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How Do I Start a Preventive Maintenance and/or Predictive Maintenance Program?

Updated on February 7, 2012

Gather an Equipment List

The proper way to collect analytical data is to document maintenance costs against each piece of equipment. Such costs also become part of Key Performance Indicators for determining when to replace equipment. Start by conducting a wall-to-wall Master Equipment List inventory. Systematically go into each space and document the nameplate data of each piece of equipment or component onto an equipment form.

Determine Maintainable Equipment/Assets

Once you have all the equipment and assets inventoried, determine which ones would benefit from periodic preventive maintenance, and make sure to keep track using some sort of asset management software, if you have the program. This becomes a cost-benefit exercise. Take a bathroom exhaust fan, for instance. A new one costs only $30 to $40. So is it worth spending $50 in labor and materials each instance to lubricate the motor several times a year? Even once a year? Probably not. Equipment such as this should likely be allowed to “run to fail”, meaning Reactive Maintenance is the most cost efficient method for addressing such items. However, for something more costly and critical like a chiller or boiler, the cost of performing preventive maintenance at set intervals far outweighs the cost of purchasing a new unit before the end of its expected life or the cost of having it fail at a critical time.

Determine Spaces That Need Inspection

Preventive Maintenance is not just for equipment. You may wish to periodically inspect spaces to look for non-equipment issues that could result in more costly concerns if not addressed. Start with doing a periodic walk-thru of each facility. Look at the building’s structure, both inside and out. Assess flooring, paint and finishes, doors, hardware, plumbing fixtures and electrical outlets. Take a close look inside equipment rooms for leaks, housekeeping issues and code violations. Listen for strange noises and feel cabinet doors and machine casings for inordinate amounts of vibration or heat loss. Document your findings and create repair work orders to address items found during the walk-thru. This is a great way to be proactive and catch things before problems arise. It’s also a professional way to run a maintenance operation.

Determine PM Tasks and Frequencies

The best place to start is by consulting the owner’s manual of the equipment. There are also a number of other resources that offer excellent guidance on setting up tasks and frequencies, either as a sole source or as a supplement. Regulatory groups such as ASHRAE, NFPA and IEEE, engineering firms such as R.S. Means and Whitestone, and trade associations such as APPA, IFMA and BOMA are all great resources. Finally, remember that a PM Program is not static…it requires constant attention and manipulation. Consider where your equipment is located, what it operates, and the environmental conditions in which it operates. This all influence tasks and frequencies. For example, an Air Handler Unit in a dusty, exposed area will require more frequent air filter changes than one in a cleaner, protected environment. So start with some base frequencies and tasks and make adjustments as situations change.

Create a Load Leveling Matrix

You must determine how much time you have available to do PM’s each week. This is accomplished by creating a Load Leveling Matrix. This is nothing more than a spreadsheet consisting of PM tasks listed down the left side and all 52 weeks of the year listed across the top. The data that goes in the middle is the estimated time to perform each PM. You do one per trade.

You’ll update the Load Leveling Matrix anytime new PM’s are added or dropped, or task hours change in order to maintain an accurate record. Load Leveling accomplishes three objectives: First, it allows you to see all PM’s for the year at a glance. Second, it allows you to spread the PM’s out in a manner that doesn’t overload technicians in any one week. Third, it allows you to schedule PM’s at the most advantageous time of year. For example, you’d want to schedule annual Chiller PM’s well before the start of summer not after it’s begun.

Determine Manpower Availability

First, count all available Full-Time Equivalents (FTE’s) and multiply by the number of work hours in a week, usually 40, to get Total Available Man Hours. Next, determine your Wrench Time Percentage. Wrench Time is what’s left after deducting average leave taken, administrative time, shop clean-up, jury duty, and other non-productive time from the Total Available Man Hours. Convert this to a percentage and multiply by the Total Available Man Hours to arrive at Net Time Available. Next, enter the number of PM man hours from the Load Leveling Matrix.

The remaining time can then be used for Reactive Maintenance and other work. You may find you’ll need to allow more time for Reactive work when first starting up a PM program. But as PM’s are routinely accomplished, you’ll find the amount of Reactive time needed will diminish, allowing more time for PM’s.

Schedule PM’s

Strive to create realistic PM schedules that ensure enough hours are available to address all PM’s in a given period of time and that they are done at the proper time of year. For example, you’d want to schedule a Chiller PM well before the start of summer not in the middle of it. Insure you schedule the PM with enough lead time to order needed materials and get the work done prior to the equipment’s high use period.

PM Generation

Now that you’ve determined when you want the PM’s to generate, the next step is to determine how. You can generate PM’s manually using a calendar system as your reminder for when to create the work orders. This works well for small operations. For larger ones that generate a lot of PM’s, you might consider an automated method.

Most CMMS companies offer PM Schedulers and Generators that automatically keep track of when PM’s come due and can produce PM work orders at the touch of a button. Weekly, monthly, or at a time interval that works best for you, the Scheduler can be queried to see if any PM’s are due. Once PM work orders are generated, the system resets the Next PM Date in accordance with the frequency of the PM so the system can remind you when the next cycle of work comes due and is ready to be generated.

Calendar and Meter Based PM’s

There are two types of PM’s, Calendar Based and Meter Based. Calendar Based PM’s are the most traditional and involve generating PM’s on a set time frequency (monthly, quarterly, etc.). Meter Based PM’s are generated based on a counter such as an odometer or an hour meter. This also requires that a counter reading be taken periodically, entered into the system and added to the last reading. Once the counter total reaches the reading you’ve targeted, a PM is generated. PM’s can also be generated on an “either/or” basis.

The classic example is a car oil change where the sticker placed in the windshield says that the next oil change is due either on a particular date or at a certain odometer reading, whichever occurs first. Most CMMS systems will accommodate either Calendar Based or Meter Based PM’s, or both concurrently.


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