How to optimize your Preventive Maintenance (PM) program – 101

If you find yourself on this page, it is likely because you are seeking to enhance the efficiency of your existing Preventive Maintenance (PM) program. As detailed in another blog post, your current PM program may exhibit one or more of the following problems: Subjective tasks, intrusive tasks, lack of predictive and data-driven maintenance and lack of actual findings.

This article will teach how to revamp your existing PM program to bring tangible value, such as enhancing plant reliability, reducing costs, and optimizing resource allocation. Herein, we present a comprehensive framework consisting of seven strategic steps, derived from our extensive experience across various industries over the years, to optimize and rejuvenate your PM program: 

1. Strategic session

The initial step in approaching a PM optimization process involves conducting a strategic session. This session aims to establish several key elements such as the expected outcomes, including the vision and the ruleset for the revamped PM program. 

1.2 Select a Team 

To begin, establish the team that will actively participate not just in the strategy session but also throughout the entire process. We recommend involving 3 to 5 individuals from the maintenance, reliability, and production departments. This approach ensures that all critical stakeholders, such as the maintenance manager, reliability engineer, production manager, lead maintenance technicians, and others, are consulted during the formulation of the ruleset.  

Note that this team should convene together at each stage of the process to verify that the developments align coherently with the plant’s vision and the anticipated reliability and maintenance workflow. 

1.3 Select a strategy

Next, it is necessary to outline the approach we intend to employ for the PMs development. There exist various strategies for this purpose, including FMEA, RCM, and failure modes-based methodologies. The choice of strategy largely hinges on the criticality of the equipment or assets under consideration for this project. Based on our experience, opting for a failure modes-based approach is likely to address around 95% of potential failures and proves to be the fastest strategy when compared to others. You can gain a deeper understanding of the distinctions between FMEA, RCM, and Failure Mode Based methodologies and when to use them.

1.4 Define the ruleset

Next, we aim to define the ruleset that will guide the implementation of PMs. To begin, assess the existing technology and resources available at your plant. This includes determining if you have access to tools like vibration analysis, IR thermography, ultrasonic equipment, oil analysis, etc. Additionally, consider who will be contributing to the new PM program, including mechanics, electricians, operators, contractors, and others. Once this is established, also evaluate any missing technologies that you may wish to incorporate into your enhanced PM program.

After selecting the desired technologies, the subsequent steps involve determining the specific details to be included for each task. For each task, it is strongly recommended to include the following essential details, as they will highly facilitate scheduling and planning of PMs once fully developed: the associated failure modes, required labor, frequency, estimated time per task, and equipment status. 

Also, templates of standard components can be defined to accelerate the process: 

Example of a template for control valves

These elements constitute the fundamental task details. To elevate your PM program to a higher level of objectivity, it is also advisable to consider including the following details for each task when deemed necessary: photographs and/or diagrams, measurements with minimum/maximum/target values, lockout/tagout procedures, and any other relevant information to create a PM program that is as objective as possible. 

1.5 Define the deliverable

Then, it’s crucial to determine which tool you’ll employ for 1. Creating your PM program and 2. Running your PM program. Whether you opt for an Excel file, Word document, preventive maintenance software, or a CMMS software, it’s essential to define the tool being used for both aspects. This is important because the capabilities of your chosen platform will significantly impact data collection and task development. For example, Excel does not smoothly incorporate images. 

Example of a PM route in a PDF format

1.6 Define the scope

Next, based on our experience, once the ruleset is defined, instead of starting the PMO process across the entire site, we advise initiating the PM optimization process in a specific area or with a short list of assets. By doing so, you’ll become accustomed to the process, making it easier to roll out on a larger scale in a subsequent phase. Also, this initial phase not only serves as an adaptation period for a second larger phase but also yields quicker results than attempting to cover the entire site. This can be instrumental in gaining your team’s buy-in when they witness the before-and-after comparison upon project completion. 

2. Hierarchy breakdown and failure mode identification

Once the project scope is determined, an often overlooked step is breaking down the selected area and assets included in the project’s scope. What we mean by this is that, for each functional location, we recommend breaking it down to identify every component included within the assets. A practical approach is to list all components in the order of their occurrence within a system. For example, in a drive system, you would list Motor-coupling-pump in sequence. 

This breakdown is crucial because the subsequent steps are first, identify all potential failure modes for each component and second, elaborate tasks to mitigate these failures as effectively as possible. Often, when the hierarchical breakdown exercise is inaccurate or skipped, the PM development may not adequately address all potential failure modes. 

Then, as mentioned above, you should list down all potential failure modes for each component. Identifying failure modes is a systematic process that entails evaluating all conceivable ways an asset can malfunction. To do so, do a brainstorming exercise with the strategic team, look into referencing manuals, and conduct on-field physical inspections. Brainstorming potential failure scenarios and prioritizing them based on their impact is essential. Analyzing historical data and seeking expert input can also reveal hidden failure modes.  

3. Gathering of all existing maintenance strategies

At this point, with a clearly defined ruleset from step 1 and a comprehensive list of components and failure mode to consider in the PM program, the recommended approach is to collect all existing maintenance strategies pertaining to the scope of work. This entails examining the CMMS, Excel files, paper procedures, and any other relevant documentation, regardless of associated labor. This information should encompass insights from electricians, mechanical technicians, operators, predictive maintenance team, reliability team, contractors, and anyone involved in preventive and predictive maintenance. Conducting this exercise serves three primary purposes:  

  1. It can provide valuable insights into tasks that should be retained in the new PM program. 
  2. Identify subjective tasks that shouldn’t be include in the new PM program 
  3. It often reveals that a lot of different groups of labor are looking at the same assets in silos, leading to tasks overlap and over maintenance for certain equipment.  

Those points will be discussed in the following steps. 

4. Elimination of Non-Value-Added Tasks

With all existing tasks in hand, the next step involves eliminating non-value-added tasks, which can be categorized into two specific types:

  1. Tasks that do not address any failure mode and
  2. Overlapping tasks. 

Regarding tasks that do not address any failure mode, we refer to these tasks as the subjective tasks. Tasks such as “inspect pump” or “check motor,” are examples of tasks that are not covering any specific failure modes. We strongly advise removing these tasks from your PM program. As highlighted in the Blog Article titled “Signs that your PM program is ineffective and inaccurate”, these tasks do not contribute any specific value to your PM program. 

Secondly, as you consolidate all existing PMs, it’s likely you’ll identify redundant tasks performed by different trades at similar frequencies. This redundancy leads to unnecessary maintenance activities and underutilizes resources. For instance, operators may inspect a component during their rounds in the morning, followed by mechanical technicians conducting a daily PM on the same component, electricians inspecting it weekly, and PdM technicians taking vibration readings once a week. To optimize resource utilization in your PM program, we recommend eliminating all redundant tasks and optimizing and adding new tasks according to what was established in the ruleset. 

5. Optimize every tasks to Value-Added PM

Now that you’ve removed all non-value-added tasks, gathered your existing PM program, and identified all failure modes for your components, it’s time to bridge any gaps. At this stage, based on the ruleset defined in step 1 and the technologies incorporated into the new program, it’s essential to create tasks that address all the identified failure modes. It’s important to note that one task can encompass multiple failure modes. 

Here are four key areas to focus on: 

  1. Maximize Resource Efficiency: Combine tasks strategically to make the most of your resources. For instance, if you already have a PdM technician conducting a weekly vibration analysis on a critical motor, consider having them also inspect mounting bolts, ensure the air-entry grid is unobstructed, and listen for unusual noises. By consolidating tasks, you utilize your resources efficiently and avoid redundant inspections. 
  2. Include Measurements and Objective Tasks: Emphasize tasks that incorporate measurements and objective criteria to reduce reliance on individual judgment. For instance, instead of a task like “inspect oil level,” opt for a task like “inspect oil level, minimum 6L, maximum 7L, target 6.5L.” This makes tasks more standardized and less dependent on the inspector’s interpretation. 
  3. Prioritize Predictive Maintenance: Prioritize predictive maintenance and data-driven tasks whenever possible. As depicted in the P-F curve, strive to incorporate a maximum number of predictive maintenance and data-driven tasks into your program. These predictive maintenance tasks furnish maintenance teams with crucial data, allowing them to precisely determine when maintenance is required. By identifying problems before they escalate, you will be able to extend the lifespan of your assets and minimize downtime. 

4. Prioritize Non-Intrusive Tasks: Prioritize non-intrusive maintenance tasks to minimize equipment downtime and productivity losses. The primary objective of a reliability and maintenance team is to uphold equipment performance and minimize downtime. Hence, it is crucial to minimize intrusive tasks because they necessitate equipment stoppage, leading directly to productivity losses. A prime example of typical intrusive tasks includes “Tear-down inspection” and “Visual inspection of couplings”. For example, instead of stopping equipment to inspect the rubber of the coupling, consider employing a non-intrusive strobe light inspection method. This enables you to accurately assess coupling conditions for cracks, deterioration, and discoloration while the equipment remains operational. 

It’s worth noting that most PdM technologies are executed while equipment is in operation. Therefore, if the emphasis is on extensively deploying PdM technologies, as mentioned earlier, there should be limited reliance on intrusive methods, reducing the planned downtime for PMs. 

6. Use failure history to fill gaps

At this stage, approximately 95% of the work is complete because all failure modes should should be addressed in the previous step. Altought, we suggest also utilizing failure history to fill gaps is a critical step in the process of optimizing a Preventive Maintenance Program (PMO) after conducting a thorough analysis of failure modes. This step involves examining historical data and performance records of equipment and systems to identify patterns and trends in failures and breakdowns. 

By scrutinizing past failures, organizations can gain valuable insights into the root causes of these issues. This information allows them to create PM tasks that will address specific weaknesses revealed by historical failures that might have been missed during the initial PMO exercise. 

7. Smart deployment to maximize resources

At this point, all your tasks are completed and your new PM program is ready for implementation. The subsequent step involves deploying these tasks. An all-too-common mistake we’ve observed in the past is that many plants invest a lot of resource to go through steps 1 to 6, either on their own or with the assistance of a partner—these initial steps are relatively straightforward. However, challenges tend to emerge when it comes time to execute the deployment. 

Imagine investing countless hours in developing a program to increase potential failure findings, reduce planned downtime, maximize your resources and ultimately increase your plant’s performance and then the decision is to deploy your PM program with paper-based inspections… Paper inspections entail the laborious process of printing paper forms, distributing inspection sheets, manually entering inspection results into your database, and individually creating work orders. This outdated process is far from efficient. As crazy as it sounds, this is a practice we encounter daily. 

In today’s labor-constrained environment where finding valuable resources is increasingly challenging, maximizing resource utilization is imperative. This being said, why not opt for digital PMs? 

With digital PMs, the personnel responsible for task execution can directly input their findings, generate work orders, capture images, add comments, and more. This transition to digital PMs not only saves time but also facilitates the tracking of corrective actions, enables trend analysis over time, and allows for monitoring asset health. Numerous software solutions are available for this purpose, and my sincere advice is to at least explore these possibilities. After investing significant time in creating and refining your PM program, you must ensure that you deploy it in a manner that enables you to realize its full potential ROI.

This article, entitled “How to optimize your PM program – 101”, presents a seven-step guide to optimizing your preventive maintenance (PM) program. The aim is to improve PM efficiency, reduce costs and optimize resource allocation. Here’s a summary of each step:  

Strategy session: Start by organizing a strategy session to establish the expected results and vision of your optimized PM. Assemble a team of maintenance, reliability and production representatives to define the rules of the new program.  

Dismantle the hierarchy and identify failure modes: Break down the areas and assets included in the project, identify the components of each asset, and list all possible failure modes. This ensures complete coverage of potential failure modes.  

Collect all existing maintenance strategies: Gather all existing maintenance strategies relevant to the project. This helps you identify which tasks should be retained, eliminate subjective tasks and avoid task redundancy.  

Eliminate non-value-added tasks: Remove irrelevant tasks, especially subjective tasks that don’t cover specific failure modes. Eliminate redundant tasks performed by different workgroups.  

Optimize all tasks for added value: Create tasks that cover all identified failure modes, maximizing resource efficiency, including objective measures and tasks, and prioritizing predictive maintenance.  

Use failure history to close gaps: Analyze failure history to identify trends and causes of failure. Use this information to adjust your PM to address revealed weaknesses.  

Intelligent deployment to maximize resources: To implement your new PM, opt for digital management methods rather than paper. Going digital saves time, tracks corrective actions and improves asset management.  

By following these seven steps, you can optimize your preventive maintenance program to improve plant reliability, reduce costs and maximize resource utilization. 

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