Best practices in preventive maintenance: How one company did it

Part three of this 3-part series on preventive maintenance explains that companies committed to a PM program succeed because they have clearly defined what they wanted to achieve. Link to part 1 and part 2 below.

By Ken Staller, Daniel Penn Associates December 30, 2015

Companies with well-planned preventive maintenance (PM) programs enjoy minimal unplanned downtime, minimal spare parts costs, minimal manufacturing interruptions from breakdowns, maximum manufacturing times, maximum product quality and longer machine life spans. These companies have done their homework upfront. They have chosen to take advantage of the available physical and financial advantages that a PM program can provide.

These companies have also made the commitment to getting a PM program in place that is flexible, manageable, and sustainable for the long term. What were the key drivers of the success? The manufacturer began their PM program design by clearly defining what they wanted to achieve:

  • Uninterrupted manufacturing runs by eliminating machine breakdowns
  • Increased product quality
  • Decreased capital expenditures by increasing machine lifespans and reducing spare parts costs

On top of that, this exemplary manufacturer:

  • Made the tough decision to temporarily reassign their top mechanics to assist in writing PM inspection details. These mechanics understood the machines’ physical operation, which components failed and why, and the mean time between failures.
  • Purchased small inexpensive infrared temperature guns for all their mechanics. This helped the mechanics check operating temperatures of machine bearings, couplings, motors and gearboxes during their normal working shifts. The goal was to flag and address above-normal temperatures before failures occurred.
  • Utilized written feedback from corrective work orders to constantly change and enhance their existing PM program. For corrective type work order (WO), mechanics were required to write their root cause analysis, and the solution applied, on the hard copy of their corrective work orders. The PM program coordinator reviewed all corrective WO feedback after they were completed and made changes to PM’s when needed.
  • Kept their equipment extremely clean, which enabled maintenance team to easily spot any leaks or debris from component wear.
  • Installed small auto-lube units to provide automatic lube dispersion on a timed basis. These units were installed on critical bearings and machine components that received daily high pressure wash downs and were subject to harsh environmental issues. More comprehensive auto-lube systems were being engineered for automatic lube dispersion on a larger scale to many components throughout the plant.
  • Utilized lubrication vendors to assist them in designing their lube program, and used these vendors on an ongoing basis to help monitor lube effectiveness and make continuous improvements on possibly changing the lube type, application quantity and frequency.
  • Published the individual successes of the existing PM’s to their maintenance tradespeople and kept them up to date with CI changes. This helps eliminate the old-school "fix it when it breaks" mentality and encouraged the company’s new preventive maintenance culture.

What can a company expect if they assign qualified employees to plan and manage their PM program? What can an outside contractor bring to the mix.

But the companies that have poor or no PM programs certainly gain the most from outside support, especially if the plant equipment is old and not maintained, if spare parts storage is not well managed, if there’s no maintenance training or if there’s no discipline within the maintenance department. 

PM cost savings will obviously vary based on each company’s unique products and manufacturing processes. However, one frequent benefit of PM is a reduction in overtime wages and equipment run times to catch up on production schedules that were interrupted by unplanned breakdowns. These PM benefits are often overlooked when companies accrue cost savings.

Bring in experts who have been there

A lack of implementation expertise is the number one reason that PM programs fail.

The right professional assistance can help all companies develop a PM correctly from the start, support its internal PM team, and keep the momentum going. Make sure the people helping have ‘been there and done that’. The best team for the job includes people who have held maintenance management positions, have gone through the steps and have been held responsible for outcomes.

The size of the PM development team will depend on the size and complexity of the facility but in general, it should be relatively small: one project manager and one or two people who will design and implement the program and train your internal team.

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

Link to part 1: Why preventive maintenance fail and how to fix it.
Link to part 2: Six steps to design a preventive maintenance program.

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 is a CFE Media content Partner. Edited by Erin Dunne, production coordinator, CFE Media,

Original content can be found at