A properly planned preventive maintenance program delivers many benefits, including increased overall asset reliability and longer life cycles.
But even though we tend to think of preventive maintenance as a way to save ourselves from trouble down the road, there are also concrete short-term benefits.
And for many of them, you don't need to wait. Even just starting to set up a preventive maintenance program can help everything run more smoothly.
What is planned maintenance?
Most people connect planned preventive maintenance with longer asset life cycles, which makes a lot of sense because it's true, there's a strong connection. And because that's the benefit that first springs to mind, we tend to think of preventive maintenance as being all about long-term benefits. If it's extending the life cycles of your critical assets, then you're not going to see that until well into the future.
But there are plenty of concrete short-term preventive maintenance benefits, too.
Short-term benefits of planned maintenance
Many of the long-term benefits are the result of running a preventive maintenance program over time, but you can see short-term benefits from just starting to set up your program.
Getting a complete list of all your assets and their current condition
When it comes to implementation, one of the first steps is creating an accurate, up-to-date asset list.
But why would this be the first step? It's because a lot of maintenance departments don't have one. Even though it's their job to keep the organization's assets up and running, the department doesn't have a definitive asset list. It's the same as someone asking you to babysit their kids but then not telling you how many kids they have. No matter how hard you try, there's no way for you to be sure all the kids are safe.
And you're creating more than just a simple list of what you have onsite. Part of the process is collecting and organizing the assets' associated documents, including schematics, O&M manuals, and warranties. Jumping back to our babysitting analogy one last time, your list tells you not only how many kids you're looking after but also their names, ages, favorite foods, and allergies.
And with your list, you now know what you have and have a good idea of each asset and piece of equipment's condition. That's because you don't create an asset list sitting behind a desk. To make sure you include all your assets, you need to go around the facility and see what's out there. And while you're doing that, you have a chance to give each asset a thorough visual inspection.
So one of the first short-term benefits is increased visibility on the maintenance department. Even before you start the program, you better understand how to best organize your department's roles and responsibilities. Also, by looking closely at each asset, you get a sense of your starting point and the work you need to do.
A quick note here on the process of creating an asset list: a good CMMS provider can do that work for you, and it often makes a lot of sense to let them. If you have a smaller number of assets and the spare labor resources to pay a technician to do it, you can create the list internally. But with even a moderate number of assets, it makes more sense to have a professional come to your facility to audit your assets for you. Collecting and organizing data is their full-time job, and experience makes them both fast and accurate.
Standardizing maintenance inspections and tasks for each asset
Once you know what you have, it's time to sit down and figure out how best to look after it.
If you don't have a PM schedule set up, there's a good chance you don't have standard practices set up either, which means that every time a tech works on an asset, they're doing it differently, even if just a bit, than every other tech is doing it.
If every tech does the work differently, then logically, only some of them are doing it correctly. And even if techs do the work differently but are still somehow all close enough to best practices, you just end up with a different problem: when things go wrong, it's hard to work backward to find out why. When you want to know why your forklift stop working after someone replaced a fan belt, you first have to figure out which tech did the work and how they did it.
When everything is standardized, you know that every tech is doing the work the same way, correctly.
Better scheduling means fewer headaches, less stress
Once you have all your assets and their associated inspections and tasks worked out, it's time to start building your preventive maintenance schedule.
The instant benefit here is that being able to schedule work makes work less stressful.
There's hard science that backs up that common sense. According to a widely reported study, uncertainty is worse than knowing something bad is going to happen. Using a video game rigged to deliver electric shocks when players made mistakes, researchers proved that not knowing if you were getting zapped was more stressful than being sure you were.
The whole focus of preventive maintenance is scheduling ahead, catching small issues, and fixing them before they have a chance to grow into giant problems. Not only are you dealing with smaller tasks, but you can also see them coming, making them a lot less stressful overall.
Long-term benefits of planned maintenance
Getting the program set up delivers plenty of benefits, and once it's up and running, you can start to see some of the long-term benefits.
Transferring tribal knowledge from individual techs to the collective maintenance department
This one is closely related to the short-term benefit of standardizing maintenance inspections and tasks for each asset.
One of the big problems maintenance departments face is key person risk. The basic idea is that it's risky to have important information, procedures, and processes locked up in one person's head. If you lose them through transfer, promotion, or retirement, all that critical know-how walks right out the door with them.
The way to avoid this risk is through knowledge transfer. In the past, trades did this through both formal and informal apprenticeships, where senior techs paired up with junior ones to pass along their experience.
Modern preventive maintenance management software provides an alternative solution. Senior techs can help the department create PMs packed with their hard-won know-how, including:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Customizable checklists
- Digital images and schematics
Once the information is in the software, everyone on the maintenance team can instantly access it using any Internet-connected device.
Better inventory control
As soon as you know when techs are going to complete a PM, you also know exactly when you need the associated MRO inventory. Instead of wasting money on rush deliveries because an asset is down and you need the parts right away, you can switch to a new inventory control model, where everything is set up so that parts arrive just before the team needs them, saving you money on both shipping and carrying costs.
More uptime, less unscheduled downtime
This one and the next one are generally the two biggest long-term attractions for preventive maintenance programs.
When you make the jump from reactive, on-demand maintenance to preventive maintenance, you can finally catch small issues before they develop into budget-busting disasters. Everything runs more smoothly for longer, maintenance costs less than repairs, and you get more control over when assets and equipment are down.
Now, instead of trying to find the broken part inside a critical asset while teams of operators stand around still on the clock but idle, you can schedule PMs for when the line is already supposed to be down.
Longer asset life cycles, more value for your money
It's the same advice you'd get from your doctor: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. It's so much easier to avoid problems than it is to fix them. And even when we can fix them, things are never exactly as good as they were before.
After a car has been in a bad accident, it's possible to fix it up, but it's never exactly the same. That's why people put "never been in an accident" in ads for used cars. It matters.
Preventive maintenance programs help you run assets for longer, and the longer the life cycle, the more value they return on that initial investment.
The only way to see any of the benefits of a planned preventive maintenance program, both short and long term, is to get one set up and run it. So your next step is to reach out to preventive maintenance providers and start the conversation.