It’s about time you started taking care of your equipment. It’s not just about whether or not you’re working with the latest and greatest, it’s about making sure that what you have is up and running as efficiently as possible. You don’t want to find out that your equipment needs repair in the middle of a critical operation, or worse: when it breaks down completely. That can lead to lost time, money, and even injury.
But why does this happen?
A lot of facilities and maintenance managers find it challenging to manage their preventive maintenance programs without using spreadsheets—but spreadsheets can be time-consuming, get lost among other paperwork, or be downright frustrating.
Preventive maintenance (sometimes called preventative) software enables managers to schedule maintenance, send alerts to the right people when a job is due, and increase resource access and allocation. It also keeps equipment operating efficiently, increases the safety of employees, and helps you avoid costly repairs down the road. In this article, we will discuss preventive maintenance software, why its used, examples, and some important things to consider when implementing it at your organization.
What is preventive maintenance software (and who uses it)?
Preventive maintenance software is used to help schedule ongoing preventive maintenance work. It allows companies to be proactive about their maintenance, rather than reactive. It’s often used by maintenance and plant managers and other industrial and maintenance personnel. It’s used because it’s one of the best solutions to avoid unexpected repairs. By planning your preventive maintenance schedule, you can be proactive about the regular checkups that keep your equipment running smoothly.
Three steps to consider when choosing a preventive maintenance software
1. Understand at what level your organization manages preventive maintenance
Before choosing your preventive maintenance software it’s important to first understand at what level your organization manages preventive maintenance. If you have a large company with many different sites, it would be beneficial for you to use something like a CMMS. This will allow your sites and teams access to the same information and data.
Whereas, a good fit for a smaller organization may be a single-site solution. The next step to consider is how much money you want to spend or can spend on a solution. While there are programs that are low cost, and sometimes free, others may need more funding to run properly and improve your processes.
2. Assess your needs vs. your wants
When choosing the right preventive maintenance software, it’s important to first assess your wants and needs. This means reviewing your processes and seeing how they can be improved with the software. Think about what features the software has that can improve efficiencies for your team and maintenance process, and ask yourself:
What are my goals?
How much time do I have to dedicate to a project? (Consider if there’s already a system that needs improving)
What kind of data do I want to track? (Think about how many assets you have, and how many technicians and managers you employ)
3. Stick to the financial budget
Every maintenance team needs to stick to its financial budget, and choosing preventive maintenance software can be costly. When you’re making a decision consider the budget you have available and the structure of the business. This will help you determine the best solution. In addition, it’s important to keep future scenarios in mind, and financial forecast and plan for things like: business growth, new facilities, and economic downturns.
Types of preventive maintenance software
Preventive maintenance software comes in all shapes and sizes, from extremely specialized systems to giant platforms connecting maintenance to other business units. Below are the most common types of preventive maintenance software.
1. Computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS)
CMMS software and maintenance apps help maintenance teams keep detailed and centralized records of all assets, equipment, and completed work. A CMMS allows facilities to plan, track, and optimize work orders, inventory, and everything associated with maintenance.
A CMMS manages all the maintenance activities that take place during the operational part of an asset’s life. At the same time, this type of preventive maintenance software works as a productive part of a facility.
All CMMS preventive maintenance software can be divided into two groups: Cloud-based CMMS software and on-premise CMMS software.
2. Enterprise asset management (EAM)
EAM software provides a holistic view of an organization’s physical assets and infrastructure throughout its entire lifecycle, from design and procurement to operation, maintenance, disposal, and replacement. EAM systems record asset information, manage work orders, coordinate inventory purchasing and usage, organize labor, track contracts, measure costs, and spending, and calculate KPIs.
3. Enterprise resource planning (ERP)
Here’s how ERP software works: every company has different business units that make it function, like accounting, human resources, and maintenance. ERP software takes everything these different departments do and connects them, so the entire organization has the same processes and information.
Because there is one central place for all data, it means an accountant, a salesperson, a maintenance technician, and a CEO can all use the system for their day-to-day activities while relying on the same information to plan, assess, and complete those activities. By collecting transactional data from multiple sources, ERP systems eliminate data duplication, offer data integrity, and provide a single source of truth.
While it’s not exactly maintenance software, ERP systems are part of the larger maintenance technology ecosystem. It’s important for maintenance technology to be able to integrate with an ERP system to help keep accurate inventory levels and keep your finance team in the loop. Many other preventive maintenance technologies are used in asset-heavy production and manufacturing facilities.
Steps to take when integrating preventive maintenance software at your organization
Integrating any type of new technology or software into an existing workplace can be challenging, but taking the right steps will make the process much easier for everyone involved in using the new technology. Here are the steps to follow when implementing a new preventive maintenance software:
Recognize that integration is a process, not an event. Integrating preventive maintenance software involves a lot of planning, and preparation, as well as addressing technical challenges that may occur prior to the implementation and cause risk, and a plan of action for when and if those challenges occur.
Plan at the right level. You will inevitably ask yourself if it makes sense to integrate this software with the existing systems or processes, but you need to plan ahead for the future as well. For example, if you’re integrating a CMMS for multiple facilities and warehouses, you can easily integrate them together from day one—rather than having two separate systems talking to each other through other means (like an email).
Recognize that acceptance of the new software won’t always be smooth. Read that again. It’s hard for managers to recognize that their team may not embrace the new software with open arms. You may face challenges and questions about the software, why it’s being used, and how exactly it’s going to save time and money. Be prepared to address these concerns and work with your team to get into the new processes. With time, your team will recognize how valuable software like a CMMS or ERP really is.
The right maintenance software can help your company save money and reduce downtime
By implementing preventive maintenance software your team can become more proactive about your maintenance. The first step is to assess where preventive maintenance occurs in your organization, and next, you need to review your current needs and wants so that when you find the right software for your organization there are no surprises.
Every day, meat processing plants need to make sure the metal detectors in their machines are working. It’s a simple check to ensure there’s metal where there should be and no metal where there shouldn’t be.
This process involves running test balls through the machine. It takes about 45 minutes to complete (25 minutes of manual labour and 20 minutes of admin time). It’s routine maintenance— the type most people don’t give a second thought to.
It’s also an example of how tweaking maintenance processes can boost production efficiency. Instead of a manual check, the inspection can be done with an automated test-ball shooter. A button is pressed, the balls roll out on their own, and the task is wrapped up in five minutes. The result is more than 160 hours of extra equipment availability per year.
This is just one example of how companies can leverage maintenance to increase production efficiency. This article outlines several other strategies for bolstering production efficiency using maintenance, including:
How maintenance impacts production efficiency
Five ways the maintenance team can boost production capacity
How to measure the impact of maintenance on production
What is production efficiency?
Production efficiency is a measurement used mostly by manufacturers to determine how well (and how long) a company can keep up with demand. It compares current production rates to expected or standard production rates.
A higher rate of production efficiency delivers three critical outcomes for manufacturers:
Reduced resource usage: Efficient production systems produce the same number of goods with fewer resources
Higher financial margins: Efficient production means higher margins throughout the supply chain
A better customer experience: Efficient production allows products and services to be regularly and dependably delivered to customers
How to calculate production efficiency
The calculation for production efficiency compares the actual output rate to the standard output rate. The formula can be applied to either manual or automated work.
When it comes to industrial processes, the calculation takes quality into account. Let’s say you produce 50 units in an hour, but only 30 are useable. Your rate of production for that hour is 30 units.
The following formula is used to calculate production efficiency:
Production Efficiency = (Actual Output Rate / Standard Output Rate) x 100
For example, a manufacturing company receives a new order of 100 units. The standard rate of completion for 100 units is 10 hours, or 10 units per hour. However, the company took 12 hours to complete 100 quality units. In this case, the production efficiency formula would look like this:
Actual Output Rate = 100 units / 12 hours (8.3 units/hour)
Standard Output Rate = 100 units / 10 hours (10 units/hour)
Production Efficiency = (8.3 / 10) x 100 (83%)
In this instance, output and productivity levels are below capacity.
How maintenance can increase production efficiency
Proper equipment maintenance is essential for increasing production efficiency. It ensures your total effective equipment performance (TEEP) is as high as it can be. Using preventive maintenance to keep assets operating at their best helps to:
Limit equipment downtime: If equipment is checked regularly, you can find and fix failures before they cause big breakdowns that disrupt production. Having a solid preventive maintenance schedule also allows you to coordinate with production so planned downtime is done quickly.
Establish a corrective action system for failures: Having a strategy to find, analyze, and fix failure (aka a FRACAS) allows you to target recurring issues at their root. You can spot and eliminate problems that impact equipment availability and product quality the most.
Coordinate better shift changeovers: Better changeovers between maintenance shifts means communicating the right information to technicians quickly and accurately. This includes a run-down of what work needs to be done, when, and any obstacles that might get in the way of that work.
Ensuring standard operating procedures are clear and maintained: SOPs train operators to do routine maintenance so machines can be operated with fewer breakdowns and accidents.
Five things your maintenance team can start doing tomorrow to increase production efficiency
There are a lot of projects that take months or years to complete. But getting quick wins is also crucial for building momentum and proving the value of your maintenance team. So, here are five things your maintenance team can start doing tomorrow to increase production efficiency.
1. Optimize the frequency of your PMs
A preventive maintenance schedule can be a good example of having too much of a good thing. Going overboard on preventive maintenance can affect production efficiency in two ways. You can either waste valuable time preventing non-existent failure. Or you can increase the risk of failure by meddling with a perfectly fine component.
These guidelines can help you find the right balance between too many PMs and too few:
Use equipment maintenance logs to track the found failure rate on preventive maintenance tasks. Start with PMs that take the longest to do or cost the most.
If a PM leads to regular corrective maintenance, keep it at the same frequency.
If a PM rarely identifies failure, try increasing the time between inspections. If the found failure rate exceeds the frequency of the PM, tweak your schedule so it’s better aligned. For example, an inspection might happen every two weeks. But a failure is usually found every six weeks. In this case, plan for the PM to happen every 4-6 weeks instead.
If a machine experiences frequent breakdowns between inspections, try shortening maintenance intervals. You can also modify the trigger for maintenance, changing it from a time-based trigger to usage or performance-based trigger.
2. Identify machines that can be maintained while running
Some routine maintenance can be done while a machine is still operating. Find out if there are any assets that can be safely worked on while being used for production. The key word there is ‘safely’. This might mean that some work can’t be done because certain areas of a machine aren’t safely accessible while it’s operating. In this scenario, determine if partial maintenance is possible and if it’ll have a positive impact on the performance of the equipment.
It’s also a good idea to track rotating or spare assets and swap them for production equipment when possible. That allows you to do regular maintenance on these machines without sacrificing productivity.
3. Make equipment capabilities transparent and clear
Create an iron-clad list of instructions for operating equipment and common issues to be aware of. You can use a failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) to create a list of common failures experienced by each asset. This can also include warning signs for breakdowns.
Having this information clearly outlined and easily accessible gives operators a chance to notice the early signs of failure and notify maintenance before it gets worse. Employees will be empowered to observe and identify any potential problems, and report them accordingly.
4. Use work order data to identify where your team can be more efficient
Work order data can tell you what jobs can get done quicker and how to minimize the risk of asset failure so you can boost production efficiency. Look for these telltale signs of broken processes in your work orders:
Unavailable parts and supplies: If this issue is delaying maintenance, review the purchasing process for parts and supplies. That includes making sure your cycle counts are accurate and the threshold for purchase approvals is low enough that inventory can get replenished quickly. You can also create parts kits for frequent repairs or emergency repairs on production equipment so your team can locate and retrieve parts quickly.
Misidentified/misdiagnosed problems or missing instructions: Make sure task lists, failure codes, and descriptions are clear. Attach photos, manuals, and other documentation to the work order.
Diverted resources resulting from emergency work orders: Emergencies can always be avoided. Analyze your work order data, find tasks that are too big, and break it down into smaller jobs to reduce the risk of major disruptions.
Scheduling conflicts with production: See if maintenance can be scheduled while production is happening or if work can be done at an alternate time, like evenings or weekends. You can also consider giving operators minor maintenance responsibilities associated with the work order.
Lack of adequate worker skillset: Work order data can show you if the person/people assigned to the work may not have the right skills. Make it very clear on the work request what kind of skills or certifications are necessary for certain maintenance types.
5. Find the biggest obstacles for your team and eliminate them
You can learn a lot from the data that comes from your equipment and work orders. But sometimes, you just have to ask the people who are doing the actual work. They will be able to tell you what barriers they face when completing work. Acting on this information is crucial to continually improve your maintenance processes. All those improvements can add up to a huge boost in production efficiency.
For example, your technicians may spend a lot of time going back and forth from the office to retrieve manuals, asset histories, or other materials that help them on a job. You probably won’t know that just by looking at work order records or wrench time reports. Armed with this information, you can figure out a solution. Maybe that’s creating areas throughout your facility where files can be accessed for nearby assets. Or it could be digitizing those files so they can be accessed through a mobile device.
Here are a few questions to ask your technicians to find any roadblocks:
What tasks commonly take you away from a machine?
Are information and parts easily accessible? If not, why?
What information would help you complete work more efficiently?
Are there processes or systems that are hard to use or you think could be improved?
Is there anything that frequently keeps you from starting a task on time?
Four ways to measure the impact of maintenance on production efficiency
There are many ways to measure how your maintenance efforts are affecting production efficiency. The most common metrics are the following:
Found failure rate on preventive maintenance
This metric will help you measure how efficient your preventive maintenance schedule is. If your found failure rate is high, it means you’re cutting down on unnecessary maintenance while preventing major disruptions to production.
Unplanned asset downtime (last 90 days)
This number tracks the amount of unplanned equipment downtime and compares it to the previous 90-day period. Because each minute of downtime lowers your production efficiency, this number highlights how maintenance is contributing to healthier, higher-performing assets.
Average time to respond to and repair breakdowns
This stat quantifies all the work you’ve done to prepare for emergencies. Breakdowns will happen. Having a plan to quickly and safely fix these failures will help you reduce the amount of time production is stalled.
Compare the amount of useable products coming from the equipment prior to and after maintenance is completed. If the machine is running better after maintenance, it’s proof that your team is increasing production capacity in a meaningful way.
Maintenance has the opportunity to drive production efficiency
Maintenance often gets talked about as an expense. A necessary evil. A cost-center. But the reality is, good maintenance can drive your business forward. When you keep the machines running, you can do more, faster, with less. That means happier customers, a better bottom line, and more profit for everyone in the supply chain. It’s a true win-win-win.
In order to turn maintenance from a cost centre to a business driver, you need to reorient maintenance as a business function and start asking how maintenance can drive production efficiency. From there, a world of opportunity opens up.
Competing for money and resources can be brutal. Everyone wants the same slice of budget that just opened up. That includes the maintenance team. There are probably a thousand things you can think of doing with a little extra money. And you know they would all make a difference.
But you need to convince the people with the keys to the budget that this money will be well-spent in your hands. That requires you to stand out from the crowd and get business leaders to buy into your vision for your maintenance project.
If it seems like it would be easier to climb Mount Everest than to get that buy-in, this article is for you. It gives you a formula for combining two powerful forces in the fight for project approval: Data and storytelling.
There are six steps for building the perfect pitch for your maintenance project. At each stage, you’ll find out how to use data and storytelling to elevate your ask above others so you can get approval for your project and the budget to match.
Step 1: Present a problem
Why this works
Your project is a change. And change is painful. That’s why you need to show that the pain of doing nothing (aka your current situation) is worse than the pain of changing. Find a problem that your project solves and lead with it.
How to tell the story
There are three steps for telling the story of your problem:
Describe the problem
Show what the problem looks like
Explain the impact of the problem
What data to use
Make your best effort to quantify your problem. In the example above, you might talk about:
The average time to retrieve parts from the storeroom
The number of emergency parts needed each month
The number of downtime hours tied to the disorganized storeroom
Some other examples of quantifying a problem include:
Cost: How much is the problem costing your team?
Time: Are you spending more time than you should on a task? What is that keeping you from doing instead?
Health and safety: Are audit compliance tasks not getting done, or are near misses getting higher?
Employee retention: Is it hard to hang on to good team members?
Quality: How is a deficiency for your team affecting the end product?
Step 2: Outline your solution
Why this works
Now that you have a villain in your story (the problem), it’s time to introduce the hero (your project). People like to poke holes in a project because it’s a leap into the unknown. But they’re less likely to do this when the project is the answer to a problem they’re worried about.
How to tell the story
Describing your solution with a three-step approach:
Describe your solution/project
Explain how it solves the problem
Outline the outcome/benefits
What data to use
Attaching numbers to your claims will help them resonate. For example, find out how many labor hours you could save if technicians didn’t need to spend their time searching for parts. That may seem like a small number. But if you multiply it by weeks, months, or years, it can add up fast.
All those benefits don’t exist in a vacuum. If you spend five hours a month on repairs instead of rifling through the storeroom, it could mean five more hours of production, which could be huge for your organization.
There are a few ways you can get this data:
Work order data: If you want to improve a process, break it out on your work orders and have technicians record how much time or money they spend on that process
Your peers: If you don’t know how much of an hour is worth to the production team, ask them or consult the OEM guidelines for an asset
Conduct a controlled experiment: Test your solution on a small, low-risk asset or process and measure the results before and after (this will also help you in step #4).
Step 3: Align your solution with business goals
Why this works
Everyone, from the CEO to a junior technician, has a target to hit. If your project gets people closer to hitting their targets, you’re more likely to get their support. It turns your project from something the maintenance department wants to do to something the business has to do. It creates an emotional investment in the idea, which can quickly turn into a financial investment.
How to tell the story
This story is told in three parts:
Determine the goals of the business: This could be anything from reducing costs to opening new sites around the world
Connect that goal to maintenance work: Highlight what the maintenance team is doing and how that impacts the higher-level goal
Tie that work to the project: Explain how your project can either close a gap or improve what you’re already doing in your maintenance program
What data to use
You’ve identified the impact of your maintenance project on business goals. Now it’s time to answer the question, “By how much?” Here are a few examples of tying a maintenance project to company initiatives with data:
Cost efficiency: Hiring a specialist will allow us to cut contractor costs by $100,000 a year and increase production time by 8% a year
Expansion: Buying maintenance software gives us the power to standardize maintenance processes so we can set up new maintenance teams in 30 days instead of 60 (This guide has many more tips for convincing your boss to invest in software)
Risk reduction: A dedicated inventory manager will track and forecast parts usage so we can prepare for supply chain disruptions and cut emergency purchases by 40%
Step 4: Prove the project will work
Why this works
People hate the unknown. Risk is a dirty word, especially in budget discussions. That’s why proving your project will work is essential for getting it, and its budget, approved. A lot of skepticism around your plan will disappear if you can show your idea can, and has been done, before.
How to tell the story
There are a few different angles you can take to prove your project is a sure thing:
Find examples of other companies that have done the same project with good results. Bonus points if it’s a competitor or a well-known company.
See if another team or site at your company has gone through a similar project and what the positive outcomes were. For example, how have maintenance teams at other sites approached the problem you’re trying to solve?
Conduct a small experiment or pilot of your idea and present the findings. If you do a trial of free maintenance software, you can show how a paid version will bring a return on the investment.
What data to use
Collecting data from case studies or pilot projects is only half the battle. The strongest pitches take these results and translate them to fit your team and the scale of the project. For example, another company may have seen 30% fewer breakdowns after installing sensors on all their machines. But what if it’s only realistic for you to monitor sensor readings on a handful of assets? Will it yield the same results?
Here’s another example: Let’s say a month-long pilot project has helped you save 20 hours of administrative work. If you put this project in place full-time, it would save you 240 hours a year. In other words, it would free up 12% of your time.
Step 5: Identify risks
Why this works
Every project has its risks. This isn’t a secret. Ignoring potential pitfalls will quickly send your project into ‘too good to be true’ territory. Anticipating these speed bumps shows you are prepared to navigate around them without spending too much time or money. And that’ll make your boss (and their boss) more comfortable with the project.
How to tell the story
The secret is to pair every risk you’ve identified with a plan for conquering it, like these examples:
Risk: Technicians won’t use the software we’re introducing Plan: Involve them in the selection process so they’re comfortable with the system
Risk: It will take longer than we think to onboard a new hire Plan: Record short tutorials for routine tasks to shorten the learning curve
Risk: Our backlog will get bigger while we implement the project Plan: Develop a system to prioritize and complete backlogged work to reduce risk
Risk: We’ll overspend on the project Plan: Create a well-defined project roadmap to prevent scope creep and overspending
What data to use
Risk prevention is about spotting red flags on the horizon. Just like a high level of vibration could signal an impending breaking down, there’s data that’ll help you find a threat to your project and stop it. Presenting these KPIs during your pitch will show that you’re not gauging risk based on a hunch.
For example, you could measure adoption rates if you were implementing new software. If adoption rates are low, you could do more training to get your team comfortable with the system.
Other examples of red flag data include:
Step 6: Outline your plan and requirements
Why this works
This step is about filling out the specifics of your plan so everyone understands how it’ll affect you, your team, and the rest of the organization in the weeks or months to come. It also shows that the resources and support you’re asking for will be put to use quickly and effectively to produce reliable results faster.
How to tell the story
Avoid a massive list of everything you plan to accomplish and the resources you need. Break your project into milestones. Then figure out what you’ll need and how you’ll measure success at each step using this framework:
Timeline: How long will this step of the project take? Pro tip: if it takes longer than a couple of months, consider breaking this step into even smaller touchpoints.
Tasks: What will you accomplish at this step of the project? If the end goal of this step is to complete an audit of all weekly scheduled maintenance, one of your tasks could be to review all task lists for accuracy.
Stakeholders: Determine who’ll be involved at each step of the project. Pro tip: Highlight how involved each stakeholder will be. For example, who is responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed?
Resources and costs: What resources will you need to accomplish each task and how much will they cost? This can range from labor and parts costs to software subscriptions.
KPIs: How will you measure success at each stage. This could be anything from what you’ve accomplished (ie. audit 50% of work orders) to its impact (ie. wrench time in the last 90 days).
What data to use
A lot of focus will be put on costs at this step. The best way to soften the blow is to compare the cost of the project to what the company is spending (or losing) without your solution.
For example, hiring a storeroom manager and creating an inventory program will cost about $125,000 a year. The company is currently spending about $250,000 a year on lost production time and emergency parts purchases.
When measuring success metrics, look at rolling averages to mark progress. Set up your metrics like this:
Define your success metrics. Ie. Time to retrieve parts
Set benchmarks. Ie. It takes an average of 20 minutes to retrieve parts
Track 90-day progress. Ie. The average time to retrieve parts has dropped by 33% (6.5 minutes) over the last 90 days
The perfect pitch combines data and storytelling
People don’t invest in projects. They invest in problems, solutions and outcomes. And the best way to get their attention is with stories. Sprinkling some data in there drives home the size, scale, and impact of those problems, solutions, and outcomes.
You don’t need a ground-breaking idea to use this framework. It works just as well for a massive overhaul of your maintenance systems as it does for getting extra money for a contractor. So the next time you need to justify your budget, pitch an idea, or just want a vote of confidence for a new process, just remember that storytelling and data are your best friends.