No PM, No Production

Outlining and implementing a successful preventive maintenance program

Financially healthy fleets, whether large off-road equipment, trucking or automotive, typically have one thing in common: a world-class preventive maintenance program. The purpose of a PM program is to ensure routine maintenance and replacements are done at the appropriate time to prevent bigger problems and additional, unexpected costs from cropping up later.

In the most general terms, the cost of not following a PM program can result in loss of production as a result of excessive, unplanned equipment downtime, shortened machine and machine component life and poor utilization of available manpower.

Not every fleet can boast a world-class program. One of the biggest contributors is the investment that goes with the territory. A proactive PM program requires a significant time and effort investment on the part of the equipment manager and the team of technicians. During hectic workdays, PM often falls by the wayside.

The other challenge is not having a full understanding of what a solid PM program entails. Many perceive preventive maintenance of mobile equipment as little more than the changing of oils, fluids and filters.

While these are all certainly important pieces to any complete PM puzzle, they represent just a tiny section of the big picture. A complete program may include such procedures as cleaning, inspections, testing, sampling, measurements, adjustments and the replacement of specific items to prevent faults from occurring.


PM is a major factor that a fleet manager can completely control, and one that will significantly reduce the owning and operating cost of the machine when done properly.

The first step when looking to implement a new or take an existing program to the world-class level is to understand the two basic types of maintenance strategies - proactive and reactive - though only one - proactive - truly can be called strategic.

Successful PM programs are built on a proactive approach, or identifying areas to address before they become major problems and cost issues. There’s an old saying: “Fix it before failure.” Applied to a proactive program, it means setting planned inspection intervals, based on a combination of manufacturer’s recommendations and the fleet manager’s intuition and experience, and following through in a timely, efficient manner.

These intervals are often identified in terms of fuel consumption, hours of operation or mileage or a combination of factors, and include every task from changing engine oil to scheduling major replacements.

Conversely, a reactive approach is sitting back and waiting for issues or breakdowns before giving the machine the attention it deserves. This approach doesn’t allow planning ahead or scheduling repairs when they are more convenient, and is the most expensive maintenance practice.


This following general example shows the cost difference between a proactive and reactive maintenance program:

Based on average wear characteristics, a haul truck’s brake pads have 1,000 miles of expected use. Through standard telematics tracking methods as part of the proactive PM program, the equipment manager knows when a vehicle hits the 1,000-mile mark the brake pads should be replaced. To replace at this time can be done for a cost of $155.

If the brake pads are not replaced at this time, the rotor will likely be damaged, and the cost jumps to $230. That’s addition to the original cost to simply replace the worn pads.

This is a 48 percent increase in the cost of maintenance that could have been avoided with simple attention to detail and a proactive program, not to mention downtime costs due to more thorough repairs needed.

Over time, multiple instances such as this, increase operating costs significantly. This shows, not only the importance of a good PM program, but a proactive one.


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