Why preventive maintenance fails and how to fix it

Part 1: Preventive maintenance (PM) should not be confused with predictive maintenance (PdM), which is a series of dynamic inspections of machine components while the machines are operating in their normal production modes. The first part of a 3-part series explains what great preventive maintenance programs should include. Link to part 2 and part 3 below.


Some companies are struggling to design an effective preventive maintenance (PM) program? An endless parade of books and articles tell us how to "do" PM. But it's one thing to read, and another entirely to implement.

Preventive maintenance (PM) should not be confused with predictive maintenance (PDM), which is a series of dynamic inspections of machine components while the machines are operating in their normal production modes. Here’s what great preventive maintenance programs should include. Courtesy: Daniel Penn Associates

Know that preventive maintenance should not be confused with predictive maintenance (PdM), which is a series of dynamic inspections of machine components while the machines are operating in their normal production modes.

Here's what great preventive maintenance programs should include:

  • Scheduled inspections and lubrication samplings that determine the physical state of machine components.
  • The lubrications, adjustments and documentation of needed repairs identified during inspections, which prevent unnecessary wear and failure of machine components.
  • To ensure safety and maximize production uptime, inspections and repairs should happen during scheduled plant shut downs when all machines are safely locked out.

If developing a PM program is such a no-brainer, why doesn't every company have one in place?

Reason 1: We didn't lay the groundwork/ have the right systems.

Designing and implementing a PM program requires a very different mind-set than operating and managing a normal maintenance department. PM begins with understanding your facility's goals, setting performance standards for equipment, documenting preventive maintenance procedures and schedules, then uploading it all to your Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). If the company's in-house experts can initiate and manage these tasks, great. If not, find a qualified PM manager, or contract with a capable PM consulting firm that can get (and keep) the ball rolling.

Reason 2: Other things got in the way; we never finished.

Companies delay or stall their PM program for a variety of reasons: A big order comes in and it's all hands on deck. Raw materials are delayed and we have to play catch up when they arrive. We can't seem to find a week when all our key maintenance employees don't have other priorities. But the main reason companies fail at PM is because they haven't included a profit motive: they haven't incorporated a way to benchmark and track the savings that their PM program generates.

Reason 3: We didn't roll it out correctly.

Companies that fail quickest simply hand over PM implementation to their maintenance staff without the proper training and oversight/management.

Your company's biggest ROI may come from an investment in consultants who can help you focus your objectives, create PM tasks correctly the first time around, train your team, oversee all the implementation details and ensure you are left with a management program that will be effective. Make sure they have the hands-on, real world experiences to ensure your PM program's success, and don't simply leave the property after they pile a ton of documents onto your desk.

Reason 4: Our PM activities aren't correctly weighted because we don't understand why breakdowns occur.

When PM task details are not written to address the root causes of breakdowns, you may be focusing on things that don't really impact productivity. If your company has a good work order system in place, measurements can easily be made using basic CMMS reports to measure the effectiveness of your program over time.

To minimize unplanned machine downtime, a well-designed PM program typically allocates 80% to 90% of its time to machine component inspections and 10% to 20% to lubrications.

This article is part 1 of a 3-part series on preventive maintenance.

Link to part 2: Six steps to design a preventive maintenance program
Link to part 3: Best practices in preventive maintenance: How one company did it

Daniel Penn Associates senior consultant Ken Staller has more than 30 years of project engineering, project management and maintenance management experience in machine manufacturing, pulp and paper, pharmaceutical and automotive industries. Daniel Penn Associates (www.danielpenn.com) is a CFE Media content partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media, edunne@cfemedia.com

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