Preventive Maintenance

Posted by Reza Tavassoli on 11-Sep-2018 10:50:46 AM
Reza Tavassoli

If you have had the misfortune of having to take the car to the garage due to a major breakdown at some point, you can attest to the fact that, over the long-term, repairs always cost considerably more than maintenance. This fact is crucial when it comes to fleets of dozens, hundreds, or thousands of vehicles and pieces of equipment. Not only is equipment longevity at stake, but also company operations and productivity, the safety of employees, and the public safety in some cases. In a nutshell, if your company relies on equipment and vehicles, they need to keep running smoothly, predictably, and safely. Proper maintenance management isn’t just a best practice, but an absolute must.

There are two types of maintenance: corrective and preventive.

What Is Corrective Maintenance?

Corrective maintenance, also called reactive or unscheduled maintenance, deals with an issue after it has occured. If you have to replace an engine because you have never changed the oil, that is an example of corrective maintenance. It is the action to identify, isolate, and repair the faulty parts, components or systems after equipment has stopped working correctly.

When managing a fleet, equipment failures often appear, and some can easily escalate to an urgent equipment repair situation. A good corrective maintenance repair will bring back, as soon as possible, the original function of equipment. Hence, to minimize downtime. Unfortunately, it often involves urgent repairs or part replacements. It ignores any preventive measures. This has a huge impact on operations of any business using equipment or relying on vehicles for transport. The bottom line, service reliability, customer satisfaction, and several other elements can be adversely affected when the only method used is corrective maintenance.

Corrective maintenance is:

  • Unpredictable: problems are dealt with as they occur, therefore there is no way to predict the what, when, where, why, and how of any potential issue.
  • Sub-optimal: equipment lifespan is not maximized because only the bare minimum is done to keep the unit operational.
  • Potentially dangerous: depending on the type of equipment, merely relying on corrective maintenance can be very dangerous. For instance, it is not very hard to imagine a poorly maintained tanker truck going out of control and hurting the driver and other users of the road.
  • Costly in indirect ways: on top of all the repair related costs, the following are some potential indirect costs of a corrective maintenance only approach:
    • Opportunity cost: the unplanned time spent repairing a unit takes time away from other planned tasks
    • Company reputation: if service to clients is affected by an unplanned breakdown, their view of the company is negatively impacted
    • Additional stress: as corrective repairs are often performed in “emergency mode”, personnel works at above average stress levels.

What Is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is a set of systematic maintenance programs that aims to repair and service equipment before failures occur. It involves maintenance recalls triggered by potentially many tracked values such as odometer values, engine hours, date, and consumption of one or several fluids.

The greater the level of expertise required to accomplish a PM Job, the higher the failure to realize it has consequences.

Some systems are inspected for corrosion, fluid leaking, and other damage at planned intervals in order to take action before failure occurs.

As there is a myriad of different equipment types, each with its own usage and maintenance needs, it is nigh impossible to establish proper maintenance programs without guidelines and instructions. A PM best practice is to start by implementing the maintenance schedules outlined by manufacturer’s in owner’s manuals.

Here are some advantages of preventive maintenance:

  • Due to the planned nature of PM, you know exactly the details of the work to be done on any given unit. You can therefore line up your resources so that maintenance can be performed with minimal impact on day-to-day operation.
  • You can integrate your statutory maintenance (eg MOT PMI) and do maintenance on specific vehicle systems (eg spring and fall HVAC checks in northern climates, etc.) or integrate special asset requirements (eg Full snow blowers inspection before winter, PTOs on cement trucks, etc.).
  • You can budget almost all of your maintenance costs. There will still be some percentage of corrective maintenance going on, as a 0% failure rate simply does not exist.
  • You diminish drastically your Corrective maintenance costs. Timely, routine repairs circumvent fewer large-scale repairs.
  • Overtime costs are reduced and use of maintenance workers is more economical due to working on a scheduled basis instead of an emergency basis to repair breakdowns.
  • Your PM plans can be modified for more efficiency as time goes by, as you will have better knowledge of the “who, when, which, what, where and how".

As great as preventive maintenance is, there are a few things to keep in mind before taking the plunge. Firstly, PM represents a major paradigm shift in any organization, which is why it is imperative for all involved personnel, from upper management all the way down to the garage, to buy into the idea. Also, the initial investment is far greater in the case of PM when compared to corrective maintenance. The good news there is that, due to the advantages outlined above, any good PM system will pay for itself over time and end up bringing a greater value for the company than corrective maintenance.

By planning, servicing, making regular checks, and replacing parts when recommended, a PM approach limits unexpected problems and aims to reduce long-term expenses through avoiding unanticipated issues. However, PM cannot be the sole approach to maintenance as there will always be unpredicted breakdowns or issues. For this reason, every maintenance management operation will require some measure of corrective maintenance.

PM Strategy From Corrective Maintenance

The idea of PM is to keep something in working order or extend its life. Having well designed inspection programs helps reveal whether or not the use that is made of a unit is rougher than average. During Inspection, minor corrective or PM tasks can be performed, such as changing filters and fluids. However if something more serious is detected (like a component issue for instance) and needs immediate action, the inspection leads to an unplanned work order (corrective maintenance). Many organizations evolve from simple corrective maintenance to this type of maintenance management and get excellent results.

Preventive Maintenance Systems

So far we have established the importance of PM. However, just as is the case with fuel management, manually managing and keeping track of vehicle maintenance is not the best idea. In that scenario, in order to recall vehicles and equipment in a timely fashion,you would have to rely on engine data reported by users and drivers. No matter how vigilant the average employee is in a given organization, there is no way they are 100% reliable. Furthermore, even with plenty of data on paper, putting together useful reports with which in depth analysis can be conducted to bring about significant insight is very time consuming and requires a great deal of expertise.

In other words, to have any kind of decent preventive maintenance in place (or even just plain maintenance), you require the proper tool, namely preventive maintenance software. So what does a PM system worthy of the name provide?

  • Automatic capture of engine data to ensure error-free maintenance plan triggers and timely recalls
  • Accurate picture of the ROI for each unit
  • Tracking and analysis of vehicle related costs
  • Easy access to vehicle related information
  • Tracking of warranties to avoid unnecessary expenses on replacement parts
  • Standardization of company procedures and practices pertaining to maintenance
  • Accountability

Given how important preventive maintenance is for fleets and the sheer number of companies operating vehicles and various other types of equipment, it comes as no surprise that the PM software market is quite crowded. With so many players in that space, it is important to plan properly by asking the right questions:

  1. What are the potential supplier’s credentials/experience?
  2. How adaptable/upgradable is the proposed system?
  3. Can the system be customized to meet specific requirements?
  4. How well is it integrated into other fleet related systems, such as a fuel management system?
  5. Does the system allow for different user access/security levels?
  6. What are the guarantees/warranties of the product?
  7. What kind of support is provided during and after implementation?
  8. What are the costs for:
    1. Customization
    2. Installation
    3. Travel and living
    4. Training
    5. Software and database hosting
    6. License fees
    7. Tech support/service plans
    8. Hardware components

Of course, each company has its own set of characteristics and particular requirements that makes it unique, but there are still some system attributes that are desirable regardless of differentiating factors across organizations:

  1. User -friendly
  2. Fast
  3. As automated as possible
  4. Easy and quick work orders
  5. Flexible in terms of maintenance related notifications
  6. Maintenance plans are easy and quick to set up
  7. Flexible enough to manage maintenance of things other than vehicles, such as buildings and small equipment
  8. Graphic dashboards easily visualizing maintenance operations
  9. Tracking of key performance indicators and stats
  10. Easily viewable and understandable maintenance history
  11. Easily linked or integrated to third party systems

Such a system may seem expensive and involve quite a bit of time and resources to put into place, but consider this: properly implemented and executed PM leads to 15%-20% greater productivity, 25%-50% fewer unplanned breakdowns and downtimes, 20%-40% less overtime, and 10%-25% lower costs associated with parts replacement. So although the initial investment can seem like a tough pill to swallow at first, the long-term benefits of a PM system are well worth the costs involved.