Building infrastructures that house utility sections need its equipment and civil structures to be in prime order. Commercial buildings such as office spaces, hotels, malls, hospitals etc. that offer services directly to its users have a relatively deeper obligation of reliability, performance and timeliness towards its occupants and owners. An unexpected equipment breakdown could have severe consequences ranging from service disruption to even impacting workplace safety.

From an economics standpoint as well, healthy functioning of a utility directly contributes to better bottom-line margins. Therefore, a regular maintenance intervention is imperative to ensure the health of a facility remains top grade in real-time. One of the most popular and effective maintenance strategies which is widely implemented across facility management services is Preventive Maintenance (PM).

What is Preventive Maintenance (PM) after all and why is it such a big deal?
PM is a maintenance strategy that involves following OEM recommendations of regular and periodic servicing of assets. These services are carried out during an asset’s normal working condition to avoid unplanned downtimes. As opposed to reactive or run-to-failure maintenance activities, a PM approach allows organizations to extend asset life, plan for maintenance budgets, inventory control, efficient manpower utilization, decrease equipment downtime and plan capex investments ahead of time. All this enables the organization to perceive Preventive maintenance as a value-added-service to its mainstream operations. Organizations are at will to choose a sweet-spot between Reactive and Predictive maintenance. While reactive maintenance is often a negative approach leading to loss of time, money and even reputation at times, hyper-predictive maintenance strategy is often seen as a cost sensitive approach. Companies while budgeting for operational expenditures trim down on various expenses to meet targets and hence depending on the financial appetite of each organization, a suitable preventive maintenance strategy can be adopted.

What are the advantages of adopting Preventive Maintenance?
Preventive maintenance ensures regular and periodic maintenance is performed on assets not only to avoid critical machine failure and increase their lifecycle but also to ensure seamless services and reduced operational costs. It avoids an on-coming problem before it appears. This maintenance strategy is a pan-industry solution and though it remains more effective in asset-heavy industries like manufacturing, construction, hotels, hospitals etc., it is conveniently applicable across all domains of facility management.

1. Lower downtime
PM allows the facility teams to maintain the assets to higher degree of performance and hence avoid downtimes due to abrupt and unplanned breakdowns. In organizations such as process industries where an unplanned breakdown can lead to tremendous loss in production output, it is critical to maintain the assets in running order.

2. Workplace safety
One of the prime advantages of PM is to foresee downtimes and avoid them. Cases where a sudden breakdown in the equipment may lead to incidents of Workplace causality such as hospitals or manufacturing units can be easily avoided by scheduled maintenance of critical and high-risk machineries.

3. Energy Efficiency
Better running motors, HVAC systems, Steam boilers etc. directly contribute to energy savings. This in-turn lowers the overall expense of the organization and reduces our impact on the environment. Government organizations that deal with management of energy and utilities are tightening compliances for higher energy efficiency and hence a regular PM on equipment can ensure safe compliance of the norms.

4. Higher productivity
The given output of a machine significantly improves when it’s regularly maintained. The amount of manpower that may be utilized in attending frequent breakdowns significantly reduces which on hand frees up the resources for other critical jobs and also reduces the work-stress amongst team members leading to higher productivity.

5. Lower O&M costs
Periodic maintenance intervention prevents costlier breakdowns. For example, a periodic PM of lubricant levels in Diesel Generators as part of PM can prevent catastrophic failure of the main engine. Thus, a small investment in CMMS systems that alert a user on conducting PM at regular investments save a big volume of expenses in the long run.

6. Better Inventory management
Planned maintenance allows us to assess and manage the inventory ahead of time based on OEM recommendations and technical assessments of trained associates. This also allows the organization to plan and forecast expenses.

What are the basic approaches to Preventive Maintenance Scheduling?
Preventive maintenance schedules are designed to manage downtime without any disruption or impact to services. This also includes preventive planning of resources such as inventory, manpower, budgets etc. While a Preventive maintenance approach (in terms of frequency, depth and allowable downtime) is specific to the nature of the equipment, hierarchal importance, OEM recommendations and life-cycle, there are broadly 4 ways of executing preventive maintenance in any industry:

1. Periodic-Time based
Most of the equipment fall under this category of PM. The planner usually includes monthly/bi-monthly/quarterly/half-annual/ annual PM schedules. Depending on the OEM recommendations or respective technical assessment, schedules can be planned ahead of each year. The frequency of each activity falls after equal time intervals. An example of a time-based preventive maintenance would be a quarterly maintenance schedule of a UPS system where battery voltage is measured, AC/DC capacitors are checked and overall health of the system is examined.

2. Usage based
This maintenance schedule is derived from OEM recommendations and routine observations. Preventive actions are taken based on running hours, time duration or such timelines. The frequency of each activity in this case may or may not fall after equal time intervals. An example of a usage-based maintenance activity is our typical car maintenance schedule which is recommended after a certain number of kilometres driven.

3. Condition-based
In this approach, the functioning of any equipment is monitored and gauged against pre-defined parameters of ideal performance as set by the OEM. Any deviations from the set thresholds are examined to rationalize the need for maintenance. This maintenance can be enabled by installing various sensors in the system to notify the user on maintenance needs, either periodically or on a continual basis.

4. Predictive
This maintenance strategy is generally employed on critical infrastructure and equipment such as main HT/LT electrical panels (through thermography tests) and HVAC chiller systems (through measurement of instantaneous and system ikW/TR etc.). Predictive maintenance is carried out post detailed technical audits of the systems and hence are heavy on the pockets for smaller organizations to undergo.

What are the fundamentals of a Preventive Maintenance Workflow?
1. Inspection
It is important to inspect the equipment for its compliance to OEM’s operational standards. Visual and technical inspections ensure the equipment is safe both for people and property. This enhances workplace safety and minimizes elements of liability for organizations.

2. Detection
Detection of early signs of failure is critical to ensure unplanned disruption in services. Hence, a reactive maintenance approach may lead to loss of time and money for the organization. A periodic and regular PM leads to early detection of potential failure points and allows time to prevent them beforehand.

3. Correction
Once a potential deviation or problem is detected, corrective action can be immediately taken to resolve it before it snowballs into a larger, unmanageable issue.

4. Prevention
Data acquired from Inspection, Detection and Correction is recorded and examined for future preventive actions. Learnings from previous steps allows teams to improve checklists, manage inventory, control costs and plan for other preventive activities.

How to formulate a PM schedule for your organization?
It takes a thoughtful deliberation to curate a PM schedule for any organization. Based on the financial appetite, degree of criticality, mode of operations, availability of redundancy etc., effective PM schedules can be charted.

1. Define objectives and align them with organization’s goal
It is important to align your objectives with that of the company’s goals. The ultimate pursuit in any organization is higher profitability. Hence, strategies such as preventive maintenance must add value to its financial aspirations. The nature of the operations of a particular organization also influences FM objectives. For example, a hospital facility may be more inclined towards preventing downtime of its life saving equipment, and a process industry may focus on reliability of its CNC machines. Hence, based on the priority of sub-objectives, a FM must define and rank the goals in the context of its company’s operations.

2. Focus on the assets in order of criticality
Define criticality of each asset in terms of ROI on investment, age of the asset, frequency of use, reliability, impact on operations and workplace safety. Equipment with low reliability and high impact on operations can be prioritized over other assets.

3. Build over accumulated information
Data acquired over time can be analysed for a pattern of asset failures, resources frequently used, range of downtime with each breakdown etc. A Pm schedule can then be incorporated with this data to allocate adequate budgets and other resources. A CMMS comes in handy here as all the data associated with assets is monitored and recorded for a later use.

4. Refer to OEM manuals and insights shared by facility team members
Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) manual list out all time bound or usage-based requirements of services. These manuals also detail out parts that are periodically required to be replaced as a recommendation. Moreover, technical insights from team members can be formulated together with OEM recommendations to be included in PM schedules.

Must we adopt a Computerized Maintenance Management Software (CMMS) solution?

Regardless of the approach, it is important that each of the schedules are diligently followed. Planning and executing PM activities across an organization can be a daunting task given the enormous volume of assets to maintain. These challenges can be easily overcome by the use digital tools and services. While some organizations tend to rely on manual systems (and fail to meet compliance), computerized maintenance management software such as the ones offered by Gfacility, Mobility Works CMMS etc. include automated, simplified, and centralized management systems that streamline maintenance activities through features such as smart-scheduling, auto task generation, financial budgeting etc. A digitized automated system eliminates deviations and ensures the system receives due focus and technical diligence at the right time. A CMMS builds accountability within team members by providing them with real-time access to critical information such as protocols, timelines, inventory status etc. while at the shopfloor.

Some of the advantages of a CMMS based solution are listed below:

1. Smart Scheduling
PM schedules can be tracked easily in real-time using this option. The feature also allows the user to set email alerts and other notifications related to PM activities. This feature is especially useful for facilities with large volumes of assets and with varied degrees of criticality.

2. Resource allocation
Manpower can be effectively managed through this feature for higher productivity by allocating each member as per their expertise, shift timings etc. Tedious paper work is absolutely eliminated and all instructions can be electronically communicated via mobile devices.

3. Financial management
Expenses arising from breakdowns and PM such as part change etc. can be easily tracked and compared against actual budget allocated. This allows Facility Managers to prioritize expenses depending on the urgency of each maintenance activity.

4. Analytics and Reports
FMs can acquire real-time data to improve processes based on pre-set KPIs. This allows the users to quantitatively and qualitatively assess PM effectiveness usually on statistical data reporting dashboard interface.

Preventive Maintenance is by far the most effective maintenance strategy employed by various organizations. Leveraging digital tools such as CMMS not only make this strategy effective, but also leave adequate of room for process improvement through data analytics. The depth of control enjoyed through such solutions ensure value-for-money for the time and resources invested. Therefore, in order to maximize resource productivity and achieve optimum performance in the area of Facility Management, a state-of-the-art CMMS such as one offered by Gfacility must be incorporated within the organization.