular intervals that everyone is feeding the CMMS what it needs to grow and improve.

Keep fine-tuning the PM program as you go along

Even if you set it up perfectly at the start, things change over time so there will always be a need to fine-tune the program to current circumstances.

For a simple example, you only need to check the tires on your brand-new bike once a month. But six months later, with that exact same bike, you now need to check the tires once a week. When the bike was new, once a month was perfect. But over time, it changes to once a week.

But it takes more than just managers to make a PM program successful. Technicians play a vital role in the process, too. Let’s explore their role and how as a manager you can maximize technicians’ input.

Update all the manuals related to assets and equipment

To keep the healthy diet metaphor going just a bit longer, when you’re first setting up the PM program and loading everything into the CMMS, remember that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Make sure all the O&M manuals and other asset-related material is up to date. 

All the manuals related to be machinery should be kept readily available within the CMMS so that as soon as there’s a problem, it can be resolved quickly. 

Effective staff training on the Preventive Maintenance Program 

No strategy or program can be successful without the support of the people implementing it. The maintenance staff needs complete information about the PM program. They should be briefed about the PM program and formal training should be carried out regarding what activities they need to perform in case of breakdowns.

Maintenance staff should be shown the complete work process flow and how to manage valuable information for all essential assets. They should be shown how to keep track of all the previous work orders so that they can see what went wrong with an asset in the past and how that particular problem was resolved. 

Develop and prioritize a critical equipment list

It’s easy to get lost if your company has a very long list of equipment. It makes it difficult to manage everything at the same time. So it’s vital to order assets by criticality. All the equipment or assets with a higher likelihood of having problems should be identified so that mitigation actions can be taken accordingly.

Assets with longer, more frequent downtimes should be prioritized and put high up on the list. The list needs to identify which equipment has the:

  • Highest amount of downtime
  • Highest production Loses
  • largest quality Issues

By identifying these factors, you can prioritize your asset list.

Keep track of asset age

The age of equipment often determines how much maintenance it will require. As equipment gets older, it requires more maintenance, more often. New equipment is much less likely to break down.

In order to address age-related problems, you need to perform a scheduled restoration. This should be done for assets which has worn out to the point where failure is predictable. The goal is to restore the asset to as close as possible to its brand-new condition.

Keep it simple by breaking down big machines into component parts

A machine contains numerous parts so it becomes a lengthy process if the work order is created for the machine instead of a specific part that needs fixing. Breaking the machine into simple components ensures that the technician doesn’t have to waste inspecting the whole machine.

For example, being asked to examine a cold mill can be overwhelming. You’re not sure where to look first. But breaking the mill down into its component systems makes it easier to see a path to success.

Whenever making changes to the program, look at your current track record. Are you seeing the results you want? Your results will tell you where the program is working and where it needs some extra attention. Also, look at what has changed since the program was first started. In our simple example with the bike, we went from a new bike to a six-month-old one, so it made sense to increase the frequency of PMs. Have other factors changed? New rider? Recent crashes? Those would affect not only frequency but also the types of PMs.

Next steps (AKA Get a CMMS you love)

Here’s the most important tip: an effective preventive maintenance plan needs CMMS software. There’s no better way to pull together and leverage all the data that’s going to power your program. If you don’t have one, get one. If you have one you don’t like, get a new one. If you’re unhappy, find a new and better provider.

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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