Implementing an Effective Maintenance Program

- A Device Manufacturer's Perspective -

Table of Contents

The technical complexity and the number of different devices in industrial processes is growing quickly. Automated processes are more sensitive for device failures. As a result, preventive maintenance plan has become the corner stone of maintenance management.

You will find a lot of good reading for preventive maintenance programs, enterprise asset management and creating a preventive maintenance plan. You will find a lot of preventive maintenance software and solutions for asset management work.

However, the discussion takes always the factory’s viewpoint having the facility manager in the center of the focus. From this viewpoint, implementing a maintenance program is about managing technical and operational issues. You might install a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), create a method to place work orders and manage the execution of your maintenance plan.

This article takes a different perspective towards preventive maintenance programs. We will discuss how to build an effective maintenance strategy from the device manufacturers viewpoint.

The purpose of a device maker’s maintenance program should be to eliminate failures in your customer’s process, not in your own process. Thus, your maintenance activities should be prioritized against your customer’s targets, not your own goals. 

This article takes a customer oriented view on building a preventive maintenance program. We claim that after you understand the impact that your maintenance can have to your customer’s business, steps to implement it will be self evident. 

Different Approaches to Maintenance

There are three different basic approaches to maintenance: reactive maintenance, preventative maintenance, and predictive maintenance. The fundamental difference is what triggers a maintenance task and how you make maintenance plans.

In reactive maintenance or ‘corrective maintenance’ you go and fix the piece of equipment when it is broken. You do not try to eliminate the failure. The other two approaches, predictive and preventive maintenance, are often referred to as ‘scheduled maintenance’. Both aim to eliminate equipment failures by scheduling maintenance tasks before the failure.

These two approaches sound similar but are very different by nature. In preventative maintenance you have a pre-defined schedule that determines work orders and maintenance tasks. In predictive data based maintenance you determine the need of a maintenance task based on the actual condition of the device. The differences between these two is discussed more in this article.

Requirements for Preventive Maintenance Program

No matter if you are planning to implement a computerized maintenance management system or if you are taking the first step in creating a preventive maintenance plan, there are two key elements to take into consideration: people and technology.

Depending on which of the three approaches you choose, you need different kind of people. Or you might choose your approach based on the people you have.

If you follow the reactive maintenance approach, your maintenance looks like firefighting.  You do not have maintenance plans, you just react. So, you never know what your next work order is. In this kind of working condition, you need McGyver-type of team members on your maintenance team. They should also like to travel on quick notice carrying a big case of spare parts.

With a well running preventive maintenance schedule your maintenance work looks completely different. You have planned maintenance operations in long term, taking a proactive approach to work orders. You might have a preventive maintenance software that schedules your upcoming preventive maintenance tasks and gives you your maintenance checklist. To this kind of work you should look for ‘accountant’ -type team members who take care of every detail and like planning everything in advance.

Predictive maintenance is again different. It is all about data. Unlike in the preventative maintenance where you operate from a calendar, here you let your device data tell you what and when the next maintenance task comes. Here, you want to include data geeks into your maintenance team, who get the kick out of analyzing data graphs.

From the technology point of view, the differences between the two opposites, preventive and corrective maintenance, are surprisingly small. Surely you can have a sophisticated preventive maintenance software, but you will go a long way with Excel and a whiteboard. In reactive maintenance you use them for short term ‘daily mission control’, making work orders and prioritizing maintenance tasks. In preventive maintenance you can use these tools for maintenance scheduling or maybe to create a maintenance checklist.

As a device manufacturer doing specific maintenance for a certain piece of equipment, you do not need preventive maintenance software or advanced technology to implement a reactive or preventive maintenance program.

If you want to go for predictive data based maintenance, the story is different. Since it is completely data based maintenance, it requires real time data from your device. First you need to collect the data, which might require installing some new sensors. Then you need to transfer the data to a cloud or whatever storage you use. In addition to technology choices, you also need to discuss with your customer about data security and ownership issues. Finally, you need to analyze and visualize the data as well as program triggers, for example an automatic email warning when a certain limit is reached.






What do you do daily?


Planning & reporting



Which people to look for?



Data geek


Excel, Whiteboard, …


IoT, Sensors, …


Transfer, Analysis, …

Cost of Preventive Maintenance

When thinking about the cost of different maintenance approaches, you should consider a few factors. How often can a failure occur? How severe it is for you? How sever it is for your customer? What is the cost to repair the failure? What would be the cost to prevent it?

If your preventive maintenance plan is too strict and you try to prevent every little thing, the cost of over-maintenance will kill you. Same thing if you have no preventive maintenance plan and you allow every failure to happen. Successful preventive maintenance plan is usually found between the extremes of maintenance planning, as seen in the figure below.

This simplistic view is a good starting point, but it considers only direct costs of maintenance work and spare parts. There are a lot of hidden costs involved, starting from customer reclaims, problem solving and traveling costs as well as management work. This is why you should understand also the modern view on maintenance cost.

How To Implement the Best Maintenance Strategy?

After this review on different ways to approach the optimum preventive maintenance plan, which one is the best?

The world is full of success stories, where companies selling devices and systems have transformed their business with effective preventive maintenance programs. As discussed in this article, it is obvious, that a proactive approach to maintenance planning and effective preventive maintenance work is crucial for long term customer success.

But how about short term? Planned maintenance is surely better than a purely corrective maintenance, but is an effective preventive maintenance plan an overkill for your current business?

Creating your preventive maintenance plan should never start from selecting a certain approach. Nor should it start by purchasing an expensive preventive maintenance software that supports complex enterprise asset management work.

Effective maintenance, as well as all other areas in your business, should start from your customer.

Good way to start implementing your preventive maintenance program is to discuss with your customer and understand what is important for him. List all the issues that can improve or harm the customer success. Then, list all the possible failures and events around your device that might have an impact on his process.

In all failures and events that are critical for your customer’s process, you should consider moving towards preventative maintenance, either by effective maintenance scheduling or real time data monitoring. 

With non-critical failures you might find preventative maintenance to be too expensive compared to the benefit. In the end, you can never prevent everything anyway. The game is to choose the right ones that benefit your customer the most.

As a conclusion, implementing an effective maintenance program will be a mixture of different approaches and methods. You can use the table below to get you started.

Implementing the best maintenance program is all about understanding what is important for your customer. And then just choosing the right maintenance method to ensure that it happens. 

Thus, the first step of implementation is a discussion with your customer. The next steps will be revealed in this discussion.




Impact to Customer


Fix When Broken


Maintain Yearly


Monitor with Data

Failure 1

No impact

Failure 2

Critical impact

Failure 3

High impact

Failure 4

Medium impact

Failure 5

High impact

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