Across industries, many customers depend on their assets to run reliably 24/7, which can put a lot of pressure on service organizations. The days of only offering reactive break-fix models for servicing assets are gone as manufacturers realize they must adopt preventive maintenance and proactive maintenance models to meet the needs of their customers and ensure equipment availability at all times.

By moving beyond reactive service, you can avoid costly unplanned downtime, improve service margins, deliver better outcomes, and create loyal customers.

What are Proactive Maintenance Strategies?

Proactive maintenance offers service strategies that seek to prevent downtime before it occurs. There are a few different ways to deliver proactive service depending on the digital maturity of the service business, with preventive maintenance the most widely used model today.

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Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance refers to the regularly scheduled maintenance of an asset. Much like the regular service visits you have for your car, preventive maintenance plans ensure assets are kept in tip-top shape over time to prevent failures and extend the life of the assets. Preventative maintenance can be Time-based, Counter/Usage-based, or Condition-based.

  • Time-based preventive maintenance refers to when service visits are pre-scheduled using set calendar-specific time intervals that will best ensure assets stay up and running. This could look like inspection visits every 12 months and maintenance visits every 6 months.
  • Counter or usage-based preventive maintenance refers to when service visits are executed when the asset has seen a certain amount of use. So rather than a forklift being serviced every 3 months, it would be serviced every time it clocks 250 hours of use.
  • Condition-based preventive maintenance is the most advanced form of maintenance in this category. It uses technical attributes changes, other installed product updates, or IoT-generated data on the condition of the asset to trigger alerts when a threshold is breached and automatically launch actions. This could look like a service visit being scheduled if a machine falls outside of a defined temperature range.

Predictive Maintenance

As organizations mature and progress on their digital transformation journey, they can apply Predictive maintenance. This approach requires service organizations to feed comprehensive asset and service data into advanced analytics tools with machine learning capabilities to recognize patterns, establish baselines for normal asset behavior, and predict when to deliver maintenance to prevent failures. Take the example of an overheating machine, instead of informing service organizations about its failure after it happened, predictive maintenance will tell them when a machine is likely to fail in the future.

Prescriptive Maintenance

Conceptually, the final proactive strategy, Prescriptive maintenance is similar to Predictive Maintenance but takes it one step further. On top of predicting failures, prescriptive maintenance recommends the right actions to take through leveraging prescriptive analytics, algorithms, and artificial intelligence. In the case of the overheated machine that would mean prescriptive methods will notify service teams for when to expect the failure and will suggest, for example, swapping a part out, reducing the speed, or getting a technician onsite.

These service strategies are closely related, and service organizations may find the transitions between them to be fluid, often including more than one in their portfolio. For some assets or asset families, a time-based approach might be best, whereas IoT-connected devices experience greater benefit from a condition-based plan.

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What are the Benefits of Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance benefits are aplenty in comparison to reactive service, and the more advanced your proactive maintenance strategies are, the bigger payoff you’ll receive. By becoming more proactive, you can avoid instances of costly unplanned downtime, deliver more efficient and profitable service, create happier customers, and lay the foundation for even more advanced service strategies.

Reduce Costs and Improve Service Margin

Mission-critical equipment can fail at the worst times and lead to thousands of dollars in unplanned maintenance costs. Studies show that unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion annually and unplanned work is 7x more expensive than planned work.

Unexpected downtimes are synonymous with exorbitant expenditures—to get technicians onsite, to expedite the shipping of needed parts, to send and install replacement units, or field engineers’ overtime. Depending on whether an asset is covered by warranty or service contract—and the details of the contractual agreements—these unplanned costs will hit the books of either the service organization, the manufacturer, or both.

With preventive maintenance, the cost for unplanned downtime can be extensively reduced or even eliminated. In addition, scheduling preventive maintenance visits well in advance allows companies to make more thoughtful planning choices, such as bundling service jobs at a location, planning parts replacements for better deals, and implementing product modifications to minimize truck rolls.

Improve Customer Experience

With customer experience as the main differentiator for manufacturers, maximizing uptime is the number one priority for them. It will create happier customers that are more likely to renew and upgrade service contracts and buy new machines. For OEMs, asset uptime and reliability are especially important, as customers won’t want to do repeat business with a manufacturer of equipment that they view as prone to failure.

There are also added benefits that come with the more advanced forms of proactive service. With condition-based preventative maintenance, you are able to deliver an advanced service schedule that results in better uptime and reduced costs by preventing the over-delivery of service. With predictive maintenance, you have an increased level of accuracy by relying on data-driven analytics to inform your service strategy. And with prescriptive maintenance, you can develop sophisticated maintenance models that guarantee maximum uptime and asset performance at a minimal cost.

What are the Costs of Preventive Maintenance?

Adopting a proactive service model requires a level of digital transformation maturity that provides asset visibility, standardized data collection, a moderate-to-high level of automation, and resource scheduling. This means your service organization needs to be using field service management software, not manual, pen and paper processes.

Proactive strategies become increasingly more complex as you go from preventive to predictive to prescriptive. To take advantage of the more advanced forms, you may have to initially put in more effort, time, expertise, and investment. But with that increased up-front cost, comes better ongoing and long-term results that reduce service costs over the course of a device’s lifetime and give you a competitive edge. Leveraging a field service management platform that can grow with your organization and guide you on industry best practices will offer the best return on your investment.

How Can I Get Started with Proactive Maintenance?

  1. Assess and standardize the type of maintenance plans/offerings your organization is prepared to provide to the devices in your install base.
    • Understand the nature of that maintenance (whether it is based on the passage of time, usage milestones, or data provided by the device)
    • Estimate the skills, duration, and scheduling requirements for the maintenance
  2. Review your organization’s installed base records and validate that the information is both accurate and useful.
    • Is the data reliable? Is every device correctly accounted for and organized within the Installed Base hierarchy?
    • Are the metrics needed to generate maintenance visits being captured in the Installed Base?
  3. Identify KPI goals/objectives for your business in relation to proactive maintenance.
    • Reduce Asset Downtime
    • Increase Technician Efficiency
    • Optimize Scheduling

To learn more about preventive and proactive maintenance functionality, click here.

ABOUT Lacy Cotton-Hodgson

As a Sr Product Manager at ServiceMax, Lacy has an in-depth knowledge of both the ServiceMax package and its implementation. During her 8+ years with ServiceMax, she has operated as a mid-market and enterprise solution architect, strategic services SA, partner enablement architect, and product manager. She currently drives enhancement and innovation for ServiceMax Core Features, as well as Asset 360 Asset Management. Lacy comes from a background of Salesforce.com administration/development and has implemented complete lifecycle solutions for a wide range of company sizes and business verticals, including Life Sciences & Medical Devices, Energy & Utilities, Industrial Manufacturing, and Oil & Gas.

ABOUT Katharina Streater

As senior product marketing manager at ServiceMax, Katharina Streater drives the scheduling, contractor management, and analytics capabilities of the ServiceMax platform. Passionate about technology, Katharina has extensive knowledge in analytics, AI, and held several marketing positions over 14 years at OpenText, a leader in Enterprise Information Management solutions. A native of Germany, she deepens the international character of the ServiceMax product marketing team.