Maintenance can be a major effort at a company, and maintenance costs can chew up a lot of dollars.
And I’m probably telling you nothing new when I say that when maintenance isn’t done, and something breaks, the cost of downtime can be even more significant.
One way to spend less on maintenance in general, and to lose less on maintenance-related downtime, is to practice a preventive maintenance approach.
In this article, we offer a Q&A on some basic topics related to maintenance and preventive maintenance.
Before you begin, you might want to check this short sample from our online Equipment Maintenance and Reliability training course.
Preventive Maintenance: Question & Answer Session
The questions below should give you a good introduction to the practice of preventive maintenance and some reasons to perform it. Our expert for this article is Greg Squires of Maintenance Connections.
Question: Could you tell us what preventive maintenance is, how it’s different from “normal” maintenance, and pick up the relationship of preventive maintenance to asset management?
Yeah, they’re definitely related. So, just to start, if I am a maintenance manager in any type of facility, whether it be a real estate facility with hundreds of units that have assets, or if I am responsible for all of the facilities at a university, with large buildings and electronic equipment that runs the screens in the classrooms, or if I am responsible for a hospital, I am the engineering director, then I have got all kinds of equipment that needs to be managing real life and death, or if I’m running a manufacturing facility and I’m responsible for production lines and heavy equipment, and all kinds of things, and lastly with fleets, cars and trucks and vehicles that need to move around, all of those are simply called assets, and so if I am responsible for those assets, they need to be maintained, right, and so how do I maintain those? I need to follow the instruction manual, every asset for a manufacturer has a recommended preventive maintenance schedule, and that comes in the handbook, or a digital version of a user guide, and it describes that this activity needs to be performed at this interval, on this machine, and here’s how you do it.
So the preventive maintenance on those assets is being proactive to perform those activities before they need to actually get done, and so how do you know when something breaks, when something fails, because you didn’t perform that activity that needed to be done, to replace that belt, to replace that transistor, or whatever it may be. And so preventive maintenance is simply working ahead of schedule and fixing things before they break. It’s very much like replacing the oil in your car, and the air filters in your engine, in order to keep the engine running smoothly, and preventing downtime or breakage.
There is a cost in downtime, especially in manufacturing. Every minute you can equate to an amount of dollars or units you can put out the door, and every minute you’re not up has a discrete cost. And so maintaining your equipment and keeping your systems running is sort of an unsung, heroic job. When everything’s going well, nobody complains, and when things go down, all the fingers get pointed, so that’s a main driver for implementing and driving a really strong maintenance management program, is around uptime.
Question: Can you explain the difference between unplanned maintenance, preventive maintenance, and predictive maintenance?
Sure. Let’s start with unplanned. Simply put, this is maintenance that hasn’t been previously planned and that is performed because of equipment breakdowns, repairs, etc. It can also be referred to as corrective or reactive maintenance.
Now, let’s consider preventive. Preventive maintenance is performed so that equipment breakdowns, repairs, etc., don’t happen in the first place (or at least less frequently and severely).
And lastly, predictive. Predictive maintenance is based on continuous monitoring and assessments of equipment to understand when maintenance needs to be performed.
Question: What are some metrics companies might want to consider when evaluating their maintenance program?
The ratio of reactive and preventive maintenance is important. We’ve learned performing more preventive maintenance correlates strongly with increased asset/equipment life and with return on investment (ROI) of maintenance software purchases.
A variety of other metrics can be introduced to understand program performance, from backlog of work orders to percent of scheduled work that was completed (i.e. schedule compliance) to overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and beyond.
Question: When workers are performing preventive maintenance facilities, especially in a manufacturing facility, what are some of the things they’d be doing?
Repairing and/or replacing defective parts; inspecting equipment using measuring/testing instruments to understand wear and tear; and making adjustments and modifications to functional parts of devices and control instruments.
Question: What are some benefits a company would be likely to see as a result of using preventive maintenance?
There are many, including fewer machine breakages and downtime, lower costs associated with machine breakages and downtime, increased efficiency of machine operation and therefore production, and longer-lasting machines/equipment. Performing more preventive maintenance can result in increased asset/equipment life, decreased asset/equipment downtime (also known as “uptime”) and other unexpected benefits such as return on investment (ROI) of maintenance software purchases.
Question: What percentage of companies would you say are using preventive or predictive maintenance instead of purely unplanned maintenance?
The data in the chart below comes from roughly 1,000 organizations that participated in our State of CMMS research. We separate the companies into seven different levels, based on their ratio of Reactive Maintenance to Preventive Maintenance.
- All Reactive (95% or more): 6% of organizations in study
- 20% Preventive/80% Reactive: 22% of organizations in study
- 40% Preventive/60% Reactive: 18% of organizations in study
- 50% Preventive/50% Reactive: 11% of organizations in study
- 60%Preventive/40% Reactive: 17% of organizations in study
- 80% Preventive/20% Reactive: 22% of organizations in study
- All Preventive (95% or More): 4% of organizations in study
The studies shows that few organizations are entirely or nearly entire reactive (only 6%) and few organizations are entirely or nearly entirely preventive (only 4%). Most organizations blend both reactive and preventive maintenance.
Question: I imagine one people talk or think about maintenance, it’s easy to forget the related issues of parts and supplies. How can setting up a preventive maintenance schedule help ensure a proper inventory of replacement parts and supplies?
Having a well-organized preventive maintenance plan can contribute to better inventory management because naturally, as you noted, you’ll know what work needs to be done in advance, and you’ll know the requirements to complete that work, such as any necessary parts. But, this is just one among many integrated approaches to proper inventory management. And, ultimately…there is a strong correlation with improved parts availability and repair time.
Question: If you’re a company that’s just beginning to set up a preventive maintenance schedule and program, what should you address first?
There’s not a right and short answer to this question. The first step is nuanced, depends on many factors, and varies depending on who you ask (i.e. maintenance experts/consultants). Some suggest the first step is to assemble a team of key stakeholders; others suggest starting with the end in mind and establishing goals around what you hope to achieve.
Question: Beyond the general concept of “it’s a good idea to do preventive maintenance,” do you have any kind of quantifiable financial benefits of performing preventive maintenance?
Yeah, yeah, there definitely is a tie-in. We have recently done a study that has asked that very question, of over 1,000 maintenance professionals, so you have implemented the software and you’ve worked to become more preventive, so those things sort of go hand-in hand, it is difficult to be preventive without software, and so how would you quantify the savings you’ve had in your program?
Maintenance is a cost center, right? You could spend millions of dollars doing things–like, let’s replace the oil in my car every day. But that would be overboard. So if you think about preventive, you do have decide where you draw the line and so one of the measures is how much savings have you had. So a manufacturing facility can measure savings by uptime vs. downtime, and so, “how much downtime did I have last year, how much downtime did I have this year.” Every minute of downtime has a cost, and so, has our downtime decreased, because we’ve kept our systems running? That is a quantifiable “we’ve prevented millions of dollars of loss by keeping our systems maintained. And then I’ll add one more thing…in a hospital, in a health care environment, this is an environment that is strongly regulated, and so the joint commission is responsible for performing audits of these type of processes, as a in a hospital, you sit there and you’re attached to these machines that are keeping you alive: has that machine been maintained? Has it gotten its regular service? Is it something I can rely upon to keep me alive? That’s why it’s regulated, right? So what is the cost to a hospital of a machine going down? It’s lawsuits, it’s things that they do not want to have to deal with. So there’s a very strong, compelling reason to have good, reliable machines, and to do that you need good reliable maintenance processes, and to do that, you need a good system to manage all that. So, in some ways, you know, the cost is really high, for those types of environments and there’s a great risk, so it allows for appropriate amounts of investments in people, processes, and systems to set your environment up for success.
Question: In addition to managing all the different manuals and recommendations and getting the work done on time, what are some of the challenges that companies face when they decide to go forward on a preventive maintenance program?
We’ve asked that question of our customers as well: what challenges are you facing today, as you’re looking for something to improve, and as you have a program in place, what are your ongoing challenges. So there are a few things. I would say one thing is data: if you’re moving from a place of spreadsheets and access databases, you have to have a way to list all your assets and all your preventive maintenance activities, and get those things loaded into a system in such a way that they’re easy to find and it makes sense to the technicians, so they’ll know “room 202 has asset X that needs to have this valve replaced,” right?
And training is a key, and that’s something relevant to what you guys do and deliver, making sure maintenance technicians know how to perform the maintenance procedures, and providing easy access to the how-to documents, and procedures, for how to perform this replacement of belt in machine X in room 202, and so those procedures are really important, and again, the better they’re written, the better this system can be transferable to 10 and 50 and hundreds of maintenance technicians that may be new to the job or there may be turnover and you need a reliable system in place and not just rely upon domain knowledge of the silver-haired guy who’s been around for 40 years but knows how to fix everything. So training is key.
And I would also say that access to information and reporting is a challenge, right? So I am running some kind of maintenance system, and I’m the CIO, and in the leadership meetings, we’re saying “hey, how’s our uptime, how are we doing with our preventive v. reactive activity, what are we investing? And if the CIO or COO has no way to answer that question, then they are challenged in this discussions, and the business can’t make the decisions they need to make to make things better.
And so that sort of speaks to one other thing that I think is really important in talking about preventive vs. reactive maintenance, and how you progress toward more preventive, and as you asked, well what’s the benefit in doing so. So one of the key benchmarks in maintenance is preventive to reactive ratio, and it is called corrective v. reactive in other environments, but simply put, of all the maintenance activities that were performed in a given month, how many were the ones you planned to do, and how many were unplanned? And that is a measure of how much volatility you have in your systems and whether systems are running well or not, whether assets are healthy or not, and so if you have a bunch of issues, then you’re very reactive, and you don’t have time for the proactive unless you just put in more people. But it is really working, it is a continual process improvement, to work to get the unplanned work to be as small a percentage of your total activity. And what we find is that there is a relationship between higher preventive ratios and greater savings, and so for maintenance programs that are approaching 60 and 80 percent preventive, which means again of all the activities the maintenance team performs, we had 60-80 percent of it dedicated to preventive maintenance, were planned as part of our preventive maintenance process, then you’re seeing the hundreds of thousands and the the millions of dollars being able to be verifiably reported that our program is working well, we’re saving money, and we’re improving our operations and keeping our systems up and running.
Question: Any tips for coordinating efforts throughout departments within an organization?
Yes. If you’re responsible for asset management in your organization, data is critical, so get your data in order. One of the things that I would recommend is, as you think about data, is tying in access and visibility to inventory, and this can be done through a variety of systems, but if you think about this maintenance manager, and he’s responsible for making sure that “belt A” is going to be replaced in Part X in Room 202, then how do you make sure that belt is available in 90 days when you need that preventive maintenance scheduled? So that’s really good data because it will allow you to make sure that you have that product in hand, right?
And to do that, you’ve got to have your systems integrated, so that involves IT, and sometimes maintenance and IT are in the same group, and sometimes they’re in separate groups, operations and engineering and technical, so my recommendation is you need to build allies, you need to work together, you need to have internal stakeholders that have buy-in to make this program better, so if you’re in charge of assets, part of your job is to sell the value in preventive maintenance, and to sort of get ahead of the finger pointing, because what happens when things break is fingers get pointed, and it’s not just that you’re trying to save your tail, but you can’t get stuff done if you don’t have allies, so go build rapport with the technical teams to say “Hey, it would sure be nice if I had greater visibility to that belt in inventory that I’m going to need in 90 days, I can tell you all the things I’m going to need, because I’ve got my preventive maintenance schedule, and let’s make sure those things will be on hand and we have good back-up stock, because what happens is when that belt fails, in an unplanned environment, what if you don’t have that one on hand? You’re not just down for an hour, you’re down for a week until you get it airflighted back to you. So those are a couple of things–data and collaboration with technical teams and building allies makes for a really strong performing maintenance program.
Question: Your company makes a maintenance management software. Can you tell us more about your company and your product?
Yeah. So Maintenance Connection was founded in 1999 and we have built a maintenance software, with over 1,500 companies in health care and manufacturing and city/state government, power plants, are able to manage fleet organizations, so in many verticals, we have delivered a software platform that allows for managing of assets, managing of work orders, the inbound request of work requests, right, a service requester is a critical part as someone in the plant or field or office can effectively raise their hand and say “hey, I need this thing done, can you help?” and that gets routed to the right people and gets done quickly and allows for your service satisfaction to improve. And then of course, moving more toward preventive is an objective and goal of every one of our customers, and so we partner very closely with our customers to work on growth plans to move from their current state of managing assets, managing work orders, and doing what they can with what they have, to having better planning, better labor management, better reports, to be able to know “Hey, these assets are really important for us, these are our critical assets, and if they go down, we’ve got big problems” to prioritize preventive maintenance on those assets.
Conclusion: Preventive Maintenance–It’s Good for You and Your Equipment
We hope you’ve found this introduction to preventive maintenance useful, and we thank Mr. Squires for sharing his knowledge with us.
Let us know if you have any other questions. Otherwise, have a great day.
Here’s some additional information about Greg Squires:
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