Is PM Like Life?

Life can be said to be a challenge and a struggle. Like equipment, humans wear out. Some of the modes of wear can be impacted by our habits (smoking, over-drinking and eating) and others are random events (accidents, sicknesses).

We all struggle to a greater or lesser extent with our good and bad habits. To some extent our quality of life is related to our habits. It seems like humans without willpower tend to accumulate more bad habits than good ones.

Of course, there is something to be said for enjoying our bad habits.

The race car engine has to last one race. It doesn’t need PM. It needs to last at red line rpm for 500 miles (maybe 501 or 502).

Like Keith Richards (the Rolling Stone who just wrote an autobiography and was known at the time as the one least likely to live through 1970s) said: “Sometimes bad habits don’t seem to matter to some people.” The same could be said for machines.


Habits don’t insure anything. They just affect the probability of an outcome for large groups.

If you take 10,000 overweight males that smoke, the numbers of health events with this group will start high and increase as they grow older. If these same 10,000 watched their weight and exercised, the number of premature health events would be lower.

This might or might be true for individual people or trucks. Some seemingly healthy looking people who watch what they eat and exercise drop dead. Some trucks are just lemons in spite of what you do or don’t do.

How you use the asset also has an impact. With people who skydive, their chance of an untimely death is higher whether or not they floss your teeth. The same goes for vehicles in severely adverse service.


Habits are invisible ropes that pull you this way or that.

One way to look at habits is that the challenge is to design your life so that you are pulled toward good, healthy habits. For example, riding a bicycle for 30 minutes a day would be a good habit that would consume extra calories and build endurance. Your life would be pulled toward better health from developing this habit - assuming you avoid the random occurrence of a collision with a vehicle or the ground.

PM routines are good habits for maintaining machinery. Of course, like any habit, you can go overboard with PM. Your inspections can be too intrusive, your intervals could be too close together or you could be over anxious to replace slightly worn components.

In fact, habits, like too much of a good thing, can land you in hot water with overuse injuries for people and iatrogenic (breakdowns caused by servicing) failures - but that’s another conversation.

Great PM is like great exercise and eating habits. Good, even great, habits are not a guarantee of health - either machine or human. They just increase the probability of health.

For those managers that want to take on this challenge, the technique is to design a shop environment that draws people toward good habits in equipment usage and maintenance. Here are some of these good habits:

  • Labor with appropriate skills available for PM activity.
  • PM people follow the task list, carry it with them and make notes.
  • Using a reminder system to alert you that PM is due.
  • Always correct the found deficiencies (corrective maintenance) before they cause failure.
  • Have reserved downtime for PM activity well in advance.
  • Have materials, tools and other resources available for PM activities.
  • Operators and equipment users fully trained in proper use.
  • Keep higher management interested in PM outcomes and have them ask questions.
  • Information on failure modes is shared between maintenance, engineering, operations and the OEM.

Since you might never know when your number comes up, keep up whatever good habits you have and enjoy your bad habits. That goes for your trucks and equipment too.