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3 Simple Steps to a Preventative Maintenance Schedule

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Update 12/11/17: this post has been updated with additional information about how to set up a preventative maintenance schedule.

As I fly down an overly steep hill, I realize that nine times out of ten, when my bike breaks down, it’s my fault.

I didn’t oil the chain, inflate the tires enough, or tighten down my saddlebags enough. Maybe these brakes are past due. In other words, I failed to perform the basic preventative maintenance needed to keep me safe.

Having a schedule and routine for your maintenance management can keep your entire operation running smoothly, and save you from last minute headaches.

Getting a good system in place isn’t difficult—just follow these three steps, and you’ll be running smoothly in no time.

Step one: Take an inventory

3 Simple Steps to a Preventative Maintenance Schedule

You can’t keep everything running the way it’s supposed to without knowing what you’ve got to pay attention to.

In my first job as a café manager, I took over the position after it had been vacant for six months. It wasn’t until months after I started that we discovered a panel under the bar that we’d never noticed. Yeah—those water filters needed to be changed.

There are plenty of hidden pieces in any operation, tucked away until they break down and you suddenly discover them. These weak links need to be rooted out and cataloged.

Any maintenance management system you use is going to make this database of assets the core of its operations. Each asset should also be assigned a tracking number or bar code. Many maintenance management software options allow you to print bar codes right in the system, making this step relatively painless.

The unique identifiers give you a consistent way to name your assets so that you don’t end up with “Boiler01, Boiler02, AirCompThirdBasement” or some equally horrific naming structure.

And your assets aren’t the only things to inventory.

Don’t just know what to fix—know what you want (your goals for the preventative maintenance program), and who will be responsible (which technicians or office staff will schedule, carry out, and monitor the program). And, while you’re at it, it’s a good idea to know which specific tools you’ll need for the assets you monitor.

View this first step as taking care of those five W’s every journalist learns:

  • Who (the technicians)
  • What (the assets included in the plan)
  • Where (their location)
  • When (the schedule itself)
  • Why (the desired financial goals and metrics)

Step two: Get your assets ready for maintenance

3 Simple Steps to a Preventative Maintenance Schedule

Once everything is in your catalog, figure out where you stand. Check each asset’s current state, and figure out how it matches up to the manufacturer’s recommendation. On my bike, this is where I discover the lack of air in my tires or the wear on my brake pads.

That first boiler might be in OK shape, but maybe you discover that the second boiler has a busted pressure gauge. Great! You’re on your way to fixing a problem before it becomes a catastrophe.

Get each asset into decent shape before you start a maintenance program. If your boiler needs immediate attention, give it that attention. If you think the pressure gauge is just a little off or if there could be a little buildup in that hose, don’t kill yourself just yet—focus on getting things in a state where they’re ready to be maintained.

And don’t just check your assets, prioritize them, too.

Look at this as triage: which assets are the most important (schedule them first), and which are older, or less important (figure them out later, or, if an asset’s old enough, consider basic reactive maintenance).

Use the manufacturer’s recommendations to create a maintenance schedule. This is where your software will save you the most time. Most systems will allow you to add photos, manuals, and notes to an asset, so all the information you need next time is right in one place.

Instead of hunting down Tom to figure out why this thing is missing a leg, anyone can check the maintenance log associated with the asset.

Step three: Do it

3 Simple Steps to a Preventative Maintenance Schedule

Now that everything is in and ready to go, your system will start generating work orders for preventative maintenance based on your demands. You can assign specific techs to jobs, have work orders auto-assign, or set up a priority system, based on your workforce.

Each asset can have multiple types of maintenance schedules—weekly, monthly, annually—and you can shift timelines as you see fit, keeping maintenance all on one day of the week or spreading it out.

The value of preventative maintenance is undeniable. In one study, researchers found that preventative maintenance costs were only 10 to 30% of the cost of reactive maintenance. Another study from Jones Lang LaSalle found a 545% return on investment for preventative maintenance. That’s stupidly high.

But you don’t get that value just by having everything lined up. There’s no value to unfulfilled work orders and a handful of leftover parts. The value from preventative maintenance is in doing it—the cost of overlooking it is catastrophe.

Getting started with the right software

The value is there and you know it’s the right thing to do. Save yourself cash, time, and headaches and get a preventative maintenance plan in place as soon as you can.

For software options, check out Capterra’s full maintenance management directory.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think my lack of preventative maintenance on the bike has led to some required emergency maintenance on my arm. Is it supposed to bend like this?

Looking for Maintenance Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Maintenance Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Geoff Hoppe

Geoff Hoppe writes about business intelligence and field service management for Capterra. His background is in education and higher ed, but he’s interested these days in how small businesses can use software to be more agile and efficient. When he’s not reading and writing about software, he’s probably reading and writing about history, music and comic books, finding new hikes throughout Virginia, or following the Fighting Irish.

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