3 Common Preventive Maintenance Issues and How to Fix Them

Have you ever run into issues with effective preventive maintenance at your organization? Are your processes inefficient, inaccurate or forgotten altogether? As such an integral part of asset management, preventive maintenance problems can cause ripple effects throughout your department or even organization. Have no fear, however, as this blog details some effective solutions to dealing with three common preventive maintenance issues!


Issue #1: Supervisors keep forgetting to schedule preventive work orders, and technicians keep forgetting steps when doing preventive work!

Solution #1: Preventive Maintenance (PM) Schedule + PM Checklist

A stitch in time saves nine. But you already know preventive maintenance is a good way to avoid unexpected problems, reduce risk and minimize costly downtime. So how do you keep your staff from forgetting to actually do it? A good enterprise asset management system supports the forecasting and scheduling of work that is expected to be performed in the future. But a good EAM system also provides the proper guiderails to prevent humans from forgetting things and making simple mistakes. Think of it like bowling with bumpers – no; it’s not about humiliation! – it’s about avoiding gutter balls!

Why PM Schedule?

A PM Schedule is a procedure that can be set up in AssetWorks Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) and is usually set up for all assets that are similar in design or construction because they are maintained the same way. For example, if crews go around poking catch basins once every year (the inspection) followed by optionally cleaning out the basins with a vacuum truck (the service), that schedule can be programmed into the system so that work orders are created each year via an automated process rather than a manual one. Supervisors won’t have to wonder whether an asset has had its annual service yet. It’s like getting automatic sprinklers for your lawn!

Why PM Checklist?

When was your car’s last 50-point inspection? Did you count all 50 points? Do you think your mechanic did? How do you think the mechanic remembered?

Even people who do the same thing every day are bound to forget a step now and then. Checklists give a clear, ordered set of tasks to help guide technicians toward completing PM services efficiently and effectively. A proper EAM system allows users to check off subtasks as they go, pause their work when needed, and allows other technicians to work on the same checklist. It should be easy at-a-glance for supervisors to see the completion progress of a checklist.

Issue #2: Checklists are useful for checking off tasks, but technicians also need a way to record their observations.

Solution #2: PM Checklist + Test Results

Why PM Checklist?

The same reasoning as the above section, but what if that isn’t working out great for you or your team, or you just need a little bit more power? Check out below!

Why Test Results?

Testing is a process of observing and recording results, basically. A good EAM system will support recording of a wide variety of input types, including qualitative and quantitative observations. But a really good EAM system also allows capturing other types of information, such as multimedia like photos and video (like video of a sewer pipe inspection, for example), timestamps, and even calibrations (when an observation is out of tolerance, some inspectors are qualified to calibrate the equipment to bring it back into tolerance).

Often, a checklist can drive test results, but it doesn’t have to. However, when these two things are used together, the benefits of formally-recorded observations are combined with the guiderails of a step-by-step checklist-based procedure. The result is a higher quality of data capture, less time wasted moving from step to step, immediate results and accountability and a complete audit trail of what was logged in the system.

Solution #3: Date-based PM + Meter-based PM

Why Date-based PM?

In a perfect world, you would be able to know every hair on your head and when it was about to grow out. But learning that would take a ridiculous amount of time, and there would be a poor return on that investment. Instead, you get a haircut once a month. You do this because some humans have figured out that getting a haircut about every 4 weeks is the best way to maintain a haircut. It is a balance between too many haircuts (your hair would always look great if you got it styled daily, but at the cost of lots of time and money), and too few haircuts (sure, Cousin Itt may be saving money on barbers, but how much is he spending on shampoo?).

Date-based is the simplest way to “schedule” preventive maintenance activities because the calendar is sort of predictable. If you do something every year, and you just did it yesterday, then you know you will do it again a year from yesterday. For most assets, this is probably the ideal strategy. For many assets this strategy also follows seasonal patterns. For example, trees are sprayed and pruned at specific times throughout the year, depending on their species and climate and other factors. In climates where snow and winter weather is common, there is a well-known “construction season” during the summer. Date-based maintenance is easy to understand, easy to set up and easy to predict.

Why Meter-based PM?

From experience, people have learned that certain assets wear out faster the more they are used. Examples of such assets include most mechanical equipment and pretty much anything fabricated by humans. Sometimes the usage of an asset is measured for reasons other than maintenance. But just because the usage is measured doesn’t necessarily mean that the PM should be based on this. And just because the usage can be measured doesn’t necessarily justify the cost of capturing it. Like most decisions in business, it is a trade-off.

For example, if I believe that a park bench will wear out faster if more people sit on it, then I could install a “sitting” meter that counts the number of people who sit on the bench each year. At the end of the year, I can then look at which benches have the highest “sit count” and service those first. There is some logic in this because not only will the most frequently used benches fail sooner, but the impact (cost) of failure will be more noticeable because these are popular benches. A broken bench in a busy area will likely be reported much sooner than a broken bench that sees only the occasional visitor.

Is the bench meter worth it? It depends. Let’s say that it costs $1000 for a new bench, and $100 for a bench meter. Ten thousand people can sit on the bench before it fails. The meter will tell us when we are close to that failure point. Let’s also say that when a bench fails, there is a 50% chance that anybody sitting on the bench will likely receive a serious injury which may cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages. Based on the high impact of failure for that asset, the relatively low cost of installing the meter may be justified. So, safety risk is a big driver. There may also be a contract with the city, where broken benches result in a fine to the parks department for each day the bench goes broken. In either case, there is some way to quantify the approximate cost of failure and of unavailability. By modeling that cost against the cost and benefits of measurement, an organization can decide whether it makes sense to install the meter.

A good EAM system supports a mix of preventive maintenance strategies, including:

  • Corrective maintenance: fix it when it breaks
  • Preventive maintenance by meter: fix it based on usage being near some recommended limit
  • Preventive maintenance by schedule: fix it based on a due date
  • Predictive maintenance: sensors, usually found in industrial equipment, that can detect and automatically report their own problems like calibration issues or low quality-of-service.
  • Condition-based maintenance: prioritizing preventive services based on the state of an asset’s repair
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