A Case for Preventative Maintenance

The reality for many public works agencies operating today is one of ever increasing resource constraints, compounded by wider spans of responsibility. For organizations expected to do less with more, daily operations can quickly become a reactive approach, moving around resources to best accommodate whatever high priority tasks arises in the moment. As a result, assets not requiring immediate attention are often overlooked and eventually fall into disrepair. Preventative maintenance (PM) is a proactive and common sense asset management approach which enables public works agencies to significantly increase the lifetime of an asset through the effective use of resources already in place. 

As an example, the counties of Reno and Hernando, each independently launched a PM program in order to better manage their cumulative 292 traffic signals. This task was undertaken after a recognition that costs to repair these under serviced assets far exceeded the resources which would be required to perform preventative maintenance. The counties each were able to independently identify that, as more preventative maintenance tasks were performed, the overall number of problems or failures decreased, resulting in a lower life-cycle cost.

The goal in these programs was not necessarily to replace assets but to extend their useful life and functionality. The life-cycle of signal components could be easily projected because the life of a traffic signal component is based on the amount of time it is in use, with similar daily usage lengths. Components – such as bulbs that need to be replaced –were included as part of the maintenance effort and were determined by the same time-based plan.

Preventative tasks focus on making sure each signal or other component operates correctly – all the time. By establishing the proper maintenance cycle, an agency can project an adequate inventory of parts and components thus ensuring greater savings.

In order to ensure a successful PM program, the cost of implementation must be offset by reduced repair and/or response efforts over the lifetime of an asset. The goal is to minimize the total effort or cost. The cost is a function of the PM tasks versus the response effort. The best strategy is one where the total effort is minimized for all work done.

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To read a detailed success story of the two public works agencies mentioned in this article, please click here.

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