Predictive vs. Preventive Maintenance: Which is Best?

The key to an effective, optimized strategy is finding the right balance

Matt Sabee

Most facilities today have well-thought-out maintenance programs. However, many facility managers are still asking one question: Which is better for my electrical system—preventive maintenance or predictive maintenance? In order to administer the best program, both types of maintenance need to be incorporated. This often begs additional questions: Why should we continue to utilize older technology? Shouldn’t we jump on the new technology bandwagon and utilize only predictive maintenance?

It’s true that predictive maintenance is the wave of the future, and new technology will assist facility managers and business owners with making decisions around data. For example, alerts will be configured into analytical programs to notify users when particular assets are out of tolerance. When this happens, maintenance staff will have the ability to utilize all the data from the electrical system to best implement plans to remove assets or schedule downtime to maintain them. Either way, facilities will be able to shut down assets at a planned time, saving money and frustration for the maintenance staff.

You now may wonder: If we are able to schedule downtime with predictive maintenance, why would we still incorporate preventive maintenance into our plan?

Preventive maintenance still fits in many areas of an electrical system. While predictive maintenance is the wave of the future and will assist in increasing uptime, it will not work in every scenario. For example, every motor control center, starter panel, and smaller distribution panel board has critical equipment that it feeds. It may not make financial sense to install temperature sensors in all of these buckets, and the technology may not be available for each breaker. In these scenarios, performing preventive maintenance with a thermal imaging camera on a semi-annual or annual basis will give you the best protection against costly downtime.

Preventive maintenance is also recommended for breakers and large fused switches. This equipment needs to be exercised on a yearly basis to ensure that the lubrication doesn’t become sticky, preventing the operation of the equipment. Trip units within the breakers also need to be tested on an annual or three-year basis depending on voltage and manufacturer.

Best-in-class maintenance programs incorporate both predictive and preventive maintenance. Utilizing the best of both will create the highest levels of facility uptime.

Matt Sabee is director of power solutions for Faith Technologies in Menasha, Wisc, In this role he is responsible for the overall management of field solutions services, including electrical, arc flash, predictive maintenance, and mission-critical services.

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