Implementing an effective preventive maintenance program takes careful planning and consistent coordination. Facility and maintenance managers need to work closely with their technicians and maintenance teams from across different departments to ensure they’re scheduling the right combinations of tasks and inspections. To get the best return on your investments of time and energy, make sure to avoid these common PM pitfalls. 

Add the right assets to your PM program 

Departments implementing or trying to build out an established PM program can fall into the classic trap of “When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.” 

Preventive maintenance is an effective, efficient strategy when you’re using it on the right assets and equipment. But not everything in your facility is a good match. Run-to-failure maintenance makes more sense for anything that’s: 

  • Hard to inspect 
  • Impossible to repair 
  • Cheap to carry 
  • Easy to replace 

It also needs a relatively low criticality, which means that when it fails, you’re not putting critical operations or safety at risk. The standard example is light bulbs. It’s hard to easily accurately determine how much life they have left, when they do die, it’s impossible to repair them, because they last a long time and are comparatively cheap, it’s not hard to hold them in inventory, and everyone on the maintenance team has the skills and knowledge to swap out a burned-out bulb. 

So, run-to-failure makes more sense. Adding the wrong assets and equipment to your PM program wastes time, effort, and resources. 

At the other end of the spectrum, you shouldn’t add anything to your PM program that requires a more sophisticated maintenance strategy.  For example, some mission-critical assets are better maintained by implementing predictive maintenance backed by an artificial intelligence that can review equipment-mounted sensor data. 

Prioritize PM inspections and tasks based on criticality 

For newer assets, setting up schedules of inspections and tasks can be as easy as checking the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) manuals. Because they’re the ones who designed, tested, and built the equipment, they currently have all the best insights into how to keep it up and running. The other important reason to follow that schedule is it might be required to maintain the warranty protection.  

Later, when your team has been looking after the asset for a while, you can fine-tune your processes. For example, you can use a risk ranking system to determine the work and frequencies. The system assigns a risk score to each piece of equipment based on specific criteria. For example, in healthcare this can include equipment function, failure risk, and past maintenance history.  

So, for each asset, the maintenance team asks: 

  • What role does this asset play in day-to-day facility operations? 
  • If the asset goes offline, what sorts of risks could this create for staff and patients? 
  • Are there any compliance-related issues connected to failures? 
  • In the past, how long did it take and how much money did it cost to return the asset to service? 

Equipment with higher scores appears on the schedule more frequently, while equipment with lower scores appears less frequently. 

Avoid over-maintenance 

If you don’t check often enough, you end up with a lot of expensive unplanned downtime. But checking too often can also pose problems. When you over-maintain your assets and equipment, you’re wasting the technicians’ time and the department’s inventory of parts and materials. 

For example, opening a pump to add lubricant more than is necessary takes time away from other work. And you’re spending more on lubrication than you could be. Worse still, every time you open that pump, you’re running the risk of damaging it.  

When determining your PM schedule, the goal is to maximize your return on investment, which here means doing everything you should to prevent unplanned downtime, but never more than that. 

Standardize your PMs to support best practices, simplify troubleshooting 

A good general theme for avoiding common PM pitfalls is “Be specific.” You should know which assets and equipment you need to include, and then schedule the preventive maintenance inspections and tasks (PMs) at carefully chosen intervals. 

But how can you ensure that the technicians are doing the work the same way? By setting them up for success long before they arrive onsite. 

With digital preventive maintenance software, you can ensure they have everything they need to work efficiently and effectively, including: 

  • Detailed maintenance and repair histories 
  • Step-by-step instructions 
  • Customized checklists 
  • Associated parts and materials 
  • OEM manuals and schematics 
  • Site maps and floorplans 

It’s all these in the PM, which they can access from any Internet-connected device, anytime and from anywhere. 

Instead of telling technicians to “check the pump,” you empower them with a map right to the correct asset and detailed instructions on what to look for and what to do if they find a problem. And because everyone is working from the same sets of instructions, the team does the work the same ways, ensuring best practices and making it easier to troubleshoot.  

If that pump keeps overheating, for example, you can switch to a different lubricant without worrying about any other variables changing. If that’s not the right solution, you can systematically change one variable in the process at a time, knowing that you’re testing only that specific action. If everyone was doing everything their own way, it would be impossible to pinpoint the problem and the solution. 

Remember PM programs are iterative 

At the foundation of preventive maintenance is the idea that when you have something you rely on, you need systems in place to look after it. For equipment, that can mean periodically checking for leaks, realigning belts, and replacing gaskets. 

The same core principle applies to your PM program. You need to check it periodically to ensure it’s running as well as it could be, delivering as much value as possible. When you do find a problem, just like you would with a motor, you can make adjustments, find places for improvements. 

Go digital to help you avoid all the other pitfalls 

A modern unified facility management platform helps you avoid many of the potential pitfalls when setting up a preventive maintenance plan. 

Remember that an important part of implementing a facility management platform is creating the asset registry, so having a modern software solution puts your program ahead of the curve. When prioritizing PMs, you can use the software to run reports on your critical assets to see which ones cost you the most in downtime. And because your PMs live inside the software in digital form, you can make them as detailed as you need without worrying about technicians having to carry a lot of paper around with them.

When you need to update the instructions in a PM, you do it once in the software, and every technician has instant access to the most recent version. Finally, when it comes to tracking the program’s progress, you can leverage the automatically captured data to run reports packed with maintenance metrics and key performance indicators. 

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Jonathan writes about asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions in his role as a digital content creator at Eptura. He covers trends across industries, including fleet, manufacturing, healthcare, and hospitality, with a focus on delivering thought leadership with actionable insights. Earlier in his career, he wrote textbooks, edited NPC dialogue for video games, and taught English as a foreign language. He hold a master's degree in journalism.