Preventive Maintenance vs Predictive Maintenance

preventative versus predictive maintenance

Preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance are two approaches to keep your machinery running smoothly and reliably. Preventive maintenance centers around time-based (daily/weekly/monthly) maintenance tasks required to keep machinery operating properly. They are tasks learned through institutional knowledge gained from over a century of experience with machinery and pass down through the years. Certain tasks must be done on a periodic basis such as:

  • Properly lubricating bearings
  • Keeping oil sumps full and clean
  • Changing oil or air filters
  • Changing belts

Following a preventive maintenance program is meant to reduce the maintenance actions by ensuring the mechanical parts are always lubricated and that worn or broken parts are changed out in a timely manner before they break and cause collateral and more extensive damage. However, one absolute we have also learned is that the greatest cause of machinery problems is human error. We are only human and we certainly make mistakes. It does not take much for us to be distracted and suddenly we leave a rag in a pipe, we forget to fill the oil reservoir, we install the wrong type of belts, we place the bearing locking nut on backward or we do not tighten up enough or too much on a seal. Even the slightest most innocent mistakes can and will snowball into larger more significant issues. So even the best-laid plans can fail from human error.

How is Predictive Maintenance Different?

Predictive maintenance uses a different approach than preventive maintenance. It harnesses innovative technologies such as vibration testing for identification of mechanical problems that deem maintenance action. It too uses a periodic interval but only to monitor the machines vital signs like a doctor.

Vibration meters are used to conduct vibration tests on the machine’s bearings to look for patterns that signify know faults. If the data shows normal benign patterns, no maintenance actions are taken except to continue to monitor the vibration for changing mechanical conditions.

If the vibration testing reveals changing conditions that warrant maintenance, the spectral analysis will help define the type and severity of the problem and therefore the necessary repairs to resolve the issue. Just like with preventive maintenance, human error is still the greatest threat to machinery problems. As a result, after any repair, it is important to verify the repair worked and no new problems arose through a follow-up visual inspections by others and thorough vibration tests.

If the vibration test data and inspections show acceptable findings you return to periodic vibration monitoring for changes. Predictive maintenance is not perfect but it is has tried to build-in checks and balances through technology identify problems and minimize the mistakes from the human error that turn into machinery failures, preventive maintenance is a very good approach to keep machinery operating properly but pairing it with predictive maintenance provides the best of all worlds.

Choose VSC for Your Predictive Maintenance Needs

Learn more about how to add vibration testing and analysis to your machinery maintenance plans. Our experienced technicians can help ensure you can maintain maximum uptime for your system. Contact us today.


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