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Preventive Maintenance: Keep Your Assets in Peak Condition

Preventive maintenance (or preventative maintenance) is the ongoing process of performing routine maintenance at regular intervals, anticipating breakdowns to keep your assets in peak condition. It involves proactively servicing equipment and repairing or replacing components before they cause failures and unscheduled downtime.

By scheduling work in advance, stopping problems before they happen, and reducing the impact of wear and tear, preventive maintenance helps minimize the disruption to your facility’s regular operations. It also keeps your equipment in compliance and extends the life of your assets.

While organizations can manually plan and coordinate preventive maintenance, creating and following a preventive maintenance plan for every asset can quickly get complicated. Preventive maintenance can involve:

  • Consulting manufacturer recommendations
  • Checking warranty requirements
  • Paying attention to compliance regulations
  • Drawing from historical asset data
  • Incorporating the life expectancy of individual components

That’s not something you want to map out in an Excel spreadsheet, especially when you need to create work orders and repeat services regularly. The complexity of preventive maintenance is one of the many reasons modern organizations turn to computer aided facilities management (CAFM) software like Tango Maintenance. Tango can automatically create predictive maintenance schedules for your assets. To help you stick to the schedule, it can also produce work orders and route them to the right personnel.

In this article, we’ll examine the specific benefits of preventive maintenance, the challenges to implementing it, and how to create preventive maintenance schedules.

But first, let’s clarify how preventive maintenance differs from a similar term: predictive maintenance.

Preventive maintenance vs. predictive maintenance

Preventive and predictive maintenance have a lot of overlap, but there’s one key difference: predictive maintenance primarily relies on real-time data to predict when maintenance is needed, while preventive maintenance simply follows a maintenance schedule.

Predictive maintenance is an emerging field born out of the Internet of Things (IoT). It uses sensors and other connected devices to constantly measure and analyze performance data. When an asset’s performance begins declining or reaches a certain threshold, you get automated alerts telling you it needs to be serviced.

This provides many of the same benefits of preventive maintenance, but with the added bonus of using your resources even more efficiently. You never waste time or money performing maintenance you don’t need or replacing components that are still in good condition.

Predictive maintenance is essentially the evolution of preventive maintenance. But really, evaluating an asset’s condition and using data to guide your maintenance plan should be part of your preventive maintenance strategy, too.

Now let’s look at the benefits both of these models provide your facilities.

Preventive maintenance benefits

There are three main ways that following a preventive maintenance schedule benefits your organization:

  1. Reduce unscheduled downtime
  2. Help keep your assets in compliance
  3. Increase the lifespan of your assets

Here’s how.

Reduce unscheduled downtime

Unscheduled maintenance is extremely disruptive—it happens without notice and makes it difficult to implement workarounds. The soda machine might go out of order during peak lunch hours. The air conditioning could break down during a heatwave. The walk-in freezer might need servicing right when you’d planned to restock it. The generator might fail when replacement parts are backordered. Even if you have a backup plan, it takes time to execute.

Downtime brings both hard and soft costs. It may mean a loss of revenue because you can’t sell products or provide services. Or it could decrease employee satisfaction (and productivity) by creating an uncomfortable work environment. It might also prevent employees from using the space they need. Depending on the failure, it could even result in a workplace injury and/or a lawsuit.

But if you know exactly when that maintenance is going to occur, you can plan around it. You can prepare an alternative solution and time it to be ready when you need it. You can plan for the downtime to occur outside of peak hours or even when you’re closed. And since you can schedule the work in advance, you can be more confident that internal employees and external vendors will have assets back up and running as soon as possible.

Preventive maintenance essentially shifts unscheduled downtime to scheduled downtime. It doesn’t necessarily mean less downtime—since you may wind up performing some maintenance you don’t need—but it reduces downtime’s impact.

Even with a strong preventive maintenance program, you’ll still have some unscheduled downtime. You can’t anticipate accidents or human errors. And defective components may wear out faster than expected. But by dedicating resources to an ongoing maintenance plan for each asset, you can significantly reduce the most damaging kind of downtime.

Keep assets in compliance

Depending on your industry and the types of assets you have, there may be strict maintenance guidelines associated with your equipment. In healthcare, the stakes of asset failures are extremely high, and equipment like MRI machines and ventilators all have their own regulations governing how and when they need to be serviced, cleaned, and maintained. Industrial equipment you use in processes involving biohazards or dangerous chemicals may have their own sets of guidelines as well.

But beyond legal compliance, many assets have specific warranty requirements as well. Fall out of compliance with your warranty, and you could find yourself paying for an eventual equipment failure when you could’ve got a repair or replacement for free.

A good preventive maintenance schedule incorporates compliance standards into your regular operations, ensuring that each asset gets the service it needs by the people who need to do it. And with a methodical, pre-planned approach to maintenance, you decrease the risk that an employee may accidentally service an asset in a way that voids your warranty or causes you to fall out of compliance. (When something breaks and disrupts your business, compliance regulations and warranties may not always be top-of-mind.)

Increase asset lifespan

If you wait until something breaks, it puts a lot more strain on your equipment. Poorly maintained assets work harder than they need to. Even if a component hasn’t caused a failure yet, it could dramatically reduce performance and increase wear and tear on other parts. This doesn’t just increase the likelihood of major failures. It decreases the life expectancy for the whole piece of equipment.

Preventive maintenance replaces components at pre-planned intervals—before they’ve necessarily caused noticeable problems. So you’re basically making the asset “good as new” on a regular basis. And that can add years to its life (especially compared to the alternative).

Challenges to preventive maintenance

For some facilities, preventive maintenance simply isn’t feasible. It’s an ideal they aren’t equipped to achieve. Some of the challenges to preventive maintenance are easy to address, but others require a shift in your priorities. Here’s what businesses have to overcome to pull this off.

Lack of resources

Unscheduled downtime usually comes with significant costs. But in facilities maintenance, managers are often stuck trying to decide where they can kick the can down the road—and for how long—because they simply can’t afford to dedicate resources to every maintenance need.

Perhaps their supply of workers can’t keep up with the demand for repairs, cleaning, and inspections. So they have to prioritize the maintenance that’s most likely to cause failures. Or the vendors with the certifications they need aren’t available consistently enough, so they can only schedule the work half as often as they’re supposed to. Maybe they just don’t have the budget to buy all the parts and pay for the ongoing service their assets need. So they wait until components show more signs of wear.

Lack of resources isn’t always a challenge you can overcome. But it puts more pressure on your risk assessment process, as you’re constantly weighing the potential cost and likelihood of a failure against the immediate costs of maintenance. And unfortunately, since preventive maintenance can lead you to perform maintenance you didn’t “need” yet, it’s easy to justify deferring it.

Lack of visibility

Every asset needs a preventive maintenance schedule based on its own documentation and history. Two identical pieces of equipment purchased a few months apart may have completely different schedules. Over time, differences in their work order history and expenses may cause you to treat their maintenance needs differently, too.

But often, facility managers and maintenance teams don’t have enough visibility into asset data to know how often a particular piece of equipment needs to be serviced, how long specific components are supposed to last, or when new maintenance patterns emerge that you could anticipate. The information is in too many separate places to be accessible. Some of it might only live in one person’s head—such as the person who purchased, installed, or regularly services the equipment.

The value of preventive maintenance hinges on the reliability of your schedule. The whole point is to plan the intervals at which the work needs to be done. If you can’t make a reliable schedule, your preventive maintenance plan falls apart, and you’re really just guessing when parts need to be replaced, fluids need to be changed, and components will be too worn out.

This is an area where Tango Maintenance shines. Tango consolidates all of the data and documents associated with an asset, keeping them in a single place and making it accessible any time the asset appears in a work order. Every employee and vendor gets the visibility they need to make informed repair or replace decisions and see an asset’s unique maintenance schedule.

Complex maintenance schedules

In large facilities, facility managers may not even know what (or where) all their assets are, let alone their individual schedules. The more assets you manage, the more complicated preventive maintenance becomes. Especially if you have to consider compliance regulations, too.

Preventive maintenance schedules can easily become unwieldy and difficult to use. But that’s never the case with Tango Maintenance. We automatically generate preventive maintenance schedules based on warranties, asset data, and more. You don’t have to worry about work orders, either—Tango automatically routes tasks to the right people at the right time.

How to create a preventive maintenance schedule

Preventive maintenance schedules require a combination of information and experience. You set it up and fine-tune it as you see how it’s working. You may also need to adjust as your resources, priorities, and solutions change.

First, an important note about maintenance schedules. Some tasks will need to be performed on a “fixed schedule,” meaning the service needs to be done at set intervals that don’t change, such as after every 200 hours of operation. The asset needs service at 200 hours, 400 hours, 600 hours, etc. If the work can’t be done until 225 hours, 410 hours, and 640 hours, that doesn’t change when the next service is “scheduled” to begin. But other assets may use a “floating schedule,” where a delay in service impacts the next service time. If the equipment needs to be serviced every 200 hours and you don’t get to it until 225, the next service time becomes 425.

A fixed schedule is probably the best approach for assets that absolutely depend on preventive maintenance. But you’ll likely have some assets that have more room for flexibility.

Prioritize assets that will benefit the most

You have limited resources. And some of your assets are always going to be more critical than others. When they fail and have unscheduled downtime, it has a greater impact on your business and your budget. Additionally, some assets need more consistent attention. They’re more likely to break down without routine maintenance, their parts wear out faster, or they get used more frequently.

A good preventive maintenance schedule emphasizes the assets that are most worthy of your time and money. Like your HVAC system. Or your cooling tower.

Start with manufacturer guidelines

Manufacturers design their parts and equipment to last for a specific period of time. They know which parts give out first and what ongoing maintenance is most likely to extend the asset’s life cycle.

Reference work order history

Best way to tell how often an asset needs work? Years of associated service requests and expenses. Over time, even reactive maintenance naturally develops patterns. Your goal is to identify those patterns and schedule work to happen before you get there.

Estimate future maintenance needs

Ultimately, unless you have the IoT sensors and analytics capabilities you need to do predictive maintenance, preventive maintenance is going to involve a little “guess and check” (but hopefully not “trial and error”). Use past work order intervals and manufacturer guidelines to estimate when work will need to be done to prevent unplanned maintenance.

Fine-tune your plan as you go

Over time, as your operations or your budget force you to defer maintenance, you may learn that you can safely extend your preventive maintenance intervals. Or you may find that parts are too worn out or filthy by the time you get to them, so you need to tighten your schedule. New instances of unscheduled maintenance may lead you to expand the tasks associated with an asset. So you adjust. The nice thing about preventive maintenance schedules? They’re not set in stone, and there’s always room for optimization.

Prevent unscheduled maintenance

Tango Maintenance gives your team the context they need to make better maintenance decisions and increase the lifespan of your assets. From start to finish, Tango streamlines service requests and supports your preventive maintenance schedules. Our software can also pull relevant data from the rest of your IWMS suite, giving your maintenance department fuller context about each asset, including landlord and tenant responsibilities, how the asset fits into your real estate strategy, the project it was part of, and your location’s total CAP/EX and OP/EX.

Want to see how Tango Maintenance helps you perform preventive maintenance?

Schedule a demo today.

Contributors

Bart Waldeck

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