TMCnet Feature
September 20, 2021

How to Approach Preventative Maintenance for Physical and Digital Assets

Whether you run an ecommerce business, manage a warehouse, or manage a fleet, having a preventative maintenance strategy in place is paramount to your long-term growth and success.

However, you aren’t going to develop one overnight. It takes a lot of planning and strategic execution.

The ‘Why’ of Preventative Maintenance

Businesses can employ two types of maintenance strategies with their physical and digital assets: reactive maintenance and preventative maintenance.

Reactive maintenance subscribes to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality. It’s the idea that you should wait for something to go wrong before you take care of it.

This can be a cost-effective approach in the short term, but usually ends up being much more costly when viewed through a long-term lens.

Preventative maintenance takes the opposite approach. It says that it’s better to address something before it becomes an issue. The objective is to avoid large, expensive, and more disruptive repair issues down the road.

Initially, preventative maintenance feels pointless. But if you stick with it for long enough, you’ll eventually see why it’s such a superior alternative to the traditional reactive approach to maintenance. Here are a few specific benefits:

  • Saves money. It may seem unnecessary in the short term (because you’re repairing and maintaining parts and systems that are technically working just fine at the moment), but a preventative maintenance strategy always saves money in the long run.

For example, it might take $10,000 to bolster part of a system. But in doing so, you could be preventing a $100,000 problem if that one part were to be compromised and shut the entire system down.

  • Avoids unplanned downtime. Few things can hurt a business as much as unplanned downtime. Whether it’s a server unexpectedly going down or a part in a machine breaking and putting the brakes on an entire assembly line, unplanned downtime can cause six-, seven-, or even eight-figures worth of damage in lost production value.

Preventative maintenance lowers the risk of unplanned downtime and allows you to address potential issues at a time that’s best for the company.

  • Improves safety. Faulty parts or poorly programmed systems can put workers in danger and/or compromise the integrity of the products and services you’re producing. Preventative maintenance emphasizes preventing issues from occurring in the first place. This creates much safer working conditions for everyone.
  • Increases efficiency. With the right preventative strategies in place, little fixes can help systems and parts operate at peak levels of functioning. The result is greater efficiency, which means more productivity, lower costs, etc.

When you add all of these benefits up, the why of preventative maintenance becomes clear. The only question is, how? In other words, how do you implement a sound preventative maintenance strategy that ensures your physical and digital assets are running as efficiently as possible?

4 Tips for a Better Preventative Maintenance Strategy

Preventative maintenance isn’t something that happens by accident. And it’s not something you can address in isolation. To do it well, you need a documented strategy. Here are a few helpful tips:

1. Arm Yourself With the Right People

Preventative maintenance needs to be someone’s responsibility. You can have multiple people who handle it, but there has to be one person who is in charge and accountable. If everyone is in charge, noone is in charge.

2. Secure the Right Tools

Arm your team with the right tools so that they’re able to implement and execute the preventative maintenance plan without any issues. Typically, this means integrating some sort of software into your strategy.

For example, let’s say you run an HVAC business and have 20 vans and trucks that your technicians use. Integrating a fleet maintenance system into your business will allow you to track vehicles, implement preventative maintenance scheduling, and equip technicians with the right safety procedures for quick and proactive responses.

3. Set Goals & KPIs

Any good preventative maintenance program begins with having specific goals and expectations. For example, are you trying to reduce downtime? Is the goal to cut annual maintenance costs? Do you want to get more use out of your systems? Whatever the case may be, attach goals and prioritize them based on importance.

With goals established and prioritized, it’s time to attach some specific numbers to them so that they can be measured. We call these key performance indicators (KPIs). Depending on the type of maintenance and your goals, this might include metrics like scheduled maintenance critical percent, preventative maintenance compliance, mean time between failure, overall equipment effectiveness, etc.

And with KPIs in place, you can architect a framework that lets you measure and analyze the data on a regular basis.

This is where having a distinct process comes into play. (Which is what we’re discussing next.)

4. Develop a Process

Finally, you need a documented approach for how you handle preventative maintenance. Generally speaking, this will follow a basic four-step action plan that goes like this:

  • Inspection. Inspections play a key role in a preventative maintenance strategy. They play a couple of specific roles. First, they ensure all equipment and systems are safe to use (preventing injury or serious malfunctions). Secondly, regular inspections ensure equipment is functioning as intended (which aids in efficiency and output).
  • Detection. When there are regular inspections, there will inevitably be detection of minor issues, wear and tear, and other signs that something could be deteriorating to the point that it needs to be repaired or replaced. The hope is that these issues are detected early and often (which is better than too late).
  • Correction. When an issue is detected, it’s imperative that it gets addressed as soon as possible. This is where the corrective action comes into play. Ideally, the correction occurs at a convenient time when it won’t interrupt any key processes. However, time is of the essence – so make sure it gets done sooner rather than later.
  • Prevention. Each time you detect and correct an issue, there’s an opportunity to learn from the experience and implement preventative methods and safeguards that prevent the issue from occurring in the future. (At the very least, you want to reduce the frequency of these issues.)

Set Your Business Up for Success

Whether you’re running a SaaS (News - Alert) company, managing a fleet of vehicles, or producing thousands of plastic widgets per day, you need a preventative maintenance strategy to ensure your business runs smoothly, efficiently, and cost-effectively for years to come.

Use this article as a starting point, but don’t forget to tailor the strategy to your company’s unique needs, strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.

Preventative maintenance isn’t about impressing others – it’s about giving your organization the best chance to be successful!

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