MRO Magazine

Building PM Tasks

I know that many readers who have been following this column have been trying to follow the implementation steps of a computerized maintenance software system (CMMS). This is the seventh article in this series and I have good news -- most of the h...

December 1, 2003 | By Peter Phillips

I know that many readers who have been following this column have been trying to follow the implementation steps of a computerized maintenance software system (CMMS). This is the seventh article in this series and I have good news — most of the hard work is behind us.

However, we’re not out of the woods yet. We have one more time-consuming job to do, creating PMs — the preventive maintenance tasks.

We create these tasks to look after our regularly scheduled maintenance. The task may be equipment inspections, time-based maintenance, equipment monitoring or the many other procedures and checks we don’t want to forget to do.

If your preventive maintenance plan is in its infancy stage, then you can start with a clean slate. You may have a completely new plant with new equipment, or you may have a facility with equipment that’s been in service for years. Either way you’ll use the same process to develop PM tasks to be used in the CMMS program.


Back in article No. 4, Gathering Data, I mentioned gathering existing documentation about equipment, spare parts and existing maintenance procedures. (Editor’s note: All previous CMMS Software Solutions columns are archived on Machinery & Equipment MRO’s website at

If you have been doing PM for a while without the benefit of using a CMMS, then you’ll probably have a paper file system that kept track of your PMs. You’ll be using this to help create a maintenance checklist in the CMMS. You’ll also need any OEM manuals that list recommended maintenance for your equipment.

I’m currently working with a company that has a mixture of both new and existing equipment. It needs its CMMS updated to reflect new equipment recently brought into the site, as well as to have the existing equipment PMs updated.

Here’s the process we’re following to create and update the PM tasks.

1. We printed an equipment list from the CMMS and checked to see if all the equipment in the plant was listed. We added some new equipment. Some were completely new machines and some were new pieces of equipment that had been added to existing processing lines.

2. Next, we looked at the equipment list and planned our attack for creating the PM tasks. We divided the plant into process areas and will complete the work one area at a time.

3. With some assistance from plant personnel, we gathered any existing old PM checklists for the equipment.

4. Next, we rounded up all the OEM manuals that included recommended maintenance and schedules.

5. Now we’re ready to go through the manuals and make written notes of recommended OEM maintenance checks for the equipment. We’ll combine these with the existing checklists.

If the equipment is a complex machine or processing line, you’ll find it easier to break it out into smaller components. By doing so, you can make a more specific list of routine checks for each component. Try to stay away from generic checklists meant to cover several pieces of equipment, as most people find them confusing.

You’ll have components that need to be checked daily, weekly, monthly, etc. Create a separate task or PM for each of these frequencies.

The basic way a CMMS works is to create a task and then assign equipment to it.

First create a name for the task in the CMMS and, in the detail section, enter the information you’ve gathered in the form of a checksheet. Make this form user friendly. Create checkboxes so the maintenance staff can check off the items they have completed.

A checklist could look something like this:

Monthly Conveyor PM

n Use lock-out procedures

n Check head and tail roller bearings and lubricate

n Check chain tension and sprockets, lubricate

n Check condition of conveyor belt and splice.

Next, assign the equipment to the checklist. Now print off a copy of the PM task and walk out to the equipment and have a close look to see if you’ve missed anything that needs to be checked.

One of the best ways of validating your work is to have the maintenance personnel critique your list of checks. They’ll know from past experience what critical points need attention. Add the changes they suggest.

It’s also a good idea to add safety lock-out procedures on the checksheet to remind people to work safely.

This process can take a fair amount of time. It can take a full day or more to create a complete PM plan for a complex processing line with many individual components.

Once created, the PM task needs to be scheduled. As I mentioned, there will be PM routines that are at set intervals. Use the CMMS to schedule the start date for these tasks.

This scheduling process will become more difficult as the number of PM tasks grows. You don’t want all the PMs coming due at once. Try to space them out over the calendar year, taking into consideration vacations, plant shutdowns, labour shortages and other projects going on.

Print a task projection report from the program. This will show the PM schedule you’ve created for the coming year. Look over the report and make adjustments to the start dates to spread them evenly over the 12-month period.

Your CMMS will have a work order generation function. This process automatically scans through the due dates of the PM task and creates work orders. These work orders can be assigned to maintenance staff to be completed within a specific period of time. There will be more on this topic in the next column.

Your PM plan is a living, breathing program and will require upkeep. Reviewing and updating the tasks on a regular basis will keep it current with equipment changes and suggestions made by maintenance personnel. Falling behind on keeping your PM plan current will take a lot of time to correct.

Be proactive. If you have a lot of PM tasks to do, then set a routine for reviewing them. Yes, you can create a scheduled task for this too.

Preventive maintenance is one of the main reasons you use a CMMS program. An efficient PM program is one step towards achieving a goal of zero breakdowns

The topic in the next issue will be Managing the CMMS Work Order System.

Peter Phillips of Trailwalk Holdings, a CMMS consulting and training company, can be reached at 902-798-3601or by e-mail at


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