4 Tips for a Manufacturing Preventive Maintenance Program

Wherever we work, whether it’s a manufacturing facility or a software company – we want to practice continuous improvement. It’s our nature, as human beings, to try and determine the best solutions to our problems. That’s why we’re on top of the food chain, baby! Here at Ashcom Technologies, we like to practice what we preach. So we put together an article with basic tips on how to improve your manufacturing facility’s preventive maintenance program. Let’s get started!

1. Set Goals

Admittedly, this is not some grand revelation but it’s surprising to discover how many maintenance teams either don’t set goals at all or let them fall by the wayside as time goes on.

Plenty of manufacturing maintenance teams have goals passed down to them from corporate, but if you are part of a smaller maintenance team and in a position to set goals – this could be an incredible opportunity to not only boost your team’s productivity but earn some recognition.

So, the next question is, how to set goals for a preventive maintenance program?

One common technique is S.M.A.R.T goal setting, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.

Now, S.M.A.R.T may trigger memories of middle-school teachers desperately attempting to get students to finish their homework but there’s a reason why so many organizations use it: it works. It gives simple guidelines that can be applied to almost any goal-setting scenario.

If you’re reading this article, there’s probably some internal issues that caused you to seek out answers. So, take a moment to think of SMART goals, that could put your team on track. For example, if a certain asset’s PM schedule is being neglected, try giving your team a goal of 95% PM compliance for next year.

2. Set Key Performance Indicators

After you’ve brainstormed a few goals the next step is measuring progress, and that’s when we turn to the ever-reliable Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

KPI’s can be as simple as keeping track of open, closed, and past-due work orders or they can be as complex as calculating the MTBF or Mean Time Between Failure, they’re simply the statistics that you use to track your performance.

There are a few advantages of using KPI’s. Not only will you be able to track progress towards your team’s goals, but you’ll also be able to identify weaknesses in your preventive maintenance program.

If you’re not using KPIs at all, start with the basics, like tracking work orders in categories illustrated above. After a few months time, you’ll be able to track trends and analyze team performance, which should give you clues into how to improve productivity and reduce downtime.

3. Talk to Your Maintenance Team!

A lot of maintenance teams are so busy that they don’t have time to reinvent the wheel – maintaining and making sure everything is running smoothly can be a challenge in of itself.  So, give your maintenance team an opportunity to air any issues they’ve discovered in their day-to-day tasks.

Talking to your maintenance team can uncover ways to improve your maintenance program and it can also determine if the PM goals you set are realistic.

4. Create Company Specific Best Practices

You’ve established goals for your preventative maintenance team, you’ve established KPIs to measure your progress towards the goals. Now, it’s time to make sure that your organization can replicate those processes moving forward.

As you progress closer to your goals, take the time to create documentation on the practices that helped you achieve those goals. Staff turnover is inevitable, but it’s the conscious effort of creating an organizations’ identity through goals and best practices that separates good companies from great companies.

Hopefully, you can use this article as a guide to begin correcting issues in your preventive maintenance program. For further reading on KPI’s check out this article from Ins Research or for setting PM goals and strategies, check out this article by Plant Engineering.

If you’d like additional expertise in achieving a reliable manufacturing preventive maintenance program, please contact us! We have over 30 years of experience in maintenance management and maintenance management solutions.


Written by Steven Garcia

4 Symptoms of an Unhealthy Facility (And the Only Cure is More CMMS)

“There’s got to be a better way.”

Hundreds of over-worked facility managers have come to this conclusion.

But here’s the tricky part: a busy facility manager, with a litany of day-to-day issues, may not have enough time to find a better way. Or even worse, they’re so entrenched in their day-to-day work that they don’t realize their facility could be managed in a more efficient manner.

Some facility managers are aware that their facility could run a little smoother, but with dozens of employees to manage and supervisors to please – they address the symptoms with band-aids instead of curing the disease.

Well luckily, there is a cure to the disease of a poorly run facility – a Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS). It tracks and manages everything inside of your facility, giving managers the data they need to run a facility as efficiently as possible.

But before we prescribe the remedy, let’s look at the 4 symptoms that could be signs your facility is in need of a CMMS.

Ineffective Method of Generating & Tracking Work Orders

Even more noticeable than a lingering cough is a giant stack of work orders. Take a look around your facility – if you see a skyline’s worth of work order stacks, you may have a sickly facility.

A CMMS takes that pile of papers and stores them digitally. In addition to storing the work orders, a CMMS alerts maintenance technicians when a work order is generated.  No more shuffling through a messy work desk to find today’s to-do list.

Keeping a digital record of your work orders makes for a healthy facility by creating accountability, making audits a breeze and decreasing shrink.

Historical Information isn’t Being Tracked

Storing information digitally, as we mentioned above, doesn’t just allow your team to be more organized and communicate better, it allows you to be more mindful of the overall health of your facility and major assets.

A doctor wouldn’t proceed without your medical history and you can’t make any confident decisions without your facilities history.

Check the historical information to identify machinery that’s a consistent problem or preventative maintenance that’s been neglected.

Machinery has a life-cycle of usability.  If you aren’t mindful of that, surprise downtime could become the norm. Observe the historical data on your machinery and you could save untold amounts of money over the long run. This is one of the main reasons that a CMMS gives your facility an incredible return on investment.

Inventory is a Mess

Not really sure where certain parts are stored or how many are on-hand? Wondering why there are golf balls and a copy of Sports Illustrated from 2008 in a spare parts drawer? These are signs of a disorganized inventory – one of our biggest symptoms of an unhealthy facility.

A well-stocked inventory is key to a well-functioning workplace. A big issue commercial facilities can run into is having a key piece of machinery down and not having the parts in stock to repair it.

A lesser problem, but one that will still cost you, is having too much inventory. Over-ordering parts can be a real issue for smaller facilities that value space.  And managers that value money.

Preventative Maintenance Schedules Aren’t Being Followed

Constantly reminding team members of preventative maintenance? Or just missing it altogether?

Preventative Maintenance is like getting a check-up with your doctor, no one actually wants to do it, but you’re better off in the long run. And just like regular checkups will lengthen your own life, keeping a regular PM schedule can lengthen the life of your machinery.

Think of a CMMS like a little digital doctor for your machinery, right on your facility floor. It stores the PM schedules of all of your most valuable assets and alerts you when they’re due. We all like the idea of regularly performing PMs but it’s easy for a busy manufacturing facility to have schedules fall by the wayside, a CMMS will help to prevent that.

So, if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms please, do not hesitate to reach out to a trusted CMMS provider and see if a CMMS is a right fit for you. Side effects may include: less machine downtime, increased facility output, increased maintenance productivity, reduced operating costs, and a much, much happier facility manager. (For a more detailed description of CMMS benefits check out our Big Picture Benefits of a CMMS blog post or the Department of Energy’s Operation & Maintenance Best Practices Guide.)


Written by Steven Garcia

Please, If You Love Your Maintenance Department – Stop Using Excel and Move to a CMMS

CMMS vs. Spreadsheets

Microsoft Excel is handy, it’s probably right there on your desktop – just waiting to be booted up. So, it’s no wonder that companies default to Excel when they need to manage data or start keeping records. If they knew the advantages of a CMMS vs. spreadsheets, they might think twice.

At Ashcom Technologies, we’ve had plenty of customers turn to us after giving up on managing their maintenance department via Excel spreadsheets, and they’ll tell you the same thing we will:

Excel will work – but not well.

Writing simple formulas or creating a budget in Excel is a breeze. Beyond that, Excel can be an absolute disaster.

Do a quick Google search on Excel business errors and you’ll find countless accounts of Excel costing companies billions. Yes, billions.

Here’s an example, where a spreadsheet error cost Fannie Mae $1 billion.

Here’s another where Tesla made a $400 million mistake.

There’s even a non-profit organization called European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group that exists solely to mitigate the inherent risks of utilizing spreadsheets. They have a page on their website titled “Horror Stories” which is a lengthy list of notably disastrous Excel mistakes.

Needless to say, the room for error when using spreadsheets is incredibly high. An article by Forbes led with the title, “Microsoft Excel Might Be The Most Dangerous Software On The Planet.”

Spreadsheets are Not Built for Maintenance Data

This article goes on to describe how Excel and the world of finance have been tied for decades. And if you notice, most of the above errors are accounting related. One reason why is that big dollar discrepancies make news, but also because Excel has been designed with finances in mind.

Maintenance management is a far cry from finance. If finance errors are a common occurrence in a program specifically built to handle them, what mistakes will arise when that program is used for maintenance data?

We’ve all had the experience of Excel auto-formatting information we did NOT want formatted. Those part numbers you entered? Yeah, Excel thinks that’s November 23rd, 1906.

Maintenance management software, such as a CMMS, isn’t built with just data management in mind, it’s designed to service entire organizations with the maintenance department acting as the hub. For a more comprehensive list of CMMS benefits check out our article, Big Picture Benefits of a CMMS.

Let’s take for example creating and finishing a simple work order in a CMMS. You can track every aspect: the parts used, your company’s parts inventory, which vendor the parts came from, which machine the parts were used on, the location of the machine, how often that machine has been serviced, who serviced it, and how many hours they worked that week.

In order to communicate that story, you’d need a stack of spreadsheets that would make Herman Melville blush.

Once you have your pile of spreadsheets, analyzing that data and pulling relevant information would be, to put it politely, time-consuming.

If you’re a maintenance tech, time is your biggest resource and most likely there’s not enough of it to bother analyzing data – you need to get to the next project. But by disregarding data, you’re costing yourself more time in the future.

Relevant maintenance data is just more easily communicated via a CMMS than a spreadsheet. Most CMMS software will supply you with reports that will undoubtedly make your maintenance operations a smarter, more efficient machine. Reports that will show you “all open work orders” or “upcoming scheduled preventative maintenance.”

These reports are possible because of a CMMS’ ability to store historical information, information that a spreadsheet is just simply not designed to communicate or store effectively.

Another reason that spreadsheets are less than ideal is that most organizations have a designated “excel expert” who sets up the spreadsheets and enters the data. If this person leaves, so does all the knowledge behind the inner workings of the spreadsheet.

The 6 Reasons Why Spreadsheets Will Drive Your Maintenance Team Nuts

So, if you’re keeping score at home, here are the reasons NOT to use Excel for your maintenance management:

  1. Insanely high room for error.
  2. Not designed to track maintenance related information.
  3. Not designed to track historical data.
  4. Time-consuming and labor-intensive.
  5. Difficult to analyze data.
  6. Storing data is cumbersome.

Look, spreadsheets are powerful enough to track your grocery budget or track information about small projects but please, if you love your maintenance department – ditch the spreadsheets and move to a CMMS.

Written by Steven Garcia

Why Software Implementations Fail

Have you ever been forced to use a piece of software at work that you absolutely hated, but — for some reason — consumer reviews made it sound great?  It can be frustrating to read reviews or watch testimonial videos claiming that CMMS 123 is a godsend that’s doubled maintenance productivity when wrestling data into CMMS 123 has actually doubled your workload.  In these instances, CMMS 123 is probably a perfectly fine piece of software, but there is a systemic problem that started when CMMS 123 was brought on board at your company.

There are two major factors that lead to this type of poor implementation that prevent software from shining: data integrity and training.

The Data Needs to Match the Reality

Generally speaking, software for business captures data from which management can run reports and inform decision-making.  It should offer other value to the organization by increasing profits or lowering costs, but I challenge you to find an enterprise software that doesn’t have back-end reporting as part of its value statement.

The people who are looking at those reports are the change-makers within your organization, be them the C-Suite, people managers, or Finance.  If people in these positions aren’t happy with the software, you better believe that software is hitting the bricks, and the software’s champion who brought it to them won’t look too good.

To prove your decision to buy a particular software is the right one, you need to give the change-makers what they’re looking for.  So, once you’ve decided to buy, why not walk into your CFO’s office and ask her what she needs to be successful?  Better yet, why not ask before you’ve made the decision, so you can make sure the software can meet that need?  Make sure all of the appropriate stakeholders have had a proactive voice because if they have requirements that aren’t established upfront, there’s a serious risk the system won’t be configured to meet those requirements.  If you find out about that come year-end review time, you could be looking at a costly data migration or, worse yet, having to start the whole buying process over again.

Be sure to connect with these decision makers early and often, then document their requirements in writing so nothing gets missed.  Not only will this ensure clear communication between all parties, but it also creates an audit trail that can be used for future reference or, at the very least, covers your backside if mistakes are discovered down the road.  I think we can all agree butt coverage is a good thing.

The Importance of Training

Training, regardless of the modality or the source, is an invaluable asset whenever you’re introducing new systems into an organization for the first time.  In the case of software specifically, training is often offered by the vendor and it is well worth any additional costs they charge.

Consider a tool like Microsoft Excel.  It’s been on the market for decades and millions of people use it every day.  Some organizations simply need Excel to record basic information, such as the number of orders shipped. Others, however, need to leverage a number of complex formulae and graphing algorithms to be truly efficient at their jobs – and that level of knowledge is never free.  Even if you spend the time looking up reference documents and how-to videos on YouTube, you are still spending your time.

Now, in the case of Excel, there is a wealth of information out there, but for other systems, it may not be as readily available.  The time spent searching for answers in a complex software system will, at the very least, cost you and your organization many hours that could be better spent producing. 

Also, if you’re entering data into software without proper training, it’s very possible you will enter that data incorrectly.  This compromises the whole database and, depending on the severity of the inaccuracy, can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to repair, potentially offsetting the value of the software entirely. Whenever you’re implementing new software – or change of any kind for that matter – be sure to find the most efficient ways to empower your workforce.

Here’s one personal example when I was given a piece of technology without training: I worked at a local dispatch center for a worldwide truck rental company.  We were given iPhones in a rugged case to check in trucks that were returning from rentals.  The method I was shown for pulling up contracts on the iPhone took 9 clicks, which was often performed while the customer was waiting in the rain or snow. 

After I had been there for nearly a year, I found that the large cases on the phones contained a scanner, and each truck had a barcode sticker right next to the driver’s door.  What had been a time-consuming 9-click process turned into a point-and-shoot that took one second.  Had I been properly trained on that equipment from the start, the check-in process could have been shortened by about a minute per truck, and we often received two dozen trucks on busy days.  If someone had taken a mere two minutes to properly train me, I could have saved the company hundreds of dollars over the course of the year, even at the hourly rate I was being paid.

In Conclusion

Not all software companies are created equally, but the ones worth your time will push to make sure the right people within your organization are involved in the implementation, and that your team has the proper supports in place after go-live.  Don’t simply look for who will check a box for the lowest dollar amount.  Even if you’re under pressure to make a purchasing decision, don’t lose sight of the bigger picture.  Do what you need to do to ensure your software implementation is successful.

About the Author

Graham Bennett is an Account Executive at Ashcom Technologies.  To learn more about Ashcom Technologies, MaintiMizer, or how to better support software within your organization, he can be reached at 1-800-366-0793 ext. 112 or gbennett@ashcomtech.com.

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