Fix it before it breaks

Preventive maintenance is an essential part of any well-managed and competitive organisation.

Managing for profit by Peter Hughes

It seems to be a natural flaw in the human psyche: everyone is keen to create, design, build and buy; few are willing to perform preventive maintenance to keep their assets in tip-top working order. The Eskom debacle is dramatic proof of this. Yet nothing prevents deterioration and breakdowns as surely as regular maintenance. Time and again, it has been shown that maintenance carried out on a schedule, rather than on a corrective basis, reduces downtime, increases the lifespan of assets and saves time and money.

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My first experience of the effectiveness of preventive maintenance was on our farm in Swaziland. The electrical reticulation that served pump stations, farm buildings, homes and offices belonged to the business, not to the state utility. As the network aged, we experienced more and more power outages because our workshop manager did not look after our equipment properly. He was replaced by a new manager, who implemented preventive maintenance immediately. Every piece of equipment, every implement, every vehicle, every building, went onto the programme, and the results were spectacular. It was highly demanding to set up and we made our mistakes, but it was well worth it.

From our experience, here are my suggestions for a preventative maintenance programme:

List

  • Make a list of every asset that needs periodic maintenance.
  • Identify and record
  • Give each asset a unique
  • ID number and record it in an assets register. It’s a simple task to mark each item with this number. Group like with like – vehicles, tractors, implements, tools, buildings, electrical equipment and so on.

Interval

  • Consider the service interval required for each item. Take the seasonal workloads of farm equipment and vehicles into account.

Type

  • Decide on the type of service required – full, light, check-up, and so on.

Plan

  • Draw up a week-by-week, asset-by-asset plan for the coming year, slotting into each week the service type required.

Detail

  • Define precisely, for each asset involved, the detail of the service required – exactly what is to be checked and replaced in a ‘full’ service, what is needed in a ‘light’ service and so on (the above table has a sample schedule).

All this will take you a while, but once completed, the plan will serve you well for many years. At the end of each season, go through the entire plan step by step and modify as necessary.

This article was originally published in the 27 March 2015 issue of Farmer’s Weekly.