Preventive Maintenance Keeps Your Equipment Operational

Create a preventive maintenance plan to help you and your employees keep construction equipment and trucks in top working order.

Keeping equipment, tools and vehicles in top working order is as critical to a contractor as keeping a surgical knife sharp and sterile is to a brain surgeon. Can you imagine the problems a brain surgeon would face if his cutting tools were dull, rusty or dirty?

The importance of maintaining equipment, tools and vehicles common to your trade is well known and accepted by most contractors. Unfortunately, I consult with many contractors across the country and I continue to see a shortage of visible measurements that reflect the contractor's commitment to preventive maintenance, also known as PM.

The measurement of PM involves monitoring the consistency with which PM is being completed and at what costs to perform. The measurement of PM is not complicated to establish and continue. Consider a few of the following tips when creating a PM schedule.

#1 Identify

To begin, identify all of the critical pieces of equipment, tools and vehicles your business uses to complete work. Then, secure any maintenance guidelines provided by the manufacturer or distributor of the item in question. Just as car companies provide recommended times to change the oil, replace belts, inspect tires, etc., so too do most providers of equipment and tools. If you have lost such information, contact your local equipment or tool distributor; they may be able to secure the needed information for you. Also, don't forget to use the Internet to chase down companies.

#2 Create

After securing the needed guidelines, consider the experience of your own employees as to the recommended times for providing PM. I have found that equipment manufacturers will often recommend more stringent PM schedules, partly out of protecting their product liability. Use common sense when formalizing your PM schedules. You will most likely follow the manufacturer's recommendation for most items, but be open to your own firm's hands-on experience with each item.

#3 Post and document

Once you have agreed on the recommended PM schedule and what needs to be completed at each PM effort, put this information on paper, laminate the schedule and post the information wherever it will be in clear view of those responsible for executing the PM. To maintain and monitor PM for your vehicles, create a checklist of items that should be performed daily. This list may include checking vehicle tires for air pressure, oil, transmission fluid, belts, etc.

Make your PM schedule easy to follow and easy to document. I would suggest that you use some form of a checklist where the employee can simply check off that a PM procedure has been completed. Also, there should be space provided for the employee to record what action was taken to maintain the piece of equipment. This might include some of the following items:

  • Oil added? How much?
  • Belt changed? Model number of belt? Life of belt replaced?
  • Air pressure for tires added? What is pressure of tires before adding air?
  • Grease added to fittings or bearings? How much? Date of last grease added?
  • Blade replaced? Last replacement date? Condition of blade replaced?


#4 Monitor

Certainly you will have your own list of items to monitor. However, once you have the items and schedule formalized, you will then need to monitor that each PM item is completed weekly, monthly, quarterly, etc. Also, you will want to track the amount of oil, grease, belts, etc., that are used to provide proper preventive maintenance.

One very positive measurement that should be realized if your crews are executing proper preventive maintenance is the decreasing amount of "down time." Down time due to broken down equipment or faulty tools will cost you a lot of time and profitability. Thus, if your tracking of PM schedules indicates your crews are doing what you are asking them to complete you should also note that your crews are working more consistently without breakdowns.

Employees often shelve preventive maintenance if left to their own devices. As an owner or crew leader, you must realize that every tool, piece of equipment and vehicle you own can only perform its intended work if it is in top operating condition. Your employees are the keys to keeping such resources in prime condition.

Brad Humphrey, who has been called "a contractor's best friend," is president of Pinnacle Development Group, a consulting and training firm that specializes in the construction industry. For more information, visit