Operations & Maintenance

How to Execute Planned Preventive Maintenance with Meter Readings

Ryan Chan

There are many different ways of planning to do maintenance, but not all of them are particularly effective. Preventative maintenance, in particular, must be planned in a timely, orderly way if it is going to be effective. 

How can this be done? Many companies plan preventative maintenance on a time basis. While time-based strategies have some definite advantages, the major drawback to this type of maintenance is that you will be performing some maintenance before equipment requires the necessary checks and inspections to function at their fullest capacity. 

Instead, consider using meter readings in order to determine when preventative maintenance must be done and when is the optimal time to perform preventative maintenance in your facilities. When properly utilized, meter readings also give you better data on your equipment, systems, and practices as a whole.

Let’s begin with why this matters. Then, we’ll cover how meter readings can assist companies’ preventative maintenance strategies and how meter readings can support smooth operations, with examples!

Finally, we’ll show how the data from meter readings support the company as a whole, no matter what stage you are at. 

Why this all matters

Let’s start with the “why.” If a company has a good time-based management system for its maintenance, why should they consider a change? On the other hand, what is the value of basing your decisions on data from your meters, particularly in the beginning of facility management?

In general, usage-based maintenance is better for the equipment and the facilities in question. There are a few exceptions, particularly in the aerospace industry, which will be covered as well. 

Usage-based vs. time-based maintenance

Time-based maintenance has always had one flaw: maintenance may be either too early, which is most common, or too late, which can be disastrous. 

It’s typically used in applications that historically have not been able to be tracked or monitored in usage-based ways. This may be because the parts that need to be maintained are too far within the overall system in order to be monitored. Perhaps monitors had not been developed or tailored for customized or specialized systems. In any case, it’s very difficult to monitor in other ways, leading to the adoption of time-based maintenance. 

For all of its faults, time-based maintenance has one great advantage: it’s easy to track and manage. In certain cases, components or systems must be tracked on a time basis because of rules and regulations. A great example of this is heavy aircraft maintenance. It must be tracked on a schedule because that is the best way to be assured of the safety of the aircraft in question. 

Why usage-based is a generally better maintenance practice

Usage-based maintenance strategies have a great advantage in that they apply the needed maintenance at the right time and in the right way. Their drawback is that it’s tricky to know when to perform the maintenance, how to measure the need, and how to track, analyze, and organize all the data necessary to make these decisions. 

Since it is so heavily dependent on accurate data, usage-based maintenance has traditionally been avoided in applications where good maintenance can mean the difference between success and failure. Examples of this may include firework factories, gun works companies, and other situations where failure is not an option. 

Today, many of the drawbacks of usage-based maintenance have been taken into account in the new and improved meters, software, and computerized maintenance management systems that are available for all companies. With these advances, usage-based maintenance has decided advantages over most other forms of maintenance. 

Let’s move on to a general overview of the subject and the finer particulars of this type of maintenance in order to understand the advantages of each one. 

A general overview of meter readings

Today, in most facilities, meters are hooked up to an overarching software platform that tracks and aggregates all the data in question. Most meter reading software can track any piece of equipment or machinery that has a gauge attached to it. With a meter reading app, operators or technicians can easily log many different types of data to help plan preventive maintenance. Two of these include:

  • Odometer readings: Truck operators log mileage on a scheduled basis. When a specified mileage is reached, a PM is automatically created for vehicle maintenance inside the CMMS.
  • Cycle counts for machinery: Machine operators or technicians log cycle counts. For an injection molding machine, for instance, a PM is created when ~250,000 cycles are logged. When the cycle count is reached, a PM is created.

These are just two examples of readings that support planned preventive maintenance. You can also take measurements of assets that don’t have affixed gauges. For instance, you can measure vibrations of machinery with vibration recorders, temperature with thermometers, and more. 

Maintenance workflow for meter-based PMs

Workflow for how meter readings impact planned preventive maintenance

Maintenance triggers that are not calendar-based are called runtime- or condition-based triggers. These are the triggers that meter readings make possible. They also inform maintenance managers and technicians when a specific runtime or condition is met.

Tracking aspects of PM other than those based on time paints a more detailed picture of what’s wrong with the equipment and the best method to repair it.

In the example of hazardous vibrational activity, once that is logged, a work order is automatically created in the CMMS when you use UpKeep sensors and CMMS solutions!

Now let’s take a look at how meter readings support and bolster your operations at their stress points. 

How meter readings support smooth operations

To better understand how meter-based triggers work, let’s look at a construction company that has a large fleet of trucks for deliveries to and from its facilities. Knowing the condition of each truck — especially on busy nights — is essential for running a successful operation. If a truck suddenly breaks down, it disrupts scheduled deliveries and causes a loss in revenue.

As previously mentioned, meter readings can track the mileage of fleet vehicles. For example, if a construction company’s driver logs a reading that hits 6,000 miles (the trigger for an oil change), a work order is triggered to make that oil change happen. Performing this oil change keeps the driver safe and operations running smoothly.

Keep in mind that this is only one example of many. Consider a meter that measures the vibrations of a large piece of machinery. As soon as it stays out of the acceptable area, a maintenance technician can be alerted and fix the problem immediately. 

Other places where meter readings might be used include:

  • Monitoring temperatures of rooms, areas, and more
  • Tracking how many times different tools or parts are being used
  • Examining common wear patterns 
  • Determining when is the best time to upgrade or fix the parts in question
  • Gathering data on systems
  • Planning maintenance strategies for the future

This last point is very important as it sets the foundation for your maintenance as a whole. Whether your company is growing, consolidating, or remaining steady, runtime data has a part to play in improving your processes, maintenance, and more. 

How is this done? 

Runtime data and improving your maintenance processes

Runtime data, when used properly, can improve your maintenance processes almost overnight. Similar claims can be made about other sorts of data, but runtime data is particularly valuable because it offers you real-time insights and information into your machines in ways that other data isn’t capable of doing. 

For example, when a meter reading is logged, it creates an asset history for the piece of equipment or machinery. It can later help improve preventive maintenance efforts by allowing a maintenance manager to assess how well a repair went. It can also inform them whether a PM is needed when a different condition is met or at an earlier/later time.

Here are two common areas where runtime data improves maintenance processes on meter based projects and PMs. 

Maintenance workflow for meter-based PMs

First up is a workflow for how meter readings impact planned preventive maintenance. Maintenance triggers that are not calendar-based are called runtime- or condition-based triggers. These are the triggers that meter readings make possible. They also inform maintenance managers and technicians when a specific runtime or condition is met.

Tracking aspects of PM other than those based on time paints a more detailed picture of what’s wrong with the equipment and the best method to repair it.

Using meter-based triggers to create work orders

Custom triggers based on meter reading help you stay organized. This is highly important in order to properly plan ahead and avoid future incidents. You can customize the readings in whatever way works best for your maintenance management needs. 

Taking the time to set up meter-based reading triggers will help you get the most value from your CMMS.

In conclusion

One of the best ways to plan preventive maintenance is to use meter-based readings. Meter-based readings track and measure the condition of equipment, machinery, vehicles, and other assets. Meter reading software often logs readings.

For maintenance-related purposes, a meter reading app is often used to log measurements. This app is included with most computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS).

At the end of the day, when you choose to work with your data instead of on a more arbitrary time-based basis, you open the doors of your company to greater efficiency, less waste, and savings of all sorts. 

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