How to keep preventive maintenance systems efficient

July 25, 2022
As machine technology evolves, maintenance requirements must adapt

Well-managed fleets of construction equipment have a detailed preventive/predictive maintenance program designed to meet specific desired outcomes and increase efficiency. Such programs include specific actions to be undertaken at specific intervals to eliminate unscheduled equipment failures, excessive downtime, and their associated costs. The program must address and identify component wear prior to reaching specific imminent failure levels that, if left unattended, may compromise the productivity of the equipment and the organization’s production capabilities and schedules.

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The objective of the program is to maximize the efficiency of the fleet by increasing scheduled maintenance activities and reducing unscheduled repairs, failures, and downtime. This requires a continuously evolving and coordinated effort. Equipment managers, operators, technicians, and others must invest significant time to examine every aspect of the organization’s preventive/predictive maintenance program to ensure it complies with the maintenance requirements of the current and anticipated future equipment fleet.

Professional equipment managers normally are highly proactive in reviewing and updating their preventive maintenance programs in order to maintain a scheduled and systematic approach to efficiency. Yet as we emerge from the pandemic era, data indicates some organizations may have been reluctant to update their preventive maintenance program. According to a mid-year Construction Equipment economic survey, only 44.6 percent of respondents said that their fleet is in “very good” or “excellent” condition. Another 39.6 percent said their fleet is in “good” condition, and 15.7 percent said their fleets are in “fair” or “poor” condition. 

Recent construction costs have been increasing at a pace not seen before, driving equipment managers to review every aspect of equipment operations to increase efficiency and reduce these escalating costs. Similarly, technological advancements in construction equipment and operations are rapidly changing, far exceeding long-established maintenance programs and compounding the need for continuous refinement of a proactive equipment maintenance program. 

Extended lifecycles and second-life equipment rebuilds undertaken in response to the recent supply chain issues and limited equipment availability further compound the current complexity of cost-effective equipment management. Many organizations now have equipment assigned to primary production duties that span decades of various technologies and maintenance requirements, all of which require an individualistic preventive/predictive maintenance plan and schedule. 

Now is the time to commence refinement of the maintenance program to meet the challenges of future equipment requirements. The complexity of operating an equipment fleet in the fast-paced current economic and technological revolution requires constant attention and updating. While newer and alternatively fueled vehicles and equipment are advancing and replacing older equipment, those machines are undergoing second-life rebuilds. Both new and older equipment require a similar, yet individualistic, PM program and schedule. 

Actions to redevelop the PM program

  • Benchmarking the existing PM program. Include the percentage of scheduled and unscheduled maintenance as well as red (failure) events. Include the average time taken by operators performing pre/post operator care and each specific level of scheduled preventive maintenance. These values become the benchmark, or standard repair time, and form the basis for evaluating changes within the maintenance program.
  • Review each specific PM level checklist and scheduled actions, paying keen attention to completeness and documented deferred repairs since the prior review period. It is within these documents that equipment managers can ascertain what the technicians are discovering during PM. Perhaps a pattern has emerged that indicates an overlooked area of attention, under-specified component, or potential operator issue. Examining unscheduled failures and repairs should also be evaluated as this information is invaluable to updating both operator care and PM checklists and scheduled actions. 
  • Determine optimum fluid change intervals through a comprehensive fluid analysis program. A detailed and scheduled fluid analysis program provides a comprehensive view of the state of lubricated equipment and a detailed analysis of its percentage of wear. OEM warranty compliance should take precedence for newer and recently completed second-life machine extensions as OEMs will require documentation of recommended preventive maintenance upon a warranty claim submittal. Research extensions of the fluid change intervals. Extensions should not be implemented if additional service intervals will be required to inspect other wear items and components on their scheduled inspection and maintenance intervals. With extended fluid change intervals, keep careful watch upon the inspection processes as some early signs of detrimental wear could be missed, leading to more expensive failure repair costs. Without such an established fluid analysis program, OEM maintenance interval recommendations should be implemented.
  • Incorporate the inspection and maintenance requirements of advanced technologies and equipment into the preventive/predictive program. Most newer machines and equipment are highly advanced, incorporating hundreds of electronic sensors and components simultaneously communicating with the machine’s electronic control system. These components and systems are subject to climate and operational stresses, requiring inspection and periodic maintenance. Left unchecked, these components may experience an unscheduled failure causing a 100-percent machine shutdown until repairs can be made. At specific PM intervals, comprehensive electrical system analysis and vibration analysis should be performed on components vulnerable to changes in voltage or vibrations.
  • Enlist major stakeholders in the maintenance and operational areas of the organization for participation and input. Equipment operators must be included as they have a keen sense of the equipment’s operational characteristics and capabilities and are likely to first detect changes. Technicians are first to discover wear at or above acceptable limits and act to correct it before failure. Operational staff must review and concur with the updated maintenance schedule to plan adequate time for scheduled maintenance. Most certainly, the fleet analyst and information technology staff who have knowledge of the fleet’s telematics data must be involved as well.  
  • Training of all involved within the updated process should be incorporated to meet changes in technician and operator requirements. Classroom and hands-on training is necessary to eliminate any potential shortfalls in the process. Upon implementation, develop revised standard repair times to measure and minimize scheduled PM machine downtime. New employee training must be mandatory and fully comprehensive of the revised PMI program including periodic follow up trainings.

The complexity of construction equipment will continue to increase, requiring preventive maintenance actions to adapt. Continuous measurement and refinement of the PM plan and program must remain centered within the equipment manager’s focus to maintain sustained cost-effective equipment operations.

About the Author

Mike Brennan, CEM

Michael Brennan is a 40-plus-year industry veteran and consultant in vehicle and equipment maintenance management. A three-time recipient of the AEMP Fleet Masters Award, he focuses upon process improvement, facilities management, succession planning, technology, and lifecycle analytics as the cornerstone of success in the equipment management industry. 

Read Mike's asset management articles.