What is Scheduled Maintenance?

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Posted on October 06

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What is Scheduled Maintenance?
The minute your spouse tells you the car needs an oil change and you agree to take it in on Saturday morning (even though you had plans to sleep in), you’ve got scheduled maintenance on your hands. Scheduled maintenance is any task that has a deadline and has been assigned a technician. That’s why your spouse declined your first offer to get to that oil change “soon.” No timeframe; that makes it planned maintenance, which is an entirely different thing as you’ll see below.

Why bother scheduling?
Scheduled maintenance is old school but necessary. Some parts just need to be replaced regularly, like filters or bearings. Waiting until the part fails is not optimal because unplanned downtime costs money and wastes time. If you do nothing until the bearing that runs the belt fails, you’ve got the entire operation waiting while the crew snaps into action and replaces it. Better to do it on a schedule.

Scheduling maintenance lets you accomplish numerous tasks at once. You can do inspections, adjustments, replace worn parts and ensure you have what you need to accomplish the jobs beforehand—no one is running out to get a new bearing (at the bearing store I guess? The metaphor is thinning out rapidly). With good communications, everyone can plan for the downtime and make effective use of it. You can schedule maintenance when it is convenient—off-peak hours or in the slow season. In general, it’s one of those rules that makes sense in theory and practice.

Planned vs. Scheduled Maintenance
Now, we mentioned that there is a difference between “planned” and “scheduled” maintenance. People often use those terms interchangeably, but they are not the same thing, and if you can’t be pedantic about labeling maintenance in a blog post about maintenance, we don’t know where you can. Planned maintenance is the act of deciding that maintenance should be performed and ensuring you have the materials on hand—it’s planning. When you notice something is wrong and resolve to fix it at the next shutdown, it’s planned. Once you assign that task to Bryce and tell him it has to be done this week during the shutdown, it’s scheduled. A subtle but important distinction.

The goal of scheduled maintenance is to eliminate reactive maintenance, which is a nice way of saying “fixing something when it reaches the point of failure.” Obviously, things are going to break without warning; but a strong program of scheduled maintenance gives your operation the best chance of minimizing that kind of downtime. It also helps to keep your maintenance backlog to a minimum. The more you do on a regular schedule, the fewer tasks pile up to be done in a single shutdown.

The Maintenance Endgame
Of course, scheduled maintenance is a stepping stone to predictive maintenance. By adding non-destructive monitoring to plants and assets, you are able to predict the lifespan of parts and schedule maintenance even more effectively. Maybe that bearing (yeah, it’s back) will run for another month based on tests—the point is, you have data to work with, not just a guess or rules-of-thumb, so you don’t have to religiously change parts. It’s where you want to be, maintenance-wise. Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to the oil change place.
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