Preventive maintenance saves you time and money

Poor maintenance is not only costly and disruptive, but dangerous. There is only one way to deal with it: set up a preventive maintenance system and stick to it, says Peter Hughes.

Preventive maintenance saves you time and money
- Advertisement -

Sewer gas is dangerous stuff and can cause a disaster. If trapped, the gas is a bomb in the making. All that’s needed is a spark from a nearby electrical cable, and KABOOM!.

In December 2021 a building in Karachi, Pakistan, was completely destroyed and 12 people were killed in the explosion. Their municipal authorities seemed to lack the sense of smell, which provides an early warning system of trouble brewing!

But as a farmer, you know all about this, don’t you? You’ve always maintained the ‘municipal services’ on the farm, in addition to all the other items needed to keep the business going, such as vehicles, implements, tools, building and the rest.

- Advertisement -

How well are you doing? How often are you experiencing your own ‘disasters’ because of poor maintenance? In short, how well are you maintaining the assets on which your operations depend?

From bitter experience, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that, no matter the size of your farming operation, there’s only one way to keep assets in good working order, and that is by performing preventive maintenance.

This is the act of performing regularly scheduled maintenance to prevent unexpected failures in the future. Put simply, it’s about fixing things before they break.

Some guidelines
Here are some guidelines:

  • Identify every single individual vehicle, item of machinery, electrical equipment and building on the farm. (If your asset register is up to date, this is all done already.)
  • Prepare a detailed maintenance checklist for each item.
  • Set a routine for each item: daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, six-monthly or annually, depending on the seasonal activity on the farm.
  • Pull it all together in a documented plan, identifying ‘what’ is to be done, by ‘whom’, and by ‘when’.
  • Get every manager or supervisor involved check and let them sign off for their areas of responsibility.

Suggested checklist  
Use the checklist below to ensure proper maintenance is completed on your farm.

Despite uncertainty of supply from Eskom, there is much you can do to limit unplanned outages.

  • Excessive heat build-up signals impending failure of individual components. Measure it easily and quickly with an infrared-sensitive gadget.
  • Transformer oil should be filtered, topped up or replaced. Silica gel may need replacement.
  • Insects love switchgear. Use a good insecticide and remove nests. Using compressed air is a great way to clean devices.
  • Wooden poles rot below ground level. Check the state of the pole below ground with a core sampler. Measure the heat of all insulators and joints.
  • Electric motors covered in dust and dirt never cool effectively; dead insects cause havoc with insulation.
  • Use compressed air to blow away all the rubbish. Check bearings for vibration and excessive heat.


  • Pumps: Are they delivering the volume of water at the pressure for which they were designed? When last were the measuring gauges calibrated?
  • Valves: Are non-return valves sealing? When last did you check them for rust? What about valves on the delivery side of the manifold? Leaks or rust?
  • Delivery pipelines: check for leaks and rust.
  • In-field equipment: When last did you measure sprinkler or dripper delivery rates? Are pressure gauges calibrated and pressures right? Check sprinkler nozzles for wear and leaks.

Vehicles and implements

  • Are service intervals correct?
  • Are service checklists comprehensive and up-to-date?

Buildings and services

  • Check for roof leaks. Check internal roof timbers for wood borers and dry rot.
  • Are electrical fittings safe and in working order?
  • Are door and window locks and hinges all secure?
  • Are alarm systems operational?
  • Is water supply, quality and treatment satisfactory?
  • Are sewerage systems and effluent disposal problem free?

Setting up and managing an effective preventive maintenance system is hard work, but once it’s in place, you’ll sleep better and be amazed at the reduction in breakdowns, downtime and costs. Do it!

Peter Hughes is a business and management consultant.