It would be awesome if periodic maintenance was somehow related to the periodic table of elements from high school chemistry class. How would you maintain a hydrogen atom? What sort of PMs would you have for the noble gases? Instead, periodic here means you’re doing maintenance based on time.
But just because it’s not awesome doesn’t mean it’s not an important tool in your asset management toolbox.
Now that we know what it’s not, we can look at what it is.
What is periodic maintenance?
It’s a maintenance strategy that takes that old proverb “Timing is everything” very seriously. Basically, you set up time intervals for performing maintenance on your assets and equipment. Because you’re planning out the work in advance and the goal is to avoid costly downtime and extend life cycles, periodic maintenance falls under the larger general category of preventive maintenance.
But what sets it apart from other maintenance strategies is that instead of waiting for clear signs of trouble or setting up periodic inspections to hunt for small ones, with periodic maintenance, you just do the tasks.
It’s sort of like brushing your teeth in the morning. You don’t worry about what you ate the day before and you don’t spend time inspecting your mouth, trying to decide if you need to brush or not. You just brush your teeth every morning because that’s what dentists recommend and, based on your own experience, that’s a reasonable interval.
What are some examples of periodic maintenance?
Examples vary across industry, but there are some general ones, including:
- Changing lubricants
- Replacing filters
- Cleaning HVAC systems
- Replacing belts
In most of these cases, it’s easier to swap in new parts or materials than inspect the old one. For example, you could remove the filters on a HVAC system and send them off to a lab for tests related to airflow and microscopic patterns of wear and tear. Or, because it’s much cheaper and faster, you could estimate how long the filters are good for on average, and then change them out based on your set schedule.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
Just like other types of preventive maintenance, periodic maintenance helps you avoid costly unscheduled downtime and extend the life cycles of your assets and equipment. Those are the big headline benefits, but there are plenty of other ones, too.
Advantages of periodic maintenance
With some maintenance strategies, you need high-tech sensors and actual AI to capture data streams and crunch the data into accurate predictions about when to do maintenance. With periodic maintenance, things can be a lot simpler because all you need to do is look at the manufacturer’s recommendations and some of your own maintenance data to get a good sense of what to do and how often to do it. So, the people who designed and manufactured an asset might recommend you change the oil once every three months. But, looking at your maintenance and repairs histories, including mean time between failures (MTBF), you decide to play it safe and go with every two and a half months.
That’s getting set up. Once it’s running, there are other benefits. Anytime you’re able to plan, you get more options. If you know you’re going to change out the oil on a motor next week, you have enough time to order in your favorite oil, check to see when the motor is already scheduled to be off so you can match the timing of your PM, and line up your best tech to do the work.
But if that motor suddenly fails, all those options disappear. Instead of getting to use your favorite parts and materials, now you have to use whatever is already in inventory. Or, you need to spend a lot of money on rush deliveries. Before, you had the option of scheduling the PM for when you already knew the motor was going to be offline. Now, the techs have to do the work with a bunch of operators standing around impatiently watching them. You’ve even lost the option of who does the repairs. Instead of your best techs for the job, you have to assign whoever is onsite and available.
Disadvantages of periodic maintenance
Just like everything else in maintenance, you need to make sure you’re using the right tool for the job. If you try using periodic maintenance where you shouldn’t, it can easily turn around and bite you. Generally, you need to limit periodic maintenance to assets that have a steady, predictable rate of use.
What does that look like? Take your own car, for example. You likely use it to commute, act as a taxi for the kids if you have any, and do grocery runs. That means you’re using it the same amount most weeks, and if you looked at your trips to the gas station over the last year or so, there’s likely a set pattern.
But what about a car that’s in a fleet of rentals? Because so many different people are driving it for so many different reasons, there’s no reliable rate of use.
So, one of the disadvantages is that periodic maintenance as a tool has a limited number of places you can use it. But, that’s true of everything in maintenance.
Another disadvantage is that you run the risk of doing too much maintenance. Is it possible to have too much of a good thing? Yes.
One, you’re wasting resources, everything from the techs’ time to your inventory or parts and materials. Second, you’re increasing the chances of something going wrong during the maintenance. Every time a tech opens up an asset, there’s a chance they’re not going to close it back up properly.
And third, and this might be the worst of the lot, there are many breakdowns that have nothing to do with time. If your asset randomly breaks down in between the periodic maintenance, there’s nothing you can do but scramble it to get it up and running as quickly as possible.
How does a CMMS make life easier?
Again, unlike some other maintenance strategies, with periodic, all you need are the manufacturers’ recommendations plus your own reliable maintenance and repairs data. Make sure to look closely at MTBF, too.
Because modern computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) makes it so much easier to capture, keep, and search reliable data, it gives you everything you need to set up and run and periodic maintenance schedule. Instead of having to wade through piles of paper or random spreadsheets, with a good CMMS, you can quickly access reliable records on all your assets. And with the built-in reports module, you can use the software to quickly crunch the data into actionable insights into your operations.
From there, you can use the software to schedule, assign, and track your periodic work orders. And for each one, because you’re not limited by what you can scratch down on a sheet of paper or jam into a spreadsheet cell, you can include everything techs need to work fast and smart, including detailed instructions, lists of associated parts and materials, and even interactive site maps and floor plans.
Periodic maintenance focuses on completing specific maintenance tasks according to a set schedule that you develop by looking at manufacturers’ recommendations and your own asset and equipment maintenance and repair histories. Like all other maintenance strategies, the goal is to reduce costs by cutting unscheduled downtime and extending asset life cycles. But unlike other strategies, periodic maintenance happens regardless of the asset’s condition; the only factor is time. One benefit is that it is relatively easy to set up a program because you only need a few sources of reliable data. Another is that it helps you efficiently schedule your resources because you know what work the team is set to do and when they’re set to do it. However, you do run the risk of over maintaining assets if the intervals are too short, leading you to waste resources. Modern CMMS software makes setting up and running periodic maintenance much easier. Not only does it ensure you have the data you need, but it also makes scheduling work and sending techs the right information simple.