Proactive maintenance is more than just the opposite of reactive, on-demand maintenance. Instead, it's a close cousin of preventive maintenance, and that means it can deliver many of the same benefits, including helping you avoid all the costs and frustrations of unscheduled downtime.
But before you can get proactive, you first need data that you can trust and leverage.
The shortest definition of proactive maintenance is "the opposite of reactive maintenance." But it turns out the fastest way to understand proactive maintenance is to quickly review preventive maintenance.
What is preventive maintenance?
The answer is in the name; preventive maintenance is the collection of scheduled inspections and tasks you use to find and fix small problems before they have a chance to develop into big problems. Instead of waiting for assets and equipment to slide their way down the p-f curve, you're actively looking for early signs of trouble.
Examples of preventive maintenance
An extreme example: instead of waiting for an asset to catch fire, you're periodically checking the temperature to make sure things aren't starting to get too warm. Long before there's even any smoke, you do the maintenance and repairs that prevent problems.
A less extreme one: instead of waiting for the conveyor belt to run itself out of alignment, you set up a schedule to visually inspect it for any early signs of trouble. On top of those inspections, you have a set schedule for going in and replacing the rollers and belts.
What is proactive maintenance?
Here, you're basically doing the same thing. Instead of waiting for problems to happen, you're going in early to prevent them. The big difference, though, is when you do it.
With preventive maintenance, you have a set schedule of inspections and tasks. With some assets, you set the schedule according to time. So, you check every two weeks or every time the season changes. With other assets, though, it's not time but usage. So, you have a press, and you check it and add lubrication every 10 thousand cycles.
The drawback is that there's always the chance the asset didn't need that maintenance at all. With preventive maintenance, you can run the risk of drifting into "over maintenance," where you're doing work you didn't need to do, wasting resources.
Proactive maintenance helps you avoid that problem because instead of following a set schedule, you're using relevant data to find the best times to do the work.
Example of proactive maintenance
Back to our press. With preventive maintenance, you have a set schedule of inspections and tasks. With proactive, you look back at all the data you have on the press, when it had issues and what those issues were, to pick the best possible time to schedule your inspections and tasks. And because you know what went wrong in the past, you can tailor your maintenance activities to help you avoid recurring issues.
If the last time the press failed was because it seized, then you know to look at the lubrication. But if the last unscheduled downtime was because of an issue with the hydraulics, then you focus there.
What are the benefits of proactive maintenance?
When doing maintenance, the closer you can get to a failure point without damaging your asset, the more value you can pull out of that asset.
If you know that a press tends to fail after every ten thousand cycles, you can safely get the most out of the press by doing the maintenance at 9 thousand cycles. If you do it too late, at eleven thousand, you run the risk of costly unscheduled downtime. But if you do it too early, for example at 7 thousand cycles, you're "throwing out" 2 thousand cycles' worth of value.
The benefit of proactive maintenance is that your inspections and tasks more closely match the assets and equipment. Everything gets what it needs when it needs it. It's a way of Goldilocks-ing your PMs.
What are the disadvantages of proactive maintenance?
"Disadvantages" is a bit too strong of a word, and it's also a bit misleading. It's not so much that there are built-in unavoidable problems with this maintenance strategy. It's more a case of needing to be careful. Things can go wrong, but they don't have to.
First, you can run into trouble if you use proactive maintenance where you don't really need it. Although reactive maintenance tends to have a bad reputation, there are lots of places where it's the best choice. If your asset or equipment is non-critical, hard to check and maintain but also easy to replace, and it's cheap to carry in inventory, you should let it run until it fails. The classic example is a light bulb.
Proactive maintenance needs investments in time, training, and resources, which you're wasting if the asset doesn't need it.
Second, to implement proactive maintenance, you need ways to capture reliable data and then dependable ways to leverage it into good decision-making. If you don't have both, you can make costly mistakes.
How can we choose between preventive and proactive maintenance?
The good news is that you don't have to choose. In fact, when you use both, they tend to complement each other.
First, you set up a schedule of PMs with all your inspections and tasks using whatever suggestions came with the assets and equipment. It's just like when you buy a car and follow the manufacturer's recommendations on when to check the oil and get basic tune-ups.
But later, once you have enough solid data, you can fine-tune your PMs. Based on your direct experience with the assets and equipment, you can go back in and change the inspections and tasks and move them around. It's not a one-time deal, though. Over the entire life cycle of any given asset, you periodically adjust everything to better match the most current data.
How does a CMMS help with both preventive and proactive maintenance?
A good CMMS makes every step of the process better.
First, CMMS solutions make it a lot easier to schedule and track PMs. Instead of trying to keep doing everything with random slips of scribbled paper, you have your entire schedule in one spot, inside the central, cloud-based database, where it's always safe, secure, and accessible. And because everyone is looking at the same data, no one is ever out of the loop.
And a modern CMMS protects more than just your PM schedules. It holds all your data and ensures everything is kept up to date in real time. That means you have data you can trust, which is critical for proactive maintenance. And once you have the data, then you get the insights. With robust automated reporting features, the software helps you translate raw data into reports packed with graphs, maintenance metrics, and KPIs.
So, you can go back into the PM schedule and start to fine-tune everything. With customizable templates, you can update the PM inspection checklists and maintenance tasks. Then using the calendar view and the drag-and-drop feature, you can move PMs to new dates.
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Proactive maintenance is more than just the opposite of reactive, on-demand maintenance. It's a close cousin to preventive maintenance, and although it shares many similarities, there are some important differences. Just like preventive maintenance, the goal is to find and fix small problems before they have a chance to develop into expensive unscheduled downtime. But instead of relying on a set schedule of tasks and inspections, maintenance managers use relevant data on their assets to better tailor the inspections and tasks. The advantage is the department doesn't have to worry about over maintenance, where techs are wasting time and resources doing unnecessary work. Proactive maintenance is not a replacement for standard preventive maintenance, though. Instead, managers can use it to fine-tune their existing PM programs. For both preventive and proactive, modern CMMS software makes everything easier, from setting up PMs to capturing and leveraging reliable data.