You’ve seen the notice on websites, banks, or other companies that says on a specific day and time the system will be unavailable due to scheduled maintenance. Every critical industry will find time, regularly or sporadically to perform preventive maintenance.
Depending on your facility, finding the time to completely shut down critical assets can be tough especially if you’re running on a strict production schedule or have a facility that runs 24/7 with little opportunity to stop operations. Maintenance managers have the unique task of coordinating all resources needed to perform preventive maintenance tasks and ensuring that all required parts and people are available.
The question remains: When do you schedule planned downtime for preventive maintenance?
One of the best places to start is implementing regular inspections and low priority maintenance tasks that can be performed by in-house staff. The purpose of these inspections and low level work is to catch pending failures before the actual failure happen. When frequent inspections are performed, it decreases the amount of time needed for the high level maintenance.
When your assets are due for detailed maintenance, the following are some recommendations for when it can be scheduled to cause the least amount of interruptions to your staff or work place:
1. Schedule work after business hours
This may be the easiest solution if your company’s business is conducted during normal business hours. Technicians can turn off essential equipment and perform tasks with minimal interruptions to staff or operations.
If you’re running 24/7, this may work depending on which equipment is needing maintenance. Equipment that is central to the actual output of your products may not be able to get shut down, for example the printing press for newspapers or equipment at a water bottling plant. Shut downs in this environment have to be more strategic.
2. Immediately before major holidays with long office closures
Holidays like Christmas / New Years, Independence Day, Memorial Day or other major holidays where most people are likely to take off work or travel and everything slows down is an ideal time to schedule equipment down time. You should be familiar with the company’s culture in order to anticipate which holidays produce slow work days. This can become an annual maintenance schedule where technicians can spend a decent chunk of time with the equipment.
3. Before highly anticipated severe weather
The preparation done before significant severe weather can range from stocking pantry shelves with food, purchasing emergency equipment like flashlights and candles or putting snow tires on your car/truck. For the workplace, maintenance managers should take stock of the most critical equipment that MUST stay in operation and plan an inspection/maintenance. Floods, blackouts, blizzards can happen and when they do, having had all critical inspections done will ensure that equipment failure won’t happen during times when it’s challenging to get into the office, but operations must go on.
4. Every two years, simulate a black out and test all critical equipment at once
A pull the plug test is a highly orchestrated stress test of all vital systems that will need to work together in case of a blackout or loss of power for other reasons. Equipment like the generator, UPS, fire suppression systems, HVAC all must rely on one another to operate during an emergency loss of power. This test is especially critical for facilities like data centers, banks, hospitals and others that can’t afford to go dark in an emergency.
During this test, all technicians, for critical equipment being tested, are on-site and assigned specific tasks to carry out during the test. This may seem like an extreme option, but this can identify problems that will be of strict importance to remedy. Passing the test indicates healthy, fully functioning equipment and a facility that is well maintained. Smaller companies can attempt to perform this test, but cost may be prohibitive and unnecessary.
Technology can also play a critical role in planning when assets are taken offline. Using maintenance software like a CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) can help to move away from reactive maintenance and reduce the need for excessive or prolonged maintenance.
A CMMS can use data to analyze asset performance, past repairs, monitor work orders and work flow and track equipment inventory. It will even allow you to closely monitor and adjust your PM schedule. This birds eye view of your asset performance can help identify pending issues quicker, reduce downtime by scheduling maintenance before reaching a crisis point and, with having a centralized hub for this data, the maintenance team stays on the same page which ensures the downtimes are not prolonged due to some miscommunication.
Scheduling down time of critical equipment for preventive maintenance can be the best form of insurance you can give your company. Challenges in scheduling can be overcome with some creative planning, a quality CMMS, and some flexibility, but in the end performing inspections and having a daily maintenance routine will decrease the need for long down times – be it planned or unplanned.
Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.