Preventive versus proactive maintenance

Preventive versus proactive maintenance blog

Business asset equipment has a limited life span once they’re installed. This is true in any organisation, whether it’s in power utilities, oil and gas, water distribution, or another industry. It’s therefore essential to regularly fix wear and tear and ensure that your assets are running optimally. Two of the most popular strategies your business can implement are preventive and proactive maintenance. To help you decide which is ideal for your business, we break down the benefits and drawbacks of both maintenance strategies.    

What is preventive maintenance?

Preventive maintenance is a strategy that aims to reduce the likelihood of equipment failure through scheduled assessments, optimisations, and parts replacements. Even if asset equipment is still functional, preventive measures are still applied to ensure everything is running optimally. 

To schedule preventive maintenance tasks, businesses will usually need to look at two critical factors: equipment usage and time. For example, technicians will need to calibrate and lubricate motorised machinery if used for over 40 hours or over 5,000 kilometres. Meanwhile, technicians in a water treatment facility may be scheduled to check chemical levels daily, take water quality samples every month, and overhaul chemical feed pumps annually. Preventive maintenance tasks are also scheduled more frequently depending on how critical a piece of equipment is to the entire production line. 

Benefits of preventive maintenance

When appropriately implemented, preventive maintenance strategies offer a host of benefits to your company. For one, weekly scheduled inspections and optimisations improve asset efficiency and keep your facilities in top shape. That means there’s less risk of downtime, reducing the need for emergency repairs and other work orders. You also minimise equipment failures that lead to accidents like electrocution or chemical exposure, leading to better compliance with industry health and safety regulations. 

What’s more, preventive maintenance gives your company ample time to prepare. Since preventative maintenance schedules are fixed, it’s easy to organise work orders and assign the most qualified technicians for each task ahead of time. You can acquire necessary parts and tools prior to planned equipment shutdowns, cutting costs associated with rush ordering supplies. You can even create maintenance checklists modelled after Safe Work Method Statements to guide field technicians through all the routine tasks they’re expected to complete.  

Drawbacks of preventive maintenance

Although preventive maintenance dramatically reduces the likelihood of equipment failure, the frequency at which they’re conducted may drive up costs. After all, performing maintenance regularly on all company equipment requires a significant investment. You need to rent maintenance machinery more often, regularly shut down plants, and procure additional supplies. Then there are the extensive labour costs linked to performing preventive maintenance and other expenses such as insurance and training. 

If you’re not careful, your company may run the risk of over-maintenance and waste valuable resources maintaining every asset component, even those deemed less critical. Some components and machinery, like water metres and industrial lighting equipment, can afford to run to failure without any catastrophic consequences. In these cases, it’s actually more economical to react to these parts breaking down rather than periodically replacing and inspecting them. 

What is proactive maintenance?

Proactive maintenance involves identifying and resolving the reasons for equipment failures before they occur. Instead of a rigid maintenance schedule, a proactive approach leverages data and analytics to plan maintenance tasks. More specifically, managers will study real-time asset conditions and historical data to spot early signs of issues that may lead to significant problems down the line. A power utility company, in particular, may choose to perform maintenance on transformers when heat levels rise to a certain threshold. The company may also decide to change insulating oil after two years because historical data shows that, on average, they tend to expire within that time frame. 

Benefits of proactive maintenance

The advantage of a proactive approach to maintenance is better resource allocation. Using expenditure records and historical data, you can evaluate which assets are most critical, so you know where to direct your maintenance efforts. It’s much easier to plan for maintenance tasks and know what tools to bring when you know precisely which asset components should be addressed. You also don’t have to spread your field technicians thin to complete a long list of maintenance tasks on a daily basis. 

Additionally, proactive maintenance identifies other causes of asset failures beyond early equipment issues. For instance, previous reports may indicate asset failures due to maintenance process errors or misused assets. In such cases, your company may need to clarify protocols and provide additional training for technicians. 

As a result of eliminating redundant maintenance tasks, you dramatically reduce your field technicians’ exposure to hazardous conditions. Plus, your company can continue to run uninterrupted while increasing workplace safety. All this essentially means you’re achieving the same benefits of a preventive maintenance programme without any of its drawbacks. 

Drawbacks of proactive maintenance

Proactive maintenance requires accurate and high-quality data to work. Without detailed asset condition and maintenance reports, your company will fail to address what’s causing equipment breakdowns and make ill-informed decisions. 

Fortunately, there are many tools today to help businesses capture data. Smart sensors and automated drones can inspect assets in otherwise inaccessible areas and track their condition in real-time. Meanwhile, you can use checklists to have technicians complete accurate maintenance reports. You can then consolidate the information in your maintenance management systems so you can make smarter decisions when dispatching work orders.

Which maintenance strategy is best?

The maintenance strategy you employ will heavily depend on the nature of your business. For most companies, a combination of both approaches may actually be suitable. Assets that have a high likelihood of failure with increased use are best suited to preventive maintenance strategies. However, proactive maintenance is ideal for critical assets as long as you have detailed information on maintenance histories, current status, expenditures, and more. 

If you need more advice on what maintenance strategy to use for your business, check out our WorkBuddy blog for more ideas. We also offer a world-class field force platform that helps you schedule maintenance tasks, create checklists, and establish a safer workplace. Contact us today to learn more.

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