Getting it just right. Pros and cons of preventative maintenance

Dec 1, 2020 12:23:30 PM By Tom Wilcock
Getting it just right. Pros and cons of preventative maintenance

Preventive maintenance extends the life span of assets, reduces business downtime, saves you money and improves compliance. Sounds great. What’s not to like?

Preventive Maintenance Vs Reactive Maintenance

On the other hand, reactive maintenance (or unplanned maintenance) is the process of repairing equipment that has already broken down. Although reactive maintenance is a vital part of any FM regime, it can be an expensive and disruptive way of maintaining assets over time.

PPM is there to improve the way you use resources. It reduces your reliance on costly, emergency ‘fixes’. It keeps equipment functioning longer and helps you manage repairs and replacements before those needs become critical.

Many CMMS and CAFM tools give you the power to integrate PPM into your working routine through automated scheduling, task management and reporting - but is it worth it?

Advantages of preventive maintenance

Reduces costs

Unplanned maintenance costs 3 to 9 times more than planned maintenance. A sudden and unexpected failure of a piece of critical machinery or equipment can require a business to shut down entirely while repairs are undertaken.

Even small repairs can impact on productivity if they interrupt someone’s working day, and keep having to be repeated. Planned, routine maintenance can prevent those failures and be scheduled to take place at times where little or no downtime will be incurred.

Extends the life-span of assets

Maintaining equipment properly extends its life span. Regular servicing and replacing components before they wear out keeps assets working for longer. For expensive pieces of kit, the ROI involved in extending lifespan is obvious. And for some equipment like HVAC, water systems etc, regular PPM is required to keep it functioning safely, reliably and in a compliant way.

It’s energy-efficient

Equipment that’s not looked after properly can be more costly to operate, as it degrades, slows down, and becomes generally less effective over time. Regular maintenance, cleaning and servicing can optimise its performance, increase energy efficiency and reduce running costs.

It’s a better use of time and resource

With a purely reactive maintenance policy you can be always on the back foot; reacting to changing needs, juggling time and resource to prioritise urgent tasks. PPM hands the control back to you. You can plan maintenance trips across multiple sites in a systematic way and ensure the right teams are going out with the right equipment for the job.

Disadvantages of preventive maintenance

There is such a thing as ‘over maintenance’

Depending on the value of the asset and the potential impact on the business of its failure, PPM can be a waste of time and money. There are some assets whose failure or time to fix just does not represent significant disruption, downtime or cost to a business to justify the effort. At the same time, some pieces of equipment are more prone to failure through over inspection, for example, if they are dismantled too frequently or inexpertly.

It can’t prevent every failure

Some research suggests that as much as 82% of asset failures are completely random and, therefore, wouldn’t be predicted and solved by PPM, anyway.

PPM can inflate other costs

In a PPM scenario teams can become over-zealous; often unnecessarily replacing equipment and components. One study into PPM discovered that 30% of planned maintenance activities are carried out too frequently, which is a main driver of waste in its own right.

Done right, PPM is a powerful tool

But there’s no doubt that PPM is a powerful and necessary tool. Every day, we can see evidence of disruption caused by unplanned maintenance in the workplace. And regular servicing and maintenance is often a compliance requirement in its own right. In many cases, the H&S risk of failing to spot a potentially malfunctioning asset is too serious to ignore.

What’s more, if 80% of asset failure is random, that means 20% is age-related or has some other identifiable and preventable cause.

And if 20% of your major asset failure can be prevented or the asset replaced before it fails, surely that deserves your attention.

Even so, IBM still found that most companies could cut their preventive maintenance by up to 50% and not see their business or profits adversely affected.

So, how can you focus your PPM activity where it counts

First, you need to identify the places where preventative maintenance will be most effective. For example, those assets or systems that:

  • Are business or operationally critical
  • Where regular checks are a statutory requirement
  • Have modes of failure that can be prevented (and not increased) through regular maintenance
  • Where the chance of failure increases with time or use.

Then you need to plan your PPM approach using the right digital tools.

5 ways PPM tools within CAFM systems can help you optimise your approach

  1. The right CAFM will ensure required PPM activities are properly documented and available for the engineer who undertakes them. Checklists associated with PPM tasks can help engineers understand exactly what they should be doing and give a repeatable structure to the task.
  2. With routine tasks, it’s easy to slip into autopilot. Your CAFM should ensure the outcome of the task is properly documented by the engineer every time work is done. Well designed, simple to follow workflows should encourage data capture at the right time for future decision-making.
  3. PPM tools should capture maintenance history and make it accessible to engineers. Where data has been correctly captured, the engineer can see if the asset has deteriorated significantly since it was last checked. This will help them make better judgements about when it should be replaced in order to achieve a first-time fix. It can also show if more frequent inspections are required.
  4. PPM tools should help you optimise your approach based on data. The CAFM tools you use should help you understand if an asset is regularly breaking down between maintenance events, or decide if it is being checked too frequently. It should then let you increase or decrease the frequency of required checks as necessary.
  5. A well structured and complete asset register helps you determine what planned and compliance measures you need to be putting in place and prompt you accordingly. This will give you have a much clearer, data driven understanding of how to pull your budgets together.

PPM is an important part of the FM tool kit. But you should be selective about the assets and systems you choose to maintain in this way, to strike the right balance between planned and reactive maintenance. The digital tools you choose will also make a big difference to the success of your programme. It shouldn’t take an IT specialist to prepare the data for upload into your chosen CAFM or set up the required schedules. And it shouldn’t take weeks or months to get the programme started.

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