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Preventive Maintenance 101: How to Implement a Successful Program

If you’re a facility manager, you’ve probably heard some variation of the phrase “If it’s not broken, don't fix it.” This mentality may work in the short term, but constant reactive maintenance can actually waste thousands of dollars each year due to lack of consistent, proactive repairs. Unplanned asset failure is stressful and time-consuming for a facilities team to fix.

If your team still operates on a reactive approach to maintenance, it’s time for a change. A strong preventive maintenance plan is the key to keeping your equipment in safe, operable condition. Use this guide to preventive maintenance as your one-stop shop for understanding and implementing a successful program of your own this year. 

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What is preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance (also called “preventative” maintenance) is a systematic approach to building operations that aims to predict and prevent catastrophic equipment failures before they occur. To accomplish this goal, facilities personnel conduct routine inspections, maintenance and repairs on assets to ensure they work as the manufacturer intended. Functional equipment allows facilities staff members to focus less on reactive maintenance and more on upcoming maintenance tasks or time-sensitive work orders. 

Maintenance technician tracking preventive maintenance

As a rule of thumb, it’s better to prevent issues than react to them. Preventive maintenance reduces the likelihood of unexpected issues by promoting optimal equipment performance. The following list features a few ways facilities teams can stay on top of preventive maintenance in their departments:

  • Schedule and perform regular inspections of equipment

  • Conduct regular cleaning of buildings, grounds and assets 

  • Lubricate moving parts to reduce wear-and-tear

  • Adjust controls for optimal performance and energy efficiency

  • Repair and replace any defective equipment parts

Download the Facility Manager's Preventive Maintenance Toolkit

What are the four key action items of preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance takes a proactive approach towards maintenance and involves four key action items: inspection, detection, correction and prevention. Let’s take a closer look at how each concept is fundamental to a successful preventive maintenance program.   

  1. Inspection: Inspections are a necessary part of preventive maintenance and aid organizations in two ways. First, facility inspections ensure that equipment is safe to use. Regular inspections help prevent workplace injuries and provide a business with increased liability protection. Second, regular inspections protect property. Inspections ensure that equipment is functioning as the manufacturer intended.

  2. Detection: Operating on a run-to-failure approach can end up costing a facility department significant money, which is why many facility managers choose to utilize a preventive approach to maintenance. Preventive maintenance helps facility managers detect problems early, when issues are still relatively easy and inexpensive to fix.

  3. Correction: Preventive maintenance encourages facility managers to take a proactive approach towards equipment care and correct issues before they occur. If an issue (or potential issue) is detected, facility managers take steps to promptly address the problem before it worsens or shuts down operations.

  4. Prevention: Facility managers can combine inspection records and maintenance notes to learn from past mistakes and correct repeated issues with equipment. Prevention of asset failure reduces stress and increases productivity for facilities teams. When equipment works as inspected, staff can focus on proactive (rather than reactive) maintenance tasks.

What are the benefits of preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance has two overarching goals: to increase asset longevity and productivity and to keep people and assets safe from harm. Facility managers and their teams can use the principles of preventive maintenance to achieve various benefits, including the following:

  • Diminish excess depreciation of equipment

  • Prevent untimely breakdowns of critical equipment

  • Eliminate unnecessary inspections and maintenance tasks

  • Save money by extending the useful life of assets

  • Prepare for and prevent future issues from occurring 

“Reactive” vs. “Preventive” Maintenance:
What’s the difference?

In facility management, reactions to issues are unavoidable. Things can and will go wrong. However, facility managers can take steps to promote safety and reduce reactionary maintenance by taking a proactive approach towards fixes. Facility managers should start by understanding the benefits of proactive maintenance versus a reactive response.

  • Reactive maintenance focuses on diagnosing and fixing a problem once an asset has already broken down or malfunctioned. A maintenance technician identifies the issue that occurred and takes steps to restore the asset to operational condition.

  • Preventive maintenance emphasizes regularly scheduled maintenance tasks. The goal of preventive maintenance is to give an asset the care it requires while it’s still running. This approach actively minimizes the chance of failure, costly repairs and unscheduled downtime.  

Maintenance technician performing reactive maintenance in an office

A common misconception is that reactive maintenance is a bad thing. The truth is that most facilities departments experience a healthy balance between reactive maintenance and preventive maintenance throughout the year. This is because it is nearly impossible to predict and prevent all asset failures.

Reactive maintenance tasks should be minimized whenever possible. Neither occupants nor maintenance personnel enjoy dealing with a broken air conditioner or leaky pipe.

What are the different types of preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance can follow a time-based approach, a usage-based approach, or a combination of the two. Let’s look at examples of each.

Time-based Preventive Maintenance

Time-based preventive maintenance goes by a variety of names, a main one being "calendar-based" maintenance. No matter which term your department uses, this approach involves setting up a preventive maintenance schedule to perform regular inspections on pieces of equipment, especially those that would have a severe impact on production in the event of a breakdown. 

Time-based preventive maintenance is best used for bounded assets (such as fire/safety equipment) and critical assets (such as HVAC systems and pumps), though facility managers can use this approach for any asset that requires preventive maintenance. Here are a few examples to illustrate.

  1. “Inspect parking lot for cracks once a month”

  2. “Change air handling unit filters every three months”

  3. “Inspect water heaters semi-annually”

Usage-based Preventive Maintenance

Usage-based maintenance, also called “runtime maintenance,” is an approach that triggers maintenance after a certain amount of asset runtime (such as every “X” amount of kilometers, miles, hours or production cycles). 

Maintenance workers performing time-based preventive maintenance on parking lot

Usage-based preventive maintenance makes sure that equipment continues to operate as the manufacturer intended. Unlike time-based maintenance, which occurs on a more rigid schedule, usage-based maintenance occurs as often as an asset needs it, whether it’s every month or every six months — whichever comes first. Check out these examples of usage-based preventive maintenance.

  1. “Inspect belts every 100 hours of production”

  2. “Service motor vehicles every 5,000 miles”

  3. “Lubricate pumps every 10,000 run-hours”

How can preventive maintenance reduce risk in my facility?

All facilities face potential risks which, left unchecked, can put workers, occupants and goals of a business in jeopardy. Facility managers and their teams are responsible for securing these risks and upholding safety in a facility. A strong preventive maintenance plan can effectively reduce two types of risk to your buildings. Let’s take a look at each type.

Preventive maintenance reduces risk to people.

Facility managers have the power to prevent injuries and reduce employees’ days spent away from work. Preventive maintenance can be used to support safety and security of equipment for all occupants of a facility. 

Keep occupants safe by conducting recurring maintenance and inspections on dangerous machinery. Do the same with security cameras, door locks, fire extinguishers, emergency exit signs and any other asset that safeguards people from harm.

Preventive maintenance reduces risk to property.

Reactive maintenance can be expensive. Facility managers face hefty costs when an asset breaks down unexpectedly, including costs to diagnose the issue, replace parts and ultimately fix the problem. Preventive maintenance can dramatically reduce the likelihood of these risks. 

Facility managers should implement routine asset checks and planned maintenance to avoid costly fixes down the road. Use this Facility Inspection Preparation Checklist to determine assets you should regularly inspect.

Download Now: Facility Inspection Preparation Cheat Sheet

How do I create a preventive maintenance program that actually works?

Many facility managers like the idea of preventive maintenance, but quickly become frustrated by not knowing where to start. The good news is that implementing a proactive process can be painless if building teams develop a solid strategy and use the right tools. 

The quickest, easiest way to support a winning preventive maintenance program is by using a facility management software (FMS). A cutting-edge FMS can not only automate preventive maintenance tasks for you, it’ll also replace bulky stacks of paper and cluttered spreadsheets. Software holds your team accountable and provides them instant access to asset information and preventive maintenance protocols in the field.

Technician carrying out a preventive maintenance program task

Here are just a few other noteworthy ways facility management software can help your team get ahead and stay organized with preventive maintenance throughout the year. Make sure you're using the best maintenance software for your team.

  • Utilize location-based asset mapping to find and service equipment.
    Location-based asset mapping allows software users to filter through assets via an interactive floor plan map so they see only the asset pins they need. This feature is especially useful if a team member is assigned to inspect or service all assets of a certain type (i.e. inspect all emergency exit signs for burnt out bulbs) as part of a preventive maintenance program.

  • Use a work order and PM scheduling module to create recurring preventive maintenance tasks.
    Software makes work order management and preventive maintenance scheduling easy. You’ll have the ability to triage incoming service requests by building or floor, assign work orders to specific team members and receive automatic reminders of upcoming preventive maintenance tasks.

  • Upload asset documentation, receipts and proper O&M manuals for future reference.
    Software includes facility document management, which protects your most critical building documentation and grants instant access to it on the field where it matters most. You’ll be able to upload and store any document, including O&M manuals, warranty information, receipts and as-builts for commissioning reports.

  • Stay informed on preventive maintenance success with a data reporting dashboard.
    Many facility managers are data-driven and want to see evidence of success (or the need for improvement) through numbers. Some facility management software solutions feature a statistics dashboard, which serves as a one-stop-shop for departmental data. This data comes in handy when it comes time to draw up annual reports for your organization’s administrators.

  • Access PM information for assets out in the field via any electronic device.
    Facility management software gets your team up, moving and getting more work accomplished throughout the day. You’ll no longer need to be tied to your desktop computer and printer, since an FMS can function on any mobile device and eliminates the need to print out work orders for preventive maintenance tasks.

  • Scan QR codes to view preventive maintenance work orders for an asset.
    A QR code is a type of barcode that can be placed on equipment and assets within a facility. Use a mobile device with a camera to scan an asset’s QR code. With the scan of the barcode, your team will gain instant access to the asset’s PM history, as well as any upcoming maintenance tasks to be completed.

Click here to see facility management software capabilities in action and learn how they can help your department become more successful. 

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Where can I find more free resources on preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is an extensive topic. Facility managers should take the time to seek out a variety of resources on preventive maintenance in order to form a plan that works best for their facility. Not sure where to start? AkitaBox has you covered. We suggest exploring the following free resources to help jump start your new or revised preventive maintenance program.

  • Read AkitaBox’s Ultimate Preventative Maintenance Toolkit.
    Flipping a facility to a preventative maintenance model doesn’t need to be challenging. Break the cycle of reactive maintenance with AkitaBox’s Preventative Maintenance Toolkit, a free guide that gives you the information and tools you need to strategize for your department. Get your copy here.

  • Download AkitaBox’s Preventative Maintenance Checklist.
    Keep the focus on preventative maintenance versus reactive maintenance with the Ultimate Preventative Maintenance Checklist. This step-by-step checklist covers asset identification, naming conventions and data collection accuracy. Click here to get yours.

  • Check out AkitaBox’s Guide to Understanding and Implementing Preventive Maintenance.
    Thinking of implementing a new or improved preventive maintenance plan for your facilities? This resource covers the foundation of a proactive strategy, tips and tricks to implement a PM plan, and a timeline to fully implement and perfect your program. Download the guide here.

  • Speak with a facility management industry advisor.
    It’s a good idea to contact a facility management professional who can coach you through preventive maintenance best practices that will best suit your building and industry. Start by scheduling a time to speak with an AkitaBox advisor. Our friendly team is here to help and will work with you to determine a customized solution created just for you.

Implementing Preventive Maintenance in Your Facility

Facility managers who run a reactive maintenance-based program may view preventive maintenance as an overhead cost that is, at first, difficult to justify. But all it takes is one serious accident or significant period of downtime to demonstrate how important it is to undertake a program of proactive maintenance strategies.

The most successful maintenance strategies value preventive maintenance as its main focus. By staying ahead on maintenance and repair, your department will realize major cost savings and higher asset reliability. Stay informed on the latest preventive maintenance strategies in AkitaBox’s Preventative Maintenance Toolkit. This comprehensive resource explains how to collect and update asset data, how to document facility audits and inspections and how to effectively budget for your new PM program. Download the free toolkit here.

Download the Facility Manager's Preventive Maintenance Toolkit

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