Improving your company’s preventive maintenance (PM) program can feel overwhelming. PM processes often develop organically as new machinery and equipment comes into play, old equipment is phased out, and new reliability strategies become available. This eventually results in a cumbersome set of processes that can overlook important and costly aspects of maintenance.
If you’re lucky, your home-grown preventive maintenance processes haven’t become too convoluted, in which case you may be able to incorporate them into your new system. Otherwise, you have a choice—start from scratch or sift through existing processes to determine what, if anything, can be salvaged. Whatever your situation, the following five steps will help you create a streamlined, effective set of routine and preventive maintenance processes.
Assess all Equipment
Assessing machinery is a time-consuming, but vital step for any maintenance improvement. Begin by noting every detail about each piece of machinery, including:
- Downtime costs
- History of repairs / maintenance
- How often asset is in operation
- Life expectancy
- Total hours of operation.
Include information specific to each piece of machinery, then ask the following questions:
- How much effort is needed to maintain the equipment?
- Is replacement cheaper than maintenance for older models?
- Is the replacement cost worth shutdown times?
- Does existing machinery pose a safety hazard?
- Do you have enough equipment to meet the plant’s goals?
- Can your parts inventory assure quick repairs?
The Human Element
Once you have your machinery assessed, it’s time to look at the human factor. The reliability industry is nothing without adequate, well-trained staff. Answer the following questions:
- Are your staff qualified to perform routine / preventive maintenance on all plant equipment?
- Will you need help from third party services?
- Do you have the workforce needed to ensure all machinery receives maintenance?
- Are you covered in the event of injuries or leaves of absence?
- Who cares for which equipment?
- Who issues work orders and how?
- How are staff held accountable for their responsibilities?
Throughout this process, communicate with staff so they understand your PM goals. Assign each staff member specific tasks and specific equipment. Don’t make this a one-way conversation—staff members working the plant floor often have insight and suggestions that can improve PM processes. Provide each employee with checklists for assigned equipment to ensure all vital maintenance steps are accomplished.
Schedule and Inspect
You’ll need to create a new PM schedule. A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is indispensable at this point, allowing you to build a database of information on each machine and assign equipment specific maintenance times. Many such systems now come with predictive software to help forecast when equipment is most likely to need servicing.
Despite the power of a CMMS, don’t rely completely on your schedule. Make regular visual inspections of each machine to help identify small problems before they develop into catastrophic failures.
As part of your PM processes, make a point to document everything. This doesn’t just mean work orders, repairs, and maintenance histories. Keep user manuals, equipment guidelines, OSHA standards, and other documents related to reliability processes filed in a well-organized system. Not only does this make locating information easier, careful documentation also helps prove due diligence in the event of an accident or dispute over broken equipment.
Review, Rethink, Redesign
Once you implement your maintenance improvements, take time to step back and look at your new system with a critical eye. Look for signs of weakness and areas of improvement. Analyze the reports your CMMS generates, and see if you can spot potential problems. A good maintenance program is always improving.