Routine maintenance refers to maintenance activities that are performed at regular, time-based intervals, such as inspections or machine servicing. The simplest example is changing the oil in your car every 5,000 miles.
Though simple, these tasks help to keep systems in good operating condition and prevent large-scale equipment failure. Specifically, routine maintenance refers to simple maintenance tasks that don’t require specialized equipment or in-depth skill. Consequently, this term refers to tasks that can be done by staff outside of the maintenance department.
Companies that practice autonomous maintenance (requiring machine operators to maintain their equipment to a baseline standard) or Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) delegate all routine maintenance tasks to non-maintenance personnel. Routine maintenance is also a key part of preventive maintenance because it reduces the likelihood of unexpected equipment failure.
A routine maintenance plan helps prevent and identify problems before they compound. Investing in regular maintenance extends asset life cycle, reduces emergency maintenance, and keeps facilities running consistently.
Less reliance on reactive maintenance frees up maintenance departments to focus on implementing more sophisticated maintenance strategies such as preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance.
Routine Maintenance Workflow:
Identify assets that are a good fit for routine maintenance
Repairable assets that require minimal intervention between repairs are the best fit. High-value assets that require complex inspections or adjustments may be better suited to preventive maintenance. (What is the difference between preventive maintenance and routine maintenance? See below.)
Set time-based maintenance intervals
Determining the optimal schedule for maintenance is crucial to achieving a balance between additional maintenance costs and optimal savings. Over-maintenance elicits a phenomenon known as the ‘law of diminishing returns’ – the more you spend on maintaining an asset, the lower your return on investment.
Create a checklist for each asset
Checklists should enumerate every step of the maintenance task.
When the time interval is reached, perform work order
Assign checklist to maintenance technician
Perform routine maintenance
It’s also a good idea to determine if it makes financial sense to continue inspecting and repairing the asset or if it’s more cost-effective to invest in a new one. A replacement analysis (a cost-benefit analysis of repairing vs. replacing the asset) can help you decide. Sometimes, irrevocable wear-and-tear or asset depreciation renders further repairs financially moot.
The Importance of Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance prevents larger problems from occurring. Technicians can keep an eye on the key components of a production line or system that would otherwise go unnoticed until or unless the asset fails. It’s also a great way to train new technicians because the tasks are simple, straightforward, and don’t require much training.
Here are some other benefits of routine maintenance:
- Decreased downtime and longer equipment lifespan – Assets that are serviced regularly and kept in good working condition are less likely to fail unexpectedly and more likely to last longer.
- Reduced need for reactive maintenance – Well-maintained assets are less likely to need emergency repairs. Reactive maintenance is costly, time-consuming, and disruptive.
- Fewer failures and improved safety – Faulty assets can create unsafe working conditions and result in non-compliance with OSHA requirements.
- Creates pleasant and safe working conditions – Clean, well-maintained workspaces and reliable equipment are key to employee retention and loyalty.
- Reduced maintenance costs in the long run – Less unplanned downtime and emergency repairs reduces lost productivity and revenue, despite the upfront costs.
Routine Maintenance Examples
Depending on the industry and the worksite in question, routine maintenance tasks can vary substantially. For example, property managers perform regular maintenance tasks like pest control, checking for water damage or leaks, cleaning the gutters, patching cracks in ceiling or drywall, replacing filters in air conditioners, and checking smoke detectors. They use a property maintenance checklist and do these tasks at least once a year. Factory workers clean, lubricate, and adjust machines. Meanwhile, warehouse technicians keep their workspace clean and free of obstructions and inspect high-risk assets every month. Homeowners inspect their roofs once a year.
Here are some other examples of routine maintenance tasks:
- Lubricating, cleaning, or adjusting machinery
- Inspecting equipment to ensure proper operation and safety
- Replacing parts that show deterioration
- Checking, testing, and maintaining safety equipment such as fire extinguishers or alarm systems
- Checking for damaged signage or utilities
- General workplace maintenance such as cleaning floors, washing windows, replacing HVAC filters, trash removal, etc.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Routine Maintenance
Fewer interruptions to critical operations
Less equipment downtime (Reduces the number of major repairs).
Longer asset life (Keeping assets in good working order helps to extend their lifespan, thereby reducing the overall costs of repairing and replacing assets).
Increased workplace safety and improved OSHA compliance
Improved efficiency (Assets in good working condition perform better).
Upfront cost – Routine maintenance can be time- and labor-intensive in the short run as it requires careful planning.
Risk of diminishing returns – Over-servicing an asset or repairing an asset that needs to be replaced can backfire, resulting in diminishing ROI even as maintenance spend increases.
More labor-intensive – You may need more staff on hand to perform maintenance tasks. One way to circumvent this is by instilling a company culture of autonomous maintenance, where machine operators are required to perform basic maintenance tasks to keep equipment to a baseline standard.
Routine Maintenance Software
Using a CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System), routine maintenance tasks can be automatically scheduled. A CMMS maintains a database of all your assets, allowing you to automatically generate work orders for maintenance tasks at time-based or meter-based intervals. When the work order is triggered, the software will automatically assign the task to an available technician, and provide them with a checklist that elaborates on each required step.
Without the help of software, it’s easy to let routine maintenance activities fall through the cracks. While 55% of facilities still rely on spreadsheets and schedules to manage their maintenance activities, a CMMS offloads the burden of data entry and scheduling, allowing maintenance supervisors to focus on high-value tasks while increasing technicians’ wrench-on time.
Types of Routine Maintenance
Routine maintenance schedules can be calendar-based or meter-based. The frequency of needed maintenance really depends on the type of asset, the nature of its component parts, and usage patterns. Items with relatively short-lived component parts such as fan belts or light bulbs will need more frequent routine maintenance.
- Calendar-based – Maintenance occurs at regular time intervals regardless of equipment usage. Since it requires less planning and data than usage-based maintenance, this type of routine maintenance is better for organizations that are implementing maintenance plans for the first time. Calendar-based maintenance is also useful for assets whose usage patterns don’t change.
- Usage-based – Maintenance is triggered when a certain meter reading is detected (eg: X number of operating hours). Takes into account the average daily usage of a machine to forecast an optimal due date based on predicted equipment failure. Ideal for assets that have varying usage patterns (eg: equipment usage spikes during peak times but remains moderate otherwise).
Difference Between Routine and Non-Routine Maintenance
Non-routine maintenance refers to maintenance activities that have not been planned in advance and are not performed at regular intervals. Examples include:
- Reactive maintenance – Repairs are done when an asset has already broken down.
- Corrective maintenance – Repairs are done to rectify faulty equipment before a breakdown occurs, such as tightening a loose bearing.
- Emergency maintenance – Repairs are done to rectify an asset malfunction that can cause major health and safety problems or production delays, such as dealing with a gas leak.
Routine maintenance, on the other hand, is a form of planned maintenance that is done on an ongoing basis to prevent problems. The distinction between routine and non-routine is important in highly regulated industries such as aviation, where regulations separate the two categories, delineating mandatory maintenance tasks from contingent maintenance tasks.
For example, routine maintenance in aviation refers to 100-hour inspections, annual inspections, progressive inspections, and preflight checks. Non-routine maintenance activities are potentially dangerous activities that are performed infrequently and may require more skill than routine activities. Consequently, non-routine maintenance tasks may be outsourced while routine are typically done in-house.
Routine Maintenance vs. Preventive Maintenance
Preventive maintenance refers to the systematic inspection and maintenance of high-value assets to keep them in good operating conditions and prevent unexpected equipment failure. Given the high upfront costs of preventive maintenance, this type of maintenance is typically reserved for mission-critical assets. Preventive maintenance uses predictive analytics to forecast equipment failure and schedule maintenance ahead of time based on historical data.
Routine maintenance, on the other hand, may refer to regular maintenance tasks performed on less valuable assets. In this case, the only upfront cost is training technicians to do basic maintenance tasks. Conversely, preventive maintenance refers to more specialized inspections and repairs, such as changing oil, performing vibration analysis, or tuning up a machine. Preventive maintenance also involves maintaining accurate records of every inspection and servicing, as well as knowing the lifespan of each part to understand replacement frequency. While routine maintenance can also be guided by data insights like these, there is less documentation involved.
The terms preventive maintenance and routine maintenance are often used interchangeably. Routine maintenance refers to simple activities requiring minimal skills or training associated with the general upkeep of a building, piece of equipment, machine, plant, or system against normal wear and tear. This can be as simple as changing a lightbulb or replacing toilet paper in the public restroom.
In reality, it’s important to do both preventive maintenance and routine maintenance. True preventive maintenance takes longer and it costs more, too. In fact, preventive maintenance may even involve the use of IoT sensors on equipment that can detect when an asset is about to fail based on meter readings and other data.