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When making the jump from failure-focused maintenance to the smooth sailing of a preventive maintenance program, remember that success depends on how well you prepare, and a full-featured CMMS makes preparing much easier. 

Spread the preventive maintenance word

You know it's long past time to make the switch, but you still might have to convince people across the organizational chart. This can be a bit tricky because you need to speak to people in ways they easily understand. A relevant example: The process of getting people to support a project is described differently in different parts of a company. The front office calls it "getting buy-in." Technicians might better relate to an expression like "everyone rowing in the same direction."

When you're talking with the front-office folks, you'll want to go in with numbers. You could start with this one: 545%. That's the return on investment a telecommunications company saw after implementing a preventive maintenance plan. When talking with technicians, you can also use numbers, just different ones. For example, 5. That's the time they'll be able to go home at the end of the day, instead of always having to stay late to deal with unexpected emergencies.

If you're already using a full-featured, cloud-based CMMS, and you really should be, now's a good time to mention to the CFO that setting up a preventive maintenance plan is like strapping rockets onto your CMMS ROI. The more you use it to save money, the better the company is leveraging its investment in the software. If you don't have a CMMS yet, or your current platform doesn't have a PM module, tell the CFO that now's the time to invest in one. As we'll soon see, a good CMMS makes preventive maintenance much easier.

You might run into people who resist change no matter what you tell them. If something is new and different, they don't want to have anything to do with it. They might not believe you at first, but you can explain that the new preventive maintenance software will only be different and new for a short while, right at the beginning. After that, it'll just be better than what they're dealing with now.

Define preventive maintenance success

Of course you don't like being trapped under failure-focused, reaction-based maintenance. But it's not enough to dislike where you are; success depends on knowing where you want to be. One good system for setting goals is SMART. The result is a clear picture of your success and a roadmap for getting there.
In the SMART system, each letter stands for a characteristic of a good goal.

Can you name the who, what, where, and when of your goal?

How much and how many? Which KPIs will you focus on? Are there specific costs you'd like to see come down?

Are your expectations too ambitious? The idea here is not to set a low bar but instead not to set yourself up for disappointment. For example, aiming for zero on-demand work orders, even with a work order software, is unrealistic. But having close to 80% of work orders planned a week in advance is a good goal. 

Is this the right goal for me? In this specific situation, where you're trying to set up a preventive maintenance program, it's obviously relevant. But in other situations, it's worth thinking about if a goal is worthwhile.

Time bound:
Where do I want to be in six months? One year? Don't fall into the trap of the Tomorrow Diet, where you're constantly putting things off. Decide on specific dates for preparing, implementing, and checking progress.

In terms of tracking progress over time, if there are things you're already tracking, keep tracking them. For example, MMTR, inventory levels, time on wrench, and other KPIs (key productivity indicators). Historical data will help you measure your success. It's like when you go on a new diet; it's helpful to take that "before" picture. Later on, you can see how much you've accomplished. If you're not currently tracking anything, don't worry. Now is a good time to start. In fact, increased tracking can be one of your goals.

Examples of things to track to determine the relative success of your PM schedule include:

  • Unscheduled downtime
  • Cost of priority shipping for parts
  • Overtime labor hours
  • Useful life of assets

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Choose assets for your schedule

Even in the smallest operations, it usually doesn't make sense to include everything. You need to be a bit selective. Include assets that are:

  • expensive to replace
  • well into their useful life
  • known troublemakers
  • rated high for criticality

Criticality is the severity of the consequences of a failure. If the cold water tap in your bathroom stops working, it's not a huge problem. It has a low criticality when it comes to the bathroom's overall operation. But what about the toilet? Once it stops working, it's time to hang the Out of Order sign. 

Criticality is an interesting topic all on its own. Here's an article that briefly explains it and then examines its practical value.

You need to be selective so your list of assets doesn't get too long. At the same time, don't be too quick to cut. You can always make a full list then only do PMs for some of the assets. This is actually a good idea when first implementing a new program. Start with a smaller set of assets and then ramp up to your full list over time.

Collect asset data (hopefully in a CMMS)

You know which assets you're going to include, but how much do you know about the assets themselves? Generally, the more you know, the better.

You'll want as much as you can, including:

  • Serial number
  • O&M manual
  • Schematics
  • Photographs of the asset
  • Location
  • Repair history
  • Associated materials and parts


Having a full-featured, easy-to-use CMMS is really going to come in handy here because it lets you pull together digital copies of all this information. Now you don't have to worry about lugging that giant O&M manual around with you, running back to the office to look up repair history, or asking for help finding an asset in the first place.

It's worth your time to look into getting a facility audit, where your CMMS provider sends people to catalog your assets. Check out this post to see if an audit is right for you.

Create preventive maintenance work orders (PMs)

You can divide tasks into two types, things to do and things to inspect. So, you can have a preventive maintenance where the main belt gets changed every six months, but the rollers are checked for wobble every three months and adjusted only as needed.

A full-featured CMMS software allows you to create data-rich PMs. They can include:

  • Pictures and diagrams
  • Step-by-step instructions
  • Checklists
  • O&M manuals
  • Required parts
  • Interactive floor maps


When deciding the tasks to include in each PM, you'll need to look at:

  • Manufacturers' recommendations
  • Industry standards and current best practices
  • Your department's direct experience with the asset

The amount of trust you put into each source may change over time. For relatively new assets, it's likely best to stick close to what manufacturers recommend. For older assets, you can look at the asset's repair history.

Set preventive maintenance frequency

Again, you're going to want to look at manufacturers' recommendations, industry standards for best practices, and your own experience with the assets.

When deciding the frequency, you can choose between fixed and floating PMs. Fixed PMs happened at specific times, regardless of when the last PM was completed. So, let's say you have a PM set for every Thursday. But because of various delays, you did not complete the most recent PM until the Monday of the following week. The PMs are usually spaced one week apart, so when should your next PM happen? In a fixed system, the answer is in two days, on the upcoming Thursday. In a floating system, however, your next PM is the following Monday. Fixed maintains specific dates. Floating maintains predetermined intervals.

Fixed is good for PMs that are done fairly regularly, either daily or weekly. They tend to enforce compliance. Because there's no way to postpone them, technicians are more likely to do them on time. They're also good for when you need to follow a manufacturer's schedule to maintain warranty coverage. On the other hand, floating is better for PMs with long intervals. Being a couple days late won't make a difference if the previous PM was done six months ago. PMs that are low priority are often scheduled as floating.

Time intervals is one way to set PM frequency. Usage is another. So, you can check a pump once every three months or every time it cycles a predetermined volume.

Work out the kinks then fine-tune

There's going to be a certain amount of fine-tuning before you get everything just the way you want it. In the beginning, you'll want to review your work often, but as time goes on, less and less frequently. As new assets come into the facility and old ones reach the end of their useful life, you'll need to adjust.

Get ready to set sail

A nice, easy first step would be going back and rereading this blog post. It won't take long, but it'll go a long way to helping you remember and think about the information. Next, start thinking of ways to find allies up and down the organizational ladder. You'll need the CFO's approval for the funds, but you'll need the department's technicians' support to get the PMs reliably closed out. Then just keep following the steps outlined above.

If you don't have a full-featured, cloud-based CMMS, now's a great time to get one. It makes implementing and running preventive maintenance so much easier. With a good CMMS, your provider updates and patches the platform behind the scenes so you never have to worry about keeping on-premises servers up to date and up and running. They also protect your data with industrial-grade security and multiple back-ups. And the data really and truly remains your private property. When Hippo CMMS has customers' data, we're just very carefully babysitting it.

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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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