Equipment maintenance logs: The unsung hero of data-driven maintenance
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?
- How detailed does the information need to be?
- Who is going to be using this information and how?
Generally, this breaks down into two sections: Information about the asset and information about maintenance work.
Best practice is to start with asset information at the top. This can include:
- Equipment name
- Location within your facility
- Manufacturer details (name, part number, contact details, manufacture date)
- Purchase date
- Date in service
Then describe the work that was done on the equipment:
- Date of maintenance task
- Brief description of the task
- Name of the person who performed the work
- Date of the next scheduled maintenance
- Additional observations, notes, or comments
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.