Financially healthy fleets typically have one thing in common: a world-class preventive maintenance (PM) 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 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.
Proactive vs. Reactive Approach
PM is a major factor that a fleet manager can completely control, and one that will significantly reduce the owning and operating costs of a machine if done properly.
The first step when looking to implement a new program, 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, can truly 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 recommendations and the fleet manager’s intuition and experience, and then 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. They 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 for planning ahead or scheduling repairs when they are more convenient, and is the most expensive maintenance practice.
The 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. Using standard telematics tracking methods as part of the proactive PM program, the equipment manager knows when a vehicle hits the 1,000-mile mark and the brake pads should be replaced. Replacement can be done for a cost of $155.
If the brake pads are not replaced at this time, the rotor will likely be damaged, adding $230 to the original cost to simply replace the worn pads. This is a 48% increase in the cost of maintenance — not to mention the downtime costs due to the more thorough repairs required — that could have been avoided with simple attention to detail and a proactive program. Over time, multiple instances such as this increase operating costs significantly.
Often referred to as predictive maintenance, condition-based maintenance is a proactive approach with the goal of removing repairs from the equation as often as possible. It aims to predict potential issues, and eliminate them at the root before they ever grow into a problem.