Service Now or Pay Later!

It’s an age-old question when it comes to running machinery for any business. Do you spend the time and the money to maintain your equipment now, or just cross your fingers and hope that you don’t have a breakdown in the middle of a shift. Well, the best bet would be to apply a little preventative maintenance to avoid any costly downtime and loss of productivity. It does take some additional planning, but it’s definitely worth it.

The bottom-line is that a disruption of ongoing work means that you’re going to be losing valuable time and revenue. Equipment breakdowns are probably the worst offenders in most cases, with unforeseen stoppages resulting in workers becoming idle and the work you need to do just not getting done. This could apply to heavy equipment, conveyors, forklifts, ventilation systems, lighting, manufacturing equipment, power tools and just about anything that can possibly malfunction. Luckily, there are simple steps that companies can take to help minimize the risk.

What is Preventative Maintenance (PM)?

The name says it all. By applying some scheduled maintenance to your equipment, you can hopefully prevent a negative outcome while working. Preventive maintenance has always been compared to the service schedule that you might use for personal vehicles. If you typically change the oil in your car every 3,000 miles whether it needs it or not, then you‘re following your own preventive maintenance program.

Preventive maintenance is intended to eliminate machine, tool or process breakdowns by scheduling maintenance operations regardless of the actual condition of the equipment. It tends to be based on run hours or some other equivalent time factor, which is based on experience and/or historical data and statistics.

We also only tend to focus on the idea of downtime when it comes to equipment failure, but we do have to consider that there is a risk to workers as well. There are many instances of worker injury due to critical equipment failure, and studies show that proper inspection and maintenance can help to offset these incidences.

Types of Maintenance Programs

There are a variety of industry-specific programs available, but they all typically fall into one of 3 categories:


A Reactive Maintenance program basically means that you wait for something to break and THEN you fix it. Also known as fire fighting, it is performed only when equipment fails. This approach results in the most significant downtime and loss of productivity due to it being completely unpredictable and inefficient. Your work process literally grinds to a halt while repairs are made.

Fixed Time

As the name suggests, this type of program is based on scheduling maintenance for specific time periods. As described in the preventative maintenance section above, it is normally based on run time and would be determined by job experience and data. For instance, you may find that you have to top-up the hydraulic oil on a piece of equipment after every 100 hours of run time or change the blade on a tool after every 2 hours. This ensures that you are able to operate efficiently and can help to avoid breakdowns or accidents.


A Predictive Maintenance program is the most comprehensive, and uses both people skills and technology to develop diagnostic and performance data to assess when equipment is most likely to fail. Aside from user experience, other elements such as maintenance history, operator logs, life expectancy of components and design data are used to make timely decisions about the maintenance requirements of critical equipment.

There is also a growing trend to embed sensors into equipment to be able to accurately monitor run time, and to flag any abnormalities that may affect safe operating limits. The Internet of Things (IoT), as it is called, uses online connectivity to be able to monitor and effectively trigger work orders in the event of any issues.

Additional Tips

  • Depending on the scope and scale of your operation, have specific maintenance policies in-place and include written procedures and a reporting structure
  • For larger companies with substantial volume and multiple pieces of equipment, it is recommended that the maintenance programs be software based and include automatic alerts as maintenance tasks become current
  • Always use specific, qualified and readily available staff or contractors to conduct maintenance and repairs. You don’t want to have your whole operation bound to one person who may be sick one day or on vacation.
  • Beyond any maintenance program that you have in-place, equipment and tools must always be inspected before every use for damage and excessive wear
  • Where possible, use the best quality equipment and supplies that you can afford, to help offset early breakdowns. You get what you pay for.
  • Purchase equipment from a limited number of manufacturers (ideally local or at least domestic), so that getting replacement parts and service is faster and more efficient
  • Aside from manufacturer specs, be sure to understand how geographic or regional differences may affect equipment. Elements such as terrain, humidity and temperature may have an adverse affect on your gear.
  • Experience will show what spare parts and supplies that you might normally require on an ongoing basis. Be sure to stay well stocked and replenish as needed. For operation-critical applications, maintaining full stand-by equipment is sometimes necessary.

Operational best practices always lean toward doing as much preventative maintenance as you can. With so much at-stake, you won’t want to have any regrets.

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