What are benefits and drawbacks of preventive maintenance?

Ultimately, I’d say the primary benefits of preventive maintenance come down to reliability. As you keep each asset in good repair, it’s less likely to break down, and you ultimately have less downtime over the life of the asset.

That said, PM is not always the right option for every piece of equipment. Sometimes the costs associated with preventive maintenance actually outweigh the benefits on older or less critical assets.

Let’s break this down a bit. First, the benefits:

  • Less downtime
  • Fewer interruptions to critical operations
  • Longer asset life
  • Improved efficiency (assets in good repair tend to operate better)
  • Increased workplace safety and improved compliance with OSHA

When implemented properly, a preventive maintenance plan results in savings over time as assets last longer, use less energy, and cause fewer interruptions to your processes.

Now let’s look at the drawbacks:

  • Upfront costs—keeping equipment regularly maintained requires a bit of an investment
  • More labor intensive, so you’ll need enough staff on hand
  • Potential for over-maintenance

The last point is one of the major drawbacks of preventive maintenance. There comes a point where if you’re doing too much, the costs of your PM program actually outweigh the costs of reactive maintenance, especially for non-critical assets.

Even for mission-critical equipment, you might still run the risk of over-maintenance. Some types of failures aren’t as threatening to your operations as others, and if you’re putting resources into preventing every conceivable type of problem, you may actually be wasting resources on PM. It’s important to strike a balance between failure prevention and reactive repair work.

If you’re on the fence about whether to start a PM program, my advice is to start with the most critical assets in your facility. Determine which types of failures are likely to occur and how severe they’d be, and prioritize those in your plan. From there, you can start reaping the advantages of preventive maintenance without running into its drawbacks.