You already know all the benefits of preventive maintenance, which is why you went and set up a PM schedule. But how do you know if it’s actually working for you? What are the signs of a good program and the symptoms of a bad one? 

Here are some signs your preventive maintenance plan is not working as well as it could be.

Haven’t noticed a decrease in maintenance costs

One of the main goals of preventive maintenance is cutting costs. If they aren’t coming down, something’s wrong. But make sure not to get distracted by costs that have nothing to do with your program. Are labor costs up in your facility but also across the industry? Is it taking more to bring in parts because of rising transportation costs tied to the price of oil? When evaluating your system, only hold it accountable for things it can actually affect.

Look specifically and closely at costs associated with downtime and overtime. Is the line down more often than you’d like? Are you spending a lot on overtime, bringing in extra help in the evenings to get everything back up and running before the first shift? These are clear signs your preventive maintenance schedule is not working.  

Inventory levels still aren’t accurate

If you’re dealing with a lot of unscheduled work orders, it’s hard to match your inventory levels to unpredictable future needs. What ends up happening is you go through parts faster than you can reorder them, overcompensate and order too much, which then sits around taking up room, decaying, and aging out of warranty.

A good PM schedule has about 80% of your work orders planned at least a week in advance. That should give you lots of time to have the right parts on hand when you need them. If you’re often scrambling, something is wrong.

No one smiles when they see you

This one is a bit subjective, but it’s still worth considering. If the maintenance department is seen as being in the way, you’re not making yourself any friends, up or down the company ladder. People are going to be unhappy if the machines you’re supposed to be maintaining are frequently breaking down or if you have to schedule maintenance during peak production hours.

The problem could be your PMs

Even the best schedule can’t make up for poorly thought-out PMs. Reliable Plant has a great article on how to ensure your PMs aren’t holding back your whole program. Author Jeff Jones explains PMs need to be value added, comprehensive, repeatable, organized, last for the proper duration, and occur at the right interval.

Think of PMs as value added

This is a great place to start because it gets at the heart of what a PM is and what it does. Having a reliable preventive maintenance software in place makes assets last longer while bringing down total cost of ownership. Jones argues it’s important for technicians to see the value in a PM, making it more likely they’ll do it consistently and properly.   

Ensure PMs are comprehensive

Assets are collections of many small parts, and they don’t just need to be checked for wear and tear. You have to go in and make sure everything is calibrated properly, too. Jones suggests, for example, checking and adjusting drive belt clearances and tensions. In the end, your PMs need to cover the whole facility. If something has a high level of criticality, it needs to get checked more often, but everything should be covered by a PM in some way. Within the limits of what’s practical, of course, but aim for total coverage. 

Write PMs so they are easy to replicate

PMs need to be written so that they will be completed the same way regardless of who’s doing them. Basically, if you gave the same PM to three different technicians, they would all do the same work the same way.
Ask yourself, “When a technician looks at this work order, do they have what they need to complete the job?” They should see lots of information about the asset, including:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Serial number
  • O&M manual

They should also see lots of information about the task at hand, according to Jones, including: 

  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Drawings/schematics
  • Specification sheets

If they need to remove a panel to make an adjustment or add some lubricant, you need to explain how to remove the panel and then how to put it back correctly. 

Organize preventive maintenance tasks logically

Every preventive maintenance task is just a collection of smaller tasks, and it’s crucial that work orders organize these smaller steps into what Jones calls a logical sequence that encourages effectiveness and efficiency. Helpfully, he suggests organizing all the supporting data so that it matches the order of the tasks.

Use metrics to track performance 

Your PM tasks should include the mean time to complete. Basically, it should tell you how long everything takes from starting to closing out. This information is crucial when it comes to planning and scheduling. If you have a PM that takes three hours, you’re not going to schedule it during the hour-long lunch break when the line stops. Having a useful mean time depends on the PM being repeatable. When every technician is completing the tasks idiosyncratically, there will be too much of a difference between their completion times, making the mean meaningless.

Check and update intervals

Here’s a great example of how PMs evolve. At first, you’ll set your schedule according to the manufacturers’ suggestions. But as time goes by and you collect data on breakdowns, repairs, and PMs, you’ll be able to fine-tune the intervals. If due to changes in the facility assets’ levels of criticality change, you can also take that into account.   

Next steps

Once you’ve decided your PM plan isn’t working as well as you’d like, it’s time to sit down and review your PMs. You know the theory of preventive maintenance works, now you have to double-check how you’re putting it into practice. 

And if you don’t already have a CMMS software, it’s time to start looking into putting the hassles of your error-prone paper-and-pen or spreadsheet-based system behind you. A modern, full-featured CMMS system like Hippo’s make tracking costs and inventory a breeze. Because everything is done with cloud-based computing, it’s updated in real-time and available from any desktop or mobile device. The provider patches and upgrades the software, backs up and protects the data, all seamlessly behind the scenes. And the data is always yours. We just babysit it for you. When doing your due diligence and comparing providers, fitsmallbusiness can pull everything together and even provide reviews.

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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