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Why Preventive Maintenance Fails (and How to Fix It)

Dec. 15, 2015
If developing a PM program is such no brainer, why doesn’t every company have one in place? Part 1 of a 3-part series  

Is your facility struggling to design an effective preventive maintenance (PM) program? An endless parade of books and articles tell us how to “do” PM. But it’s one thing to read and another entirely to implement.

If you’re on this path, know that preventive maintenance (PM) should not be confused with predictive maintenance (PDM), which is a series of dynamic inspections of machine components while the machines are operating in their normal production modes.

Here’s what great preventive maintenance programs should include:

  • Scheduled inspections and lubrication samplings that determine the physical state of machine components.
  • The lubrications, adjustments and documentation of needed repairs identified during inspections, which prevent unnecessary wear and failure of machine components.
  • To ensure safety and maximize production uptime, inspections and repairs should happen during scheduled plant shut downs when all machines are safely locked out.

If developing a PM program is such no brainer, why doesn’t every company have one in place?

1. We didn’t lay the groundwork/ have the right systems.

Designing and implementing a PM program requires a very different mind-set than operating and managing a normal maintenance department. PM begins with understanding your facility’s goals, setting performance standards for equipment, documenting preventive maintenance procedures and schedules, then uploading it all to your computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). If your company’s in-house experts can initiate and manage these tasks, great. If not, find a qualified PM manager, or contract with a capable PM consulting firm that can get (and keep) the ball rolling.

2. Other things got in the way; we never finished.

Companies delay or stall their PM program for a variety of reasons: A big order comes in and it’s all hands on deck. Raw materials are delayed and we have to play catch up when they arrive.  We can’t seem to find a week when all our key maintenance employees don’t have other priorities. But the main reason companies fail at PM is because they haven’t included a profit motive: They haven’t incorporated a way to benchmark and track the savings that their PM program generates.

3. We didn’t roll it out correctly.

Companies that fail quickest simply hand over PM implementation to their maintenance staff without the proper training and oversight/management.

Make sure you focus your objectives, create PM tasks correctly the first time around, train your team, oversee all the implementation details and ensure you create a management program that will sustain your PM program’s success.

4. Our PM activities aren’t correctly weighted because we don’t understand why breakdowns occur.

When PM task details are not written to address the root causes of breakdowns, you may be focusing on things that don’t really impact productivity.  If your company has a good work order system in place, measurements can easily be made using basic CMMS reports to measure the effectiveness of your program over time.

To minimize unplanned machine downtime, a well-designed PM program typically allocates 80% to 90% of its time to machine component inspections and 10% to 20% to lubrications.

Daniel Penn Associates senior consultant Ken Staller has more than 30 years of project engineering, project management and maintenance management experience in machine manufacturing, pulp and paper, pharmaceutical and automotive industries. Staller owned and managed his own preventive maintenance firm that provided hands-on preventive and predictive maintenance services, maintenance audits, procedure writing and diagnostic services. He is a certified site supervisor for asbestos abatement and for acidified foods manufacturing plants. He has completed numerous courses including energy auditing, refrigeration, hydraulics and pneumatics, business organization, supervision and management and personal achievement. Staller served in the U.S. Marine Corps, receiving an Honorable Discharge in 1972.

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