What is preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance (or preventative maintenance) is regularly and routinely performed on physical assets to reduce the chances of equipment failure and unplanned machine downtime. Effective preventive maintenance is planned and scheduled based on real-time data insights, often using software like a CMMS. A preventive maintenance task is performed while the equipment is still working to prevent unexpected breakdowns. A preventive maintenance strategy is a commonly used approach that falls between reactive maintenance (or run-to-failure) and predictive maintenance.

Build your own preventive maintenance schedule with this template

Why is preventive maintenance important?

Preventive maintenance is important because it lays the foundation for successful facility management. Preventive maintenance keeps equipment and assets running efficiently, maintains a high safety level for your employees, and helps you avoid large and costly repairs down the road. Overall, a properly functioning preventive maintenance program ensures operational disruptions are kept to a minimum.

Why do you need a preventive maintenance schedule?

A preventive maintenance schedule helps you organize and prioritize your maintenance tasks (like creating a work order) so that a maintenance technician can create the best working condition and life span for the equipment. By conducting regular preventive maintenance, you can ensure your equipment continues to operate efficiently and safely.

Maintaining a preventive maintenance schedule can be very complex when dealing with lots of equipment, so maintenance personnel often use preventive maintenance software to organize their preventive maintenance tasks.

Use this template to build your own preventive maintenance schedule

Types of preventive maintenance

There are many different types of preventive maintenance. A variation of these types of preventive maintenance should ideally be scheduled and performed on all equipment items to prevent unplanned failure. Below are examples of each type of preventive maintenance.

  • Time-based maintenance (TBM): A time-based approach schedules a preventive maintenance task using a set time interval, such as every 10 days. Other examples include triggering preventive maintenance (like a regular inspection of critical equipment) on the first day of every month or once in a three-month period.
  • Usage-based maintenance (UBM): Usage-based preventive maintenance triggers a maintenance action when asset usage hits a certain benchmark. This can include after a certain number of kilometers, hours, or production cycles. An example of this trigger is routine maintenance being scheduled on a motor vehicle every 10,000km.
  • Condition-based maintenance (CBM): Condition-based maintenance is a form of proactive maintenance. It's a maintenance strategy that monitors the actual condition of an asset to determine what maintenance tasks need to be done. Condition-based maintenance dictates that maintenance should only be performed when specific indicators show signs of decreasing performance or upcoming failure. For example, preventive maintenance will be scheduled when vibration on a certain component reaches a certain threshold, indicating that it should be replaced or lubricated.
  • Predictive maintenance (PdM): Uses condition-monitoring tools and techniques to track the performance and condition of equipment. Maintenance is then performed when certain thresholds or parameters are breached. Examples include monitoring vibration in bearings or checking for thermal hotspots in electrical systems.

When should I use preventive maintenance?

The exact timing of when you should use preventive maintenance will vary depending on the equipment and the operation it is performing. You can follow the manufacturer guidelines to help determine preventive maintenance schedules and inspections so that assets do not run to failure.

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Suitable preventive maintenance applications

Assets suitable for preventive maintenance include those that:

  • Have failure modes that can be prevented (and not increased) with regular maintenance
  • Have a likelihood of failure that increases with time or use
  • Are critical to production, operations, or health and safety
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Unsuitable preventive maintenance applications

Assets that are unsuitable for preventive maintenance include those that:

  • Have random failures that are unrelated to maintenance (such as circuit boards)
  • Do not serve a critical function
  • Require costly repairs that are more expensive than running it to failure

Preventive maintenance examples

Common examples of preventive maintenance tasks are regular cleaning, lubrication, replacing of parts, and equipment repairs. Preventive maintenance scheduling requirements differ depending on the equipment being maintained.

Specific examples of preventive maintenance within a manufacturing facility include ensuring equipment in the production line is working efficiently. Other examples include checking that your HVAC, heating, ventilation, or air conditioning systems are inspected, cleaned, and repaired if necessary, and your water, sanitation, and electrical systems are functioning properly within safety and compliance levels.

Advantages of preventive maintenance

Preventive maintenance, when executed effectively, offers numerous advantages to organizations, industries, and individual equipment users. Here are some of the key advantages:

  • Reduced downtime: Scheduled maintenance prevents unexpected equipment failures that can lead to operational disruptions.
  • Extended equipment life: Regular care and servicing can significantly prolong the life of machinery and equipment.
  • Cost savings: Though preventive maintenance requires upfront costs, in the long run, it can save organizations significant amounts of money by preventing expensive emergency repairs and replacements.
  • Improved safety: Well-maintained equipment is less likely to malfunction in ways that could endanger workers or users.
  • Increased efficiency: Regular maintenance ensures that machinery and equipment operate at peak efficiency, often resulting in energy savings and optimal output.

Challenges of preventive maintenance

While preventive maintenance offers numerous advantages, it's essential to understand its potential drawbacks or challenges. Here are some of the disadvantages associated with preventive maintenance:

  • Upfront costs: Preventive maintenance often requires an initial investment in terms of resources, equipment, training, and system setup. These costs can be daunting for some organizations, especially small businesses.
  • Possible over-maintenance: If not carefully planned, equipment might be serviced more frequently than necessary, leading to wasted time and resources.
  • Resource commitment: Regular maintenance checks require dedicated personnel, which might strain the available manpower in some organizations.
  • Equipment downtime: Even though the idea is to prevent unplanned downtime, scheduled maintenance itself can lead to operational pauses, which need to be managed.
  • Complex scheduling: As the number of assets grows, scheduling preventive maintenance for each piece of equipment can become complex.

Preventive maintenance makes a big impact

Preventive maintenance, or PM, is regular, planned maintenance scheduled according to usage or time-based triggers. The purpose of PM is to lessen the likelihood of equipment breakdowns. There are many instances in which preventive is the best maintenance strategy to use, and it's much easier to carry out a PM strategy with the help of maintenance software, like CMMS software.

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