Five strategies to achieve world-class preventive maintenance

A step-by-step process ensures better results, reliability.


A combination of technology and strategy can help create a more consistent preventive maintenance program. Courtesy: CFE MediaMore than ever, manufacturers must focus on establishing preventive maintenance programs as a base to build upon their competitive strategy within the market. After all, premium performance of production equipment drives profitability and can transform an organization's operational success.

To ensure high performance, manufacturers should focus on implementing a world-class preventive maintenance program, which occurs when organizations spend 90% or more of their time on preventive maintenance without requiring the machinery to be taken offline.

A focus on preventive maintenance benefits the organization in a number of ways. First, it significantly reduces the costs associated with maintenance. Breakdown maintenance costs can be as much as five times higher than the same activity done in a planned fashion, and that doesn't even take into account the revenue loss from decreased product inventories.

Second, preventive maintenance allows the maintenance organization to focus on high-level priorities. Elevating your planning from a tactical approach to strategic can help extend the life of essential assets. Additionally, the maintenance team can become a key proponent for larger strategic decisions within the organization, such as capital planning.

Consider these five strategies to help your team establish a world-class preventive maintenance program and experience the resulting operational gains.

1. Conduct a review

Prior to beginning any preventive maintenance procedures, especially if there aren't any already in place, conduct a review and understand what assets and programs currently exist. Without insight into current activities, it can be impossible to understand key gaps and areas for improvement.

The review should capture:

  • Assets. Without a strong understanding of owned assets and their associated conditions, you can't put a solid preventive maintenance program in place.
  • Procedures. Understanding the organization's current library of procedures can help you quickly identify any gaps that may exist in the processes. It can also provide context to where your team's priorities already lie.
  • People. Knowing how the maintenance team spends their days can help organizations realize better ways to leverage their talent. While the activity can be time-intensive, it also can be the most fruitful as employees will often share where they see key gaps in current processes and procedures that may not be otherwise obvious.

2. Establish standardized operating procedures for reactive and preventive maintenance

As organizations grow larger, either by adding more shifts or locations, doing things the way they've always been done won't necessarily work anymore. A U.S.-based metal manufacturing organization that was quickly growing learned this the hard way. After adding two additional facilities with the same equipment, they noticed one plant had significantly more downtime than the other.

The engineers and technicians were conducting preventive maintenance on a regular basis, and were also diligent in responding to reactive maintenance requests quickly and efficiently. Even so, the unprecedented downtime for the new location was so high it was impacting its profitability.

The organization compared preventive maintenance procedures that had been conducted on the equipment in the past month and found they were incomparable to each other. Because they didn't have standardized operating procedures in place, the staff at each facility had to navigate the waters on their own—determining the best way to approach different scenarios based only on the information they had been given.

By establishing standardized operating procedures across the board, organizations can greatly improve the outcomes from both reactive and preventive maintenance. These procedures can be as simple as outlining the types of tools that should be used on particular maintenance requests, or as complex as outlining the exact procedure to take apart a piece of equipment for repair or maintenance upkeep. In the case of this manufacturer, they were able to institute established procedures to bring downtime to normal levels.

3. Create a reliability and maintenance policy with an improvement plan

Planning sits at the center of becoming more cost-effective with your maintenance activities. To prevent failure, establish a sound reliability and maintenance policy that incorporates an improvement plan. Industry experts recommend that the improvement plan outlines documentation for a 3- and 5-yr timeline.

The policy itself should establish objectives, goals, and key responsibilities for the team. Other essential elements in the document include:

  • Current state versus future goals
  • Key performance indicators (KPIs)
  • Importance of KPIs and organizational value
  • Internal recognition for reaching goals
  • Importance of reliability to the entire organization
  • How maintenance feeds into plant competitiveness
  • Timeline and key internal stakeholders
  • How employees can submit comments and feedback.

Once you've determined your policy and improvement plans, think about how you will store it and how employees will access it. By leveraging a technology solution, like a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), ensure that it's readily at the hands of everyone to review and access at any time.

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