You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “TPM” (or total productive maintenance) many times throughout your maintenance career. As Greg Folts noted during his appearance on the Rooted in Reliability podcast, people may refer to TPM as shorthand for a number of different things. Often, people are referring only to autonomous maintenance when they mention it. In reality, developing an autonomous maintenance plan is just one pillar (and the most common starting point) of building a full TPM program for a facility.
TPM refers to putting processes and training in place so that everyone in a facility—from operations to plant maintenance to engineering—is contributing to maintenance. But what are the necessary steps for building an effective TPM program? Let’s look at each piece of the puzzle individually.
Total Productive Maintenance Pillars: Laying the foundation with 5S
Developed in the early 50s, Total Productive Maintenance is a program for increasing the efficiency of machines and processes, standing on eight TPM pillars with 5S as its foundation.
Before any of the eight pillars of TPM can be put in place, a “5S” foundation must be built. The purpose of laying this foundation is to introduce standardization and continuous improvement processes into every TPM activity.
Determine which items are used frequently and which are not. The ones used frequently should be kept close by, others should be stored further away.
Each item should have one place—and one place only—to be stored.
The workplace needs to be clean. Without it, problems will be more difficult to identify, and quality maintenance will be more difficult to perform.
The workplace should be standardized and labelled. This often means creating processes where none existed previously.
Efforts should be made to continually perform each of the other steps at all times.
Once each of the 5S actions has been established and is part of the facility culture, it’s time to move on to the eight pillars of TPM.
TPM Methodology: Building the TPM pillars
Pillar 1: Autonomous maintenance
Autonomous maintenance (also known as Jishu Hozen) refers to “the restoration and prevention of accelerated deterioration,” which involves cleaning equipment while inspecting it for deterioration or abnormalities, identifying and eliminating factors that contribute to deterioration, and establishing standards to clean, inspect, and lubricate an asset properly. The ultimate goal of autonomous maintenance is to make it part of the operators’ day-to-day job to properly care for their assets as a form of maintenance. This pillar allows maintenance teams to address the larger maintenance issues that deserve their full attention.
Pillar 2: Planned maintenance
Planned maintenance refers to setting up preventive maintenance activities based on metrics such as failure rates and time-based triggers. Planning these activities in advance allows a facility to care for an asset at a time that will not impact production so that uptime is maintained.
Pillar 3: Quality integration
This pillar involves integrating manufacturing performance, quality assurance, design error detection and prevention into the production process. The purpose of this pillar is to improve quality management by removing the root causes of defects and understanding why they occur.
Pillar 4: Focused improvement
The idea of focused improvement involves assembling cross-functional teams to address specific issues that are occurring with equipment maintenance and coming up with solutions that consider each team that interacts with that asset. Since the TPM process dictates that everyone in a facility should contribute to routine maintenance activities, it’s important to involve each functional area in problem-solving maintenance tasks so that everyone’s unique point of view is considered.
Pillar 5: New equipment management
This pillar uses the knowledge that is gained through each interaction maintenance personnel has with facility equipment to improve the design of new equipment and equipment reliability. This allows new equipment to perform better with fewer issues due to employee involvement that’s based on cross-functional knowledge. Overall equipment effectiveness is a common metric used to measure how well the facility is utilizing its equipment compared to its full potential.
Pillar 6: Training and education
The training and education pillar of TPM principles focuses on making sure the maintenance team has the knowledge and skills necessary to carry out TPM across an entire facility. As Greg Folts commented on the Rooted in Reliability podcast, TPM must be both cross-functionally and vertically integrated in order to be successful. Training and education place importance on managers understanding why a successful TPM program is important and filtering that knowledge down correctly.
Pillar 7: Safety, health, environment
Simply put, this pillar refers to building a safe and healthy facility environment and eliminating any conditions that could be risky or harmful to facility workers’ well-being. The goal of this pillar is to provide an accident-free workplace.
Pillar 8: Administrative TPM
This pillar involves encouraging people in administrative or supportive roles (such as purchasing) to apply TPM learnings and principles in their own work processes so that TPM implementation is truly cross-functional.
Implementing the foundation and pillars of TPM is a great start to early management, but an important reality of any successful TPM program is that it must be a continuous effort. Every level of employee, from personnel on the shop floor to upper management, must remain dedicated to the activities that make TPM possible.
Maintenance involves a lot of moving parts, which means more chances for something to go wrong. And when problems arise, you want to tackle them with as much information as possible. In other words, you want problem-solving to be predictable. Data is a key ingredient in achieving this goal.
We look at 5 ways to use data to solve common maintenance issues and lead your team to success.
Future of analytics and data
This article walks you through what data to use and how to use it. While you can follow along if your data is in spreadsheets or file cabinets, we’re using the Fiix analytics tool to illustrate the process. Fiix analytics is visual and interactive so you can get a clear view of how to drill into your data and find the answers to your biggest questions.
1. How do I make sure the right maintenance is being done at the right time?
The average facility manages 45 work orders a week. With so much to do (and so little time to do it in), you know how important it is to focus your team’s efforts in the right place. So, this question really has three sub-questions—am I doing too much maintenance, not enough maintenance, or the right amount of maintenance on an asset?
The first step to answering these questions is to identify the assets with lots of work orders associated with them. Then, filter these work orders by asset and maintenance type.
First, look for assets with few or no corrective work orders associated with them. This means you’re probably doing PMs too frequently on these assets and can cut the frequency of scheduled maintenance.
Assets with not enough preventive maintenance will have lots of emergency work associated with them. Also, look for assets with lower maintenance costs compared to assets of a similar type as that is often a sign that they aren’t getting enough maintenance. Increase the frequency of PMs on these assets.
The right amount of maintenance shows frequent and corrective work orders associated with assets.
2. How is maintenance affecting the performance of equipment?
To get a picture of how maintenance is impacting equipment performance, start by collecting information on assets with associated downtime. Next, filter those assets into two categories – planned and unplanned downtime. Rank those assets by unplanned downtime. Assets with more unplanned downtime are the ones you want to tackle first as they have the biggest negative impact on your company and the most opportunity for improvement. You can further filter those assets by maintenance costs associated with them. The assets with the most downtime and highest costs are where to begin adjusting your strategy.
The next step is to dive into the notes on the emergency work orders attached to those assets. Find out what the most common problems and causes were, and make changes to address them. For example, has a bearing continually failed because of improper lubrication? A simple change might be to increase the frequency of lubrication and specify the proper amount of lubrication needed in each instance.
Revisit this report to see if your adjustments have made a difference. If unplanned downtime and maintenance costs drop across 30, 60, and 90 days, you now have data to support your decisions and show how they impact production.
3. How can my facility organize our storeroom so parts are easily accessible?
An unorganized storeroom can pose more problems than just being messy. It makes it hard for technicians to access parts when they need them most leading to delays and potential breakdowns.
To tackle this problem head-on, collect data on assets with the most emergency work orders attached to them.
Take note of what parts are associated most with that emergency work and the equipment they’re needed for. Once that has been determined, you can kit those parts together. Parts kitting makes getting parts easier and more accessible when emergency work is triggered.
For this to work in the first place, this data needs to be tracked and updated frequently. Each time a tech reaches for a spare part, that data should be updated. It gives you an accurate sign of which parts are used frequently and how often they are attached to reactive work.
4. Where should I be allocating my maintenance budget?
Figuring out where to spend your maintenance budget can be a headache and can be even harder to justify that spending.
Let’s say that increasing your team’s headcount would help clear some of the facility’s backlogged maintenance. That decision comes down to two factors— do I hire more in-house employees or more contractors? That big budget consideration is hard to justify without proof.
To begin making your case, collect all the information you can about work done in the last quarter to a year. Was it done mostly by internal employees or contractors?
By looking at each category, add up the total spend associated with each. Take into account costs like employee salary and benefits, contractor’s hourly pay, and training. Each has its cost benefits and disadvantages.
Based on those costs, you can make a pretty clear case to your department, based on dollar value, if it’s more cost-effective to hire internal employees or more contractors. Those stats can help justify why spending on additional hires is necessary.
5. What obstacles are our technicians facing?
It’s easy for technicians to get caught up in their workload when things get busy. Completion notes aren’t updated or information is missed on work orders. It may not seem like a big deal the first time, but once it becomes a habit, it can become an obstacle for other technicians.
As a maintenance manager, you can help enforce the importance of having complete information. One of the ways you can tackle this obstacle is by conducting bi-weekly checks to find work orders with missing information or incomplete notes.
Look for trends in those work orders. Was it done by the same technician? Is it the same type of information being missed? Consider looking at the type of maintenance associated with these work orders. Consider having a department-wide info session on the importance and benefit of filling out work order completion notes.
If it’s the same technician, take a look at their logged hours. If they are doing more hours than the average, it might mean they are simply logging too many hours and might be overworked.
Making it a habit to check for these inconsistencies on a regular basis might make a big difference in the performance of your employees and your facility.
Seeing the bigger picture leads to bigger gains
Your facility has lots of moving parts and keeping track of them all manually can be time-consuming. Using an analytics reporting tool provides a visual representation of your facility’s moving parts. In addition, it gives the power back to the maintenance department, allowing them to tackle problems as they arise and lead their team to solution-oriented work culture.
There aren’t many things in maintenance that are predictable. One of them is equipment maintenance logs. You know the drill: Work gets done, a log gets updated. It’s a routine you can count on.
This article is all about how to use that predictability to your advantage by taking the information you’re collecting anyway and turning it into the asset data you’ve been looking for.
What is the importance of a maintenance log?
Having logs that track maintenance activities are important for several reasons. The proper maintenance and tracking of machinery maintenance logs help you conduct preventive maintenance to ensure your equipment is in good condition, doesn’t experience unplanned repairs, and runs as efficiently as possible throughout its lifetime.
A maintenance record is also useful to reference when deciding if you should replace your assets with updated versions and the best time to replace them. The data recorded over time unveils patterns of failure, expenditure, and repair. This can be used to make better decisions that will save on costs and time.
How to create a great equipment maintenance log?
Getting accurate, reliable data from an equipment maintenance log starts with how you build it. The way you structure your maintenance logs is going to depend on a variety of factors that are specific to your team and facility, but any log should keep three key questions in mind:
What asset and maintenance information do you need most?
Simplicity is your best friend here. Don’t make it hard for technicians to complete the log.
“It’s best to keep your descriptions short and have all the key details laid out plainly,” says Jason Afara, a solutions engineer at Fiix.
“My rule of thumb is to put the same amount of effort into your logs that you’d want if you were trying to fix an asset and reading the log for the first time.”
Above all, make sure you have a process that ensures accuracy. There are three simple rules that will help you keep the data in your logs are as accurate as possible:
Use a standard template for every asset. Equipment should be tracked and measured from the same baseline to avoid errors and make data analysis easier.
Keep your logs in a designated location. Bonus points for making them available on a digital platform for quick access and a lower risk of damaging or losing them.
Create a routine for exchanging logs between shift changes. Keep everyone in the loop on completed or outstanding work, problems, safety risks, and other useful information.
How do you maintain maintenance logs?
How you maintain a maintenance log depends on if you’re doing it by hand or using maintenance log software. If you’re manually maintaining maintenance logs like in a spreadsheet, here are three tips:
Create a standardized template for each asset you want to track. Ideally, you want to try to keep these templates as consistent as possible to streamline your process.
Designate a single place to keep the records, so they are easy to find by all maintenance workers.
Define the process for how equipment maintenance logs should be exchanged and communicated between workers during shift changes.
If you’re using software to create a maintenance schedule, maintenance workers need to know how the tool works and who they should go to if they have questions. The best way to maintain logs, in this case, is to create a standard process for entering data to ensure it is entered consistently and in the same format.
Equipment maintenance log template
The template below is similar to the one Jason used during his time managing a maintenance team.
“We wanted a log that gave us everything we needed to know to get a historical base for our decision-making, but was simple enough to fill out and read,” says Jason, “If it felt like the effort of filling it in or reading it was not worth the result, it wasn’t going to be used appropriately.” Make your team’s log its own. Customize it as much as you want as long as it captures the most important information is a way that’s easy to interpret.
Six ways to use the data in equipment maintenance logs
Well-kept equipment maintenance logs are great for looking into the past, but they can also help you create a better future for assets, the maintenance team, and the organization as a whole.
Six ways to use the data in equipment maintenance logs
#1 Maximize equipment ROI
Equipment maintenance logs allow you to compare the record of equipment from different suppliers and see which one is more reliable. Choosing the more reliable vendor for future equipment purchases reduces the frequency of breakdowns, which means less spending on maintenance and more production.
Logs can also be the first indicator that equipment should be replaced rather than repaired. It’s possible to see if an asset is breaking down more often and compare the cost of the extra maintenance to the cost of a new asset.
A log is also proof that an asset has been maintained properly, which increases its resale value.
#2 Optimize preventive maintenance schedules and tasks
Well-kept logs tell you if a piece of equipment is breaking down right after scheduled maintenance or before its next scheduled maintenance date. If this becomes a pattern, it’s time to rethink how you’re performing preventive maintenance on that asset and tweak it to prevent breakdowns. Equipment maintenance logs also provide the information needed to make PMs quick, easy, and effective. For example, it tells technicians how past issues were resolved or if changes were made and how they impacted equipment.
#3 Track preventive maintenance compliance
You can plan as much maintenance as you want, but an equipment maintenance log can tell you if the work is actually being done. Logs clearly show when maintenance is scheduled and if any action was taken on that day. There’s no guessing and no searching. Logs are an early warning system for poor preventive maintenance compliance. It’s easier to solve the problem and avoid unplanned downtime when you can see the red flags from a mile away.
Create a routine for exchanging logs between shift changes. Keep everyone in the loop on completed or outstanding work, problems, safety risks, and other useful information.
#4 Identify opportunities to upgrade your maintenance strategy
You probably have a maintenance strategy for every piece of equipment. Maybe you settled on it after a lot of thought or perhaps that’s just the way it’s always been done. Whatever the case, equipment maintenance logs can help you find opportunities to improve this strategy. For example, are you using preventive maintenance when run-to-fail could be just as effective with lower costs? Is the asset a good candidate for condition-based maintenance? Looking for patterns in equipment maintenance logs is a way to answer those questions with data instead of hunches.
#5 Improve accountability and communication
Equipment maintenance logs bolster accountability and communication, two of the most important elements in a successful maintenance program.
“Logs are an additional form of communication and accountability for the maintenance team,” says Jason.
“They put people’s names beside the work and allow for the necessary communication between staff working different shifts.”
#6 Make training and onboarding easier
Detailed and well-organized maintenance logs help new technicians get up to speed quickly. Working with unfamiliar machines usually means a lot of time shadowing an experienced worker and a fair bit of trial and error. Not only is this unproductive, but it can also lead to more mistakes and breakdowns. Equipment maintenance logs provide new technicians with critical information about an asset, like age, common problems, and where to go if they need more details. They can learn faster, make decisions with confidence, and stay safe in the process
How to get data from an equipment maintenance log
There’s a lot of data in equipment maintenance logs, but that doesn’t mean all that data is useful. The most valuable information is accurate, quickly accessible, and laid out in a way that’s easy to understand. Using CMMS software is one way to check all those boxes.
A CMMS, especially a mobile CMMS, allows you to access equipment maintenance logs on any internet-connected device at any time, from anywhere
The software records and syncs data with other systems automatically so the information is always accurate and up-to-date
The CMMS connects to the maintenance calendar, which makes it easier to track who did what and how efficient the job was
Information from equipment maintenance logs are searchable on a CMMS, which means you can filter work by asset, tasks, date, technicians, and more
Data is securely stored in the cloud, so there’s no chance it’ll be lost or damaged, unlike paper records
You can attach pictures or videos to the maintenance log on a CMMS, making information more clear than just a written description
There’s more than meets the eye with equipment maintenance logs
Yes, equipment maintenance logs can be boring and repetitive. But with a small shift in thinking, they can also be used to unlock key insights and lead to higher asset performance through data-driven maintenance. It all starts with a well-built template, strong processes, an understanding of what is possible, and the tools to act on your plan. When all those ingredients come together, equipment maintenance logs offer a way to use the past to create a better future for your facility and its assets.
Maintenance troubleshooting can be both an art and a science. A common problem is that, while art can be beautiful, it isn’t known for its efficiency. When taken to the next level, maintenance troubleshooting can ditch the trial-and-error moniker and become a purely scientific endeavor. This helps maintenance technicians find the right problems and solutions more quickly. When troubleshooting is done correctly, your whole maintenance operation can overcome backlog, lost production, and compliance issues much more efficiently.
In this troubleshooting guide, we’ll take a look at what it actually is, why it matters to maintenance professionals, and how your team can fine-tune its approach.
What is maintenance troubleshooting?
Systems break down—that’s just a fact of life. Whether it’s a conveyer belt or an industrial drill, we’ve all run across a piece of equipment that is unresponsive, faulty, or acting abnormally for seemingly no reason at all. It can be downright frustrating.
Maintenance troubleshooting is the process of identifying what is wrong with these faulty components and systems when the problem is not immediately obvious. Maintenance troubleshooting usually follows a systematic, four-step approach; identify the problem, plan a response, test the solution, and resolve the problem. Steps one to three are often repeated multiple times before a resolution is reached.
Identify the problem
Plan a response
Test the solution
Repeat until problem is resolved
Think about it this way: When a conveyor belt breaks down, you may try a few different methods to fix it. First, you identify which part of the conveyor belt isn’t working. Once you’ve identified the problem area, you plan a response and test it, such as realigning or lubricating a part. If this fails to fix the problem, you might replace the part, which makes the conveyor belt work again. This is troubleshooting.
How is maintenance troubleshooting usually done?
Stop us if you’ve heard this story before. An asset breaks down and no one knows why. You talk to the operator, read some manuals, and check your notes about the asset. You try a couple of things to get the machine up and working again with no luck. Before you can try a third or fourth possible solution, you get called away to another emergency, with the asset still out of commission.
This is often how the process happens when performing maintenance troubleshooting, especially when a facility relies on paper records or Excel spreadsheets. The process is based on collecting as much information as possible from as many sources as possible to identify the most likely cause of the unexpected breakdown. You can never go wrong when you gather information, but it’s the way that information is gathered that can turn troubleshooting from a necessity to a nightmare.
Why does maintenance troubleshooting matter?
Unexpected equipment failure is the entire reason maintenance troubleshooting exists. If assets never broke down without any clear signs of imminent failure, there would be no need to troubleshoot the problem. But we know that’s just not the case.
Machinery failure doesn’t always follow a predictable pattern. Yes, maintenance teams can use preventive maintenance and condition-based maintenance to reduce the likelihood of unplanned downtime. However, you can never eliminate it entirely. What you can do is put processes in place to reduce failure as much as possible and fix it as soon as possible when it does occur. This is where strong maintenance troubleshooting techniques come in handy.
Because troubleshooting will always be part of the maintenance equation, humans will also always have a role. Maintenance technology does not erase the need for a human touch in troubleshooting; it simply makes the process much more efficient. When troubleshooting isn’t refined, it could lead to time wasted tracking down information, a substantial loss of production, an unsafe working environment, and more frequent failures. In short, knowing some maintenance troubleshooting techniques could be the difference between an overwhelming backlog and a stable maintenance program.
Maintenance troubleshooting tips
The following are just a few ways your operation can improve its troubleshooting techniques to conquer chaos and take control of its maintenance.
1. Quantify asset performance and understand how to use the results
It probably goes without saying, but the more deeply you know an asset, the better equipped you’ll be to diagnose a problem. Years of working with a certain asset can help you recognize when it’s not working quite right. But exceptional troubleshooting isn’t just about knowing the normal sounds, speeds, or odours of a particular machine. Instead, it’s about knowing how to analyze asset performance at a deeper level, which is where advanced reporting factors in.
When operators and technicians rely solely on their own past experience with a piece of equipment, it leaves them with huge gaps in knowledge that hurt the maintenance troubleshooting process. For example, it leaves too much room for recency bias to affect decision-making, which means that technicians are most likely to try the last thing that fixed a particular problem without considering other options or delving further into the root cause. Also, if maintenance troubleshooting relies on the proprietary knowledge of a few technicians, it means repairs will have to wait until those particular maintenance personnel are available.
Maintenance staff should have the know-how to conduct an in-depth analysis of an asset’s performance. For example, technicians should understand how to run reports and understand KPIs for critical equipment, such as mean time between failure and overall equipment effectiveness. If using condition-based maintenance, the maintenance team should also know the P-F curve for each asset and what different sensor readings mean. When technicians are equipped with a deeper understanding of an asset, it will be easier for them to pinpoint where a problem occurred and how to fix it, both in the short and long-term.
2. Create in-depth asset histories
Information is the fuel that powers exceptional maintenance troubleshooting for maintenance. Knowing how a particular asset has worked and failed for hundreds of others is a good place to start a repair. That’s why manuals are a useful tool when implementing troubleshooting maintenance techniques. However, each asset, facility, and operation is different, which means asset machine failure doesn’t always follow the script. Detailed notes on an asset’s history can open up a dead end and lead you to a solution much more quickly.
A detailed asset history can give you an edge in maintenance troubleshooting in a variety of ways. It offers a simple method for cross-referencing symptoms of the current issue with elements of past problems. For example, a technician can see if a certain type of material was being handled by a machine or if there were any early warning signs identified for a previous failure. The more a present situation aligns with a past scenario, the more likely it is to need the same fix. Solutions can be prioritized this way, leading to fewer misses, less downtime, fewer unnecessary spare parts being used, and more.
When troubleshooting is done correctly, your whole maintenance operation can overcome backlog, lost production, and compliance issues much more efficiently.
When creating detailed asset histories to help with maintenance troubleshooting (as well as preventive maintenance), it’s important to include as much information as possible. Make sure to record the time and dates of any notable actions taken on an asset or piece of equipment. This can include breakdowns, PMs, inspections, part replacement, production schedules, and abnormal behavior, such as smoke or unusual sounds. Next, document the steps taken during maintenance, including PMs or repairs. Lastly, highlight the successful solution and what was needed to accomplish it, such as necessary parts, labor and safety equipment. Make sure to add any relevant metrics and reports to the asset history as well.
Effective maintenance troubleshooting starts with eliminating ambiguity and short-term solutions. Finding the root of an issue quickly, solving it effectively and ensuring it stays solved is a winning formula. Root cause analysis and failure codes are a couple of tools that will help you achieve this goal.
Root cause analysis is a maintenance troubleshooting technique that allows you to pinpoint the reason behind a failure. The method consists of asking “why” until you get to the heart of the problem. For example:
Why did the equipment fail?: Because a bearing wore out
Why did the bearing wear out?: Because a coupling was misaligned
Why was the coupling misaligned?: Because it was not serviced recently.
Why was the coupling not serviced?: Because maintenance was not scheduled.
Why was maintenance not scheduled?: Because we weren’t sure how often it should be scheduled.
This process has two benefits when conducting maintenance troubleshooting for maintenance. First, it allows you to identify the immediate cause of failure and fix it quickly. Second, it leads you to the core of the issue and a long-term solution. In the example above, it’s clear a better preventive maintenance program is required to improve asset management and reduce unplanned downtime.
Failure codes provide a consistent method to describe why an asset failed. Failure codes are built on three actions: Listing all possible problems, all possible causes, and all possible solutions. This process records key aspects of a failure according to predefined categories, like misalignment or corrosion.
Failure codes are useful when maintenance troubleshooting because technicians can immediately see common failure codes, determine the best solution, and implement it quickly. Failure codes can also be used to uncover a common problem among a group of assets and determine a long-term solution.
4. Build detailed task lists
Exceptional maintenance troubleshooting requires solid planning and foresight. Clear processes provide a blueprint for technicians so they can quickly identify problems and implement more effective solutions. Creating detailed task lists is one way to bolster your planning and avoid headaches down the road. This could also be incorporated into routine maintenance.
A task list outlines a series of tasks that need to be completed to finish a larger job. They ensure crucial steps aren’t missed when performing inspections, audits or PMs. For example, the larger job may be conducting a routine inspection of your facility’s defibrillators. This job is broken down into a list of smaller tasks, such as “Verify battery installation,” and “Inspect exterior components for cracks.”
Maintenance technology does not erase the need for a human touch in troubleshooting; it simply makes the process much more efficient.
Detailed task lists are extremely important when conducting maintenance troubleshooting. They act as a guide when testing possible solutions so technicians can either fix the issue or disqualify a diagnosis as quickly as possible. The more explicit the task list, the more thorough the job and the less likely a technician is to make a mistake. Comprehensive task lists can also offer valuable data when failure occurs. They provide insight into the type of work recently done on an asset so you can determine whether any corrective actions were missed and if this was the source of the problem.
There are a few best practices for building detailed task lists. First, include all individual actions that make up a task. For example, instead of instructing someone to “Inspect the cooling fan,” include the steps that comprise that inspection, such as “Check for any visible cracks,” and “Inspect for loose parts.” Organize all steps in the order they should be done. Lastly, include any additional information that may be helpful in completing the tasks, including necessary supplies, resources (ie. manuals), and PPE.
5. Make additional information accessible
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again; great maintenance troubleshooting techniques are often the result of great information. However, if that information is difficult to access, you will lose any advantage it provides. That is why it is crucial for your operation to not only create a large resource center, but to also make it highly accessible. This will elevate your maintenance troubleshooting abilities and get your assets back online faster when unplanned downtime occurs.
Let’s start with the elements of a great information hub. We’ve talked about the importance of reports, asset histories, failure codes and task lists when performing a troubleshooting method. Some other key resources include diagrams, standard operating procedures (SOPs), training videos, and manuals. These should all be included and organized by asset. If a technician hits a dead-end a troubleshooting procedure, these tools can offer a solution that may have been missed in the initial analysis.
Now that you’ve gathered all your documents together, it’s time to make them easily accessible to the whole maintenance team. If resources are trapped in a file cabinet, on a spreadsheet, or in a single person’s mind, they don’t do a lot of good for the technician. They can be lost, misplaced and hard to find—not to mention the inefficiency involved with needing to walk from an asset to the office just to grab a manual. One way to get around this obstacle is to create a digital knowledge hub with maintenance software. By making all your resources available through a mobile device, technicians can access any tool they need to troubleshoot a problem. Instead of sifting through paper files to find an asset history or diagram, they can access that same information anywhere, anytime.
Using CMMS software for maintenance troubleshooting
If it sounds like a lot of work to gather, organize, analyze and circulate all the information needed to be successful at maintenance troubleshooting, you’re not wrong. Without the proper tools, this process can be a heavy lift for overwhelmed maintenance teams. Maintenance software is one tool that can help ease the load every step of the way. A digital platform, such as a CMMS, takes care of crunching the numbers, organizing data and making it available wherever and whenever, so you can focus on using that information to make great decisions and troubleshoot more effectively.
For example, when building a detailed asset history, it’s important to document every encounter with a piece of equipment. This is a lot of work for a technician rushing from one job to another and difficult to keep track of after the fact. An investment in maintenance software will help you navigate these roadblocks. It does this by allowing technicians to use a predetermined set of questions to make and retrieve notes in real-time with a few clicks.
The same goes for failure codes. The key to using them effectively is proper organization and accessibility. Without those two key ingredients, failure codes become more of a hindrance than a help. One way to accomplish this is to use maintenance software. A digital platform can organize failure codes better than any filing cabinet or Excel spreadsheet and make it easy for technicians to quickly sort them and identify the relevant ones from the site of the breakdown.
The bottom line
Troubleshooting will always exist in maintenance. You will never be 100 percent sure 100 percent of the time when diagnosing the cause of failure. What you can do is take steps to utilize maintenance troubleshooting techniques to ensure equipment is repaired quickly and effectively. By combining a good understanding of maintenance metrics with detailed asset histories, failure codes, task lists, and other asset resources, and making all this information accessible, you can move your troubleshooting beyond trial and error to a more systematic approach.
Want to build a great preventive maintenance program, but don’t know where to start? Here are 8 tips to set you up for success.
What is a preventive maintenance program?
A preventive maintenance program is a series of processes, guidelines, and tools for conducting regular and routine maintenance on equipment and assets to keep them in good condition so as to avoid failure and costly unplanned downtime.
Preventive maintenance and planning fit together perfectly, just like salt and pepper, Batman and Robin, and movies and popcorn. That’s because in order for a preventive maintenance program to succeed, it requires a solid blueprint.
For facilities looking to break out of a reactive maintenance rut, a preventive maintenance plan can do wonders. Having a roadmap to preventive maintenance allows your operation to conquer unplanned downtime while staving off the temptation to fall back into a reactive approach.
A PM plan makes everything clearer so the path to reliability is obstacle-free. Goals and responsibilities are defined, timelines are understood and necessary resources are accounted for. Everyone knows what success looks like and how to sustain it.
What is preventive maintenance?
Preventive maintenance is proactive maintenance that is regularly performed on a piece of equipment in working condition to prevent unplanned failure or breakdown maintenance. Preventive maintenance is triggered for an asset based on time or usage. For example, if an asset has operated for 100 hours, a preventive maintenance work order will be automatically triggered. The goal is to increase asset reliability, reduce downtime and maximize the impact of costs and labor.
For facilities looking to break out of a reactive maintenance rut, a preventive maintenance plan can do wonders. Having a roadmap allows your operation to conquer unplanned downtime while staving off the temptation to fall back into a reactive approach.
Transitioning from predominantly reactive maintenance activity to a mostly preventive one takes time, dedication, resources and, most importantly, a plan. Achieving a successful preventive maintenance program means creating a preventive maintenance schedule and sticking to it. It means a reduction in unplanned downtime, backlog, miscommunication, accidents and the corrective maintenance costs associated with each. At the end of the day, preventive maintenance will help you conquer inefficiency and improve your maintenance program from top to bottom.
What should a preventive maintenance plan include?
A preventive maintenance plan should include eight steps at its foundation:
Establish and prioritize goals
Create and measure KPIs
Get stakeholder buy-in
Use the right technology/software
Set up PM triggers
Train maintenance workers on how to implement the preventive maintenance plan
Build a preventive maintenance checklist
Fine-tune your plan based on results
We’ll take you through each step in detail.
How to create a preventive maintenance program in eight steps
Each and every facility is different, with different goals, assets and resources. That’s why there is no one-size-fits-all approach to creating a preventive maintenance program. However, by using these eight important elements, you can build an effective blueprint for success. Following this template for a preventive maintenance plan will go a long way to making your operation more efficient and sustainable.
1. Establish and prioritize goals
The first step in building a successful preventive maintenance program is to sit down and lay out what you want to achieve. Every facility has different goals and those goals influence all future decisions. Do you want to reduce downtime? Increase reliability? Cut costs? Think about the reasons for wanting to create a structured PM program and write them down.
Next, it’s time to prioritize your goals. Let’s face it, you’re always busy, and implementing a preventive maintenance plan is another huge project to add to your to-do list. With everything that’s going on, it’s nearly impossible to go full steam ahead on all your goals. By prioritizing, you know where to focus your attention and resources first when establishing a blueprint for preventive maintenance. When those tasks are firmly underway, you can begin the next step in your plan.
Once you know which KPIs you’ll be using to define the success, the next step is to create a framework for consistently measuring these metrics. Stats are only valuable if you are consistently using them to improve the preventive maintenance plan. It’s crucial to build processes and procedures that ensure data is collected, analyzed, understood and actioned on a regular basis. This way, you will know if you are meeting your goals and where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
3. Obtain buy-in from stakeholders
It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve put into your preventive maintenance program if you don’t have your entire team on board. Total buy-in is crucial as an effective PM strategy requires everyone to chip in, from a maintenance manager or technician who must input data to a reliability engineer who reads that data and makes decisions based on it. What seem like small details add up to make a big difference. That’s why establishing the concept of total productive maintenance is so important to creating a strategy that works.
Getting buy-in from all stakeholders for a preventive maintenance plan includes having discussions about goals, skill sets, needs, resources and more with each member of the team. This will give you a holistic view of how an increase in scheduled maintenance will affect each person and the team, how people might react to change and what is necessary to execute your strategy with fewer snags.
4. Leverage the right technology
Technology is one of the most important ingredients for an effective PM strategy. Leveraging a digital solution allows you to efficiently arrange all the smaller preventive maintenance tasks required for your facility to embrace a PM mindset, such as scheduling, inventory maintenance management, reporting and organizing work orders. If your facility operates on a legacy system, such as pen and paper or Excel, now is the time to plan for a transition to a digital solution.
There are several factors that must be considered when choosing the right technology for a preventive maintenance program, including the skillset of your team, budget, asset capabilities, team preference, data security and more. One of the most important things to remember when looking for preventive maintenance technology, such as a CMMS, is ease of use. If a system is too hard to understand and use properly, it will not be used effectively and all the time and money invested in the solution will be for naught.
5. Make sure your PM triggers are accurate
Because all effective PMs are built on accurate triggers, this is a crucial step in building a preventive maintenance plan. Matching maintenance tasks with the right trigger will help your operation flow efficiently and will ensure assets are as reliable as possible. These triggers should also be known by all members of the maintenance team so no maintenance task falls through the cracks. Automated scheduling and mobile notifications are two tools that make this simple to do.
It doesn’t matter how much time you’ve put into your preventive maintenance program if you don’t have your entire team on board. Total buy-in is crucial as an effective PM strategy requires everyone to chip in, from technicians to reliability engineers.
When defining a preventive maintenance trigger for an asset, it’s important to look at a few variables. This includes the manufacturers recommended guidelines, the performance history of the asset, how critical the asset is to production, the cost of repair vs. maintenance and the projected future use of the asset. When you take all these elements into account, you should have a good idea of when to trigger maintenance for a particular piece of equipment. This number should be fine-tuned moving forward to optimize your preventive maintenance.
6. Train and implement
At this point in your quest for an effective preventive maintenance program, you probably know what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. Your team, on the other hand, probably does not. It’s important to remember this and create a training strategy so everyone can get up to speed on proper equipment maintenance. Team members should be trained on any new technology as well as any processes and procedures that come with a shift to preventive maintenance, such as prioritizing work orders, creating failure codes, and accessing documents digitally.
The obvious next step is to implement your preventive maintenance plan. If preventive maintenance is something completely new for your team, you might consider a pilot program at one site, one section of your facility or a few particular assets. This way, you can help your team adjust to a new way of doing things while working out the kinks in your PM program.
7. Build a preventive maintenance checklist to analyze results
Once your preventive maintenance plan is in motion, it’s important to prioritize inspection and keep an eye on the numbers. It is essential to have a preventive maintenance checklist that helps you to consistently track KPIs, such as mean time to repair, planned maintenance percentage and mean time between failures. Analyzing these stats and comparing them to pre-plan numbers should give you a good idea of how your program is impacting the efficiency of your maintenance operation.
Check these metrics against the benchmarks you established when you were first building your preventive maintenance processes. This will help you identify where you are hitting your goals and where you aren’t so you can target issues in your program before they get out of hand. Take advantage of data capture tools to make tracking and analysis easy, quick and actionable. For example, there are many automated reporting templates you can use that are commonly available in maintenance management programs.
8. Fine-tune plan
This is one task you should never feel is complete. Your preventive maintenance program should always be under construction as you continually fine-tune, improve, fill in the gaps and fortify procedures that are working well. Use the data you capture through sensors, work order notes and digital reports to see where strengths and weaknesses lie. Uncover opportunities to improve and focus on embracing preventive maintenance wherever possible in your operation.
One crucial element in this phase is to include all stakeholders, such as technicians, operations, reliability engineers, etc., in the process of improvement. Digital profiles and forums for team members make it easy to schedule a time to get feedback, work through problems and review issues that have been flagged while you smooth out any wrinkles in your plan.
The bottom line on building a preventive maintenance program
Creating a successful, sustainable, and effective preventive maintenance program doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of planning, but it’s worth it when you achieve the many benefits. It’s important to build a sturdy strategy by identifying goals, creating proper KPIs and triggers, discussing the plan with stakeholders, leveraging the right technology and conducting training for regular maintenance. It takes consistent analysis and fine-tuning to ensure all your careful planning doesn’t go to waste. And just remember, a well-oiled preventive maintenance program is not an unattainable dream for maintenance operations; it’s a viable option for all. And once you have a solid program in place, there’s always room for growth, like expanding into predictive maintenance.
There are very few modern processes that don’t benefit from a good checklist— basic car maintenance? Yep. Packing for a trip? For sure! Boiling an egg? Yes, even that. And the same goes for your preventive maintenance program.
A preventive maintenance checklist gets all the steps and information out of a manual and into the hands of experienced technicians by standardizing PMs in your CMMS.
This guide will lead you through how to create a preventive maintenance checklists to make your maintenance team more efficient, cost-effective, and safe.
What is a preventive maintenance checklist?
A preventive maintenance checklist is a set of tasks that the technician needs to complete in order to close a preventive maintenance work order.
A checklist gets all the steps and information out of a manual and into the hands of experienced technicians by standardizing PMs in your CMMS.
The purpose of a preventive maintenance checklist is to ensure preventive maintenance tasks are done correctly and in the same sequence of steps, regardless of which maintenance team member completes them.
Preventive maintenance checklists are known by several names, the most common being preventive maintenance task lists or task groups. There are two main types of preventive maintenance checklists: Pass-or-fail checklists and step-by-step checklists.
Examples of preventive maintenance checklists
Pass-or-fail preventive maintenance checklist
Many parts of a machine have an ideal condition. For example, a compressor has an ideal operating temperature. A pass-or-fail preventive maintenance checklist might include instructions to measure the actual temperature of the compressor and compare it to acceptable standards. The compressor can either meet this standard or not. It can pass or fail the test.
A pass-or-fail preventive maintenance checklists can identify problems and prevent bigger issues by scheduling maintenance sooner than usual. While these checklists can be done by maintenance personnel, they are usually the responsibility of machine operators. If a problem is identified during a pass-or-fail checklist, the follow-up tasks are assigned to a maintenance technician.
Example of a pass-or-fail preventive maintenance checklist
Record the strokes-per-minute at which Machine-X is running. Is the inlet temperature of Machine-X below 70°F? (Yes/Pass, No/Fail)
Record the outlet temperature of the product from Machine-X using the infrared temperature meter. Is the outlet temperature under 95°F? (Yes/Pass, No/Fail)
Notify maintenance/create a work request in your CMMS if you have marked “No/Fail” on any of the tasks above.
Step-by-step preventive maintenance checklist
There are also asset parts that require preventive maintenance based on the usage of that asset. For example, a motor might be changed every 500 hours. A step-by-step preventive maintenance checklist outlines instructions for changing the motor, from beginning to end. These checklists ensure no critical steps are missed during a PM so failure can be avoided as often as possible. These checklists usually include more complex and technical tasks, which is why they are normally assigned to or lead by maintenance technicians.
Example of a step-by-step checklist
Lockout from the main panel to complete the following preventive maintenance task
Test machine to ensure lockout is properly preventing the machine from running
Remove belting from conveyor
Replace both bearings on the non-drive side and inspect shaft for any damage
Install conveyor belting on the belt
Remove lockout/tagout and test conveyor at the following speeds: 5, 10, and 15 on VFD
Benefits of a preventive maintenance checklist
Members of your maintenance team can probably recite the steps to certain tasks off the top of their heads. But not everyone necessarily has the same information, especially if they’re new to the job. A formal preventive maintenance checklist puts this knowledge in the palm of your hand for easy access. Here’s how:
Tasks and outcomes are standardized
Checklists create a standard way to do preventive maintenance tasks and regular inspection, which leads to reliable outcomes. There’s no guesswork or miscommunication, reducing the chances of error and the need for costly repairs. For example, if you need to replace an engine, a good checklist will tell you what kind of engine, so you don’t use the wrong part. Reliability helps you plan better and helps mitigate the effects of turnover by ensuring there’s continuity in your processes, even if there isn’t continuity on your team. It makes training more effective, improves safety, and keeps you from relying too much on one person.
Work is more efficient and labor is maximized
Preventive maintenance checklists make is easier for technicians to complete PMs, which makes them quicker. This reduces downtime and allows technicians to move onto more skilled tasks in less time. Detailed checklists also free up time for technicians by allowing other members of the facility, like machine operators, to take on routine tasks. In this way, checklists are an integral part of establishing a great total productive maintenance program.
Troubleshooting and reporting are easier
Because preventive maintenance checklists provide consistency, they create a great baseline for measuring maintenance activity. This baseline helps you to report with more certainty and pinpoint whether a certain action did or did not lead to better results. When all tasks are done the same way, over and over again, it also eliminates the number of reasons why a problem might occur. By reducing the number of possible issues, it makes troubleshooting much easier.
7 steps to build an effective preventive maintenance checklist
Not all preventive maintenance checklists are created equal. Poorly constructed guidelines can be as problematic as having none at all. The good news is, you are likely halfway there when it comes to building great checklists. Your maintenance team has all the necessary information—the key is to gather that information and organize it into formal processes. There are seven things to keep in mind when you’re going through this process:
Focus on safety– Preventive maintenance checklists should start and end with safety instructions, like required PPE, lock-out tag-out instructions, and steps to sanitize the area.
Ensure it’s sequential– Preventive maintenance checklists should list tasks in the order they should be completed.
Follow the preventive maintenance framework– A PM checklist should follow this order of tasks when appropriate:
Example of a preventive maintenance checklist for machines:
Safety – Ensure that machinery is clear of debris before every shift.
Clean – Wipe machine surfaces of lubricant, dirt and other loose debris each day.
Adjust – Check for any parts that have loosened and tighten accordingly. Calibrate machines regularly.
Inspect – Regularly inspect tools for sharpness and proper functionality. Check for leaks, cracks, equipment failure, and safe electrical connections.
Replenish – Routinely check all machinery fluid levels, and air filters in the HVAC system, and replace as needed.
Replace – Check for any worn out parts or damaged tools and replace.
Rebuild – Rebuild any worn out or damaged parts that were custom built.
Include necessary detail– PM checklists should provide enough detail that new technicians can realistically complete the task by reading the checklist. Having too much detail can be confusing and difficult to change if needed.
Provide photos and/or diagrams– PM checklists should include visual representations of the instructions to make the task easier and clarify any ambiguity.
Be as concise as possible– Every task on a PM checklist should have a clear action and goal associated with it so you can ensure maximum efficiency.
Insert total time for the checklist or time requirements for each task– Make sure to give sufficient time for tasks so technicians don’t feel rushed.
Tips for using a preventive maintenance checklist
Now that you know how to create PM checklists, it’s time to decide who should take the lead when it comes to building them.“Best practice for creating checklists is to have it be a team effort between the maintenance manager, the maintenance planner, and the supervisor,” says Fiix solutions engineer Jason Afara.
Afara recommends having the maintenance planner write and plan checklists with input from the manager and supervisor as well as senior technicians. These experienced personnel have been working with the equipment for years and may be able to identify any gaps in checklists.
Because preventive maintenance checklists provide consistency, they create a great baseline for measuring maintenance activity. This baseline helps you to report with more certainty and pinpoint whether a certain action did or did not lead to better results.
The maintenance manager should be the one reviewing checklists and making sure they’re doing the job they’re supposed to be doing and that there are no instances of pencil-whipping occurring.
“You always want to be proactive to ensure your PMs are still relevant and leading to better maintenance,” says Afara.
“The best time to review checklists and make sure they’re still strong is during periods of high turnover, just before production spikes, or when an asset is consistently breaking down right after it’s been inspected.”
Building checklists for better maintenance
Preventive maintenance checklists are an essential part of an effective PM program and are included in preventive maintenance software. Checklists eliminate miscommunication and reduce the chance of human error. They make everyone’s life easier and allow your maintenance team to focus on tasks that optimize their skills and time. Creating checklists for each preventive maintenance task can easily be incorporated into a preventive maintenance schedule. It only takes a few simple steps and can yield tremendous benefits across your facility. So before you set out on the next leg of your maintenance journey, make sure you have well-built maintenance checklists to act as a compass on your way to higher efficiency, better spending, and a safer operation.