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There are many different types of maintenance in the field service industry. Two of the most frequently used are preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance. Both of these maintenance types aim to fix a problem before it arises. The main difference between preventive and predictive maintenance is that predictive maintenance is scheduled based on asset conditions and preventative maintenance is already built into a routine, so it is regularly scheduled.

Predictive maintenance is only performed when needed, therefore it reduces material costs and labor. However, to get started will cost more up front. This can be incredibly daunting to companies who worry about the cost and training that comes with change. But an investment in predictive maintenance may be what is best for your company.  Meanwhile, preventive maintenance has worked for companies this far. How will your field service company know when to make a change?

Before we can really understand the difference between these two maintenance methods and what is best for the field service industry,  it is important to understand what each maintenance type is holistically. 

What is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance should be baked into your field service companies routine. Field service companies should look at this like a dentist appointment or a physical with a doctor. Field technicians perform these tasks to ensure everything is running smoothly and to prevent future breakdowns. 

The thought process behind preventive maintenance is that by routinely making these check ups, although inconvenient, it can prevent an even bigger inconvenience in the future by maintaining the condition of the equipment. 

Preventive maintenance tends to come with a set of best practices and is planned ahead of time. Usually, the machine in question will need downtime in order to complete the check up. Preventive maintenance is considered best practice and has been baked into field service companies for some time now. 

What is Predictive Maintenance?

Predictive maintenance is “newer” on the field service scene, but it comes with tons of data collection and can actually be a real money saver. Predictive maintenance uses IoT or machine learning to predict, as soon as possible, when any maintenance may be needed. 

Predictive maintenance relies on the data to eradicate an issue arising before your field service team can fix it, whereas preventative maintenance just decreases the likelihood of it happening. 

Data driven decision making in relation to the field service industry has been huge in recent years. Leveraging intelligent field service reporting and analytics, like the ones used for predictive maintenance, will better your field service company and ultimately drive more revenue. Preventative maintenance will be the maintenance of the future.

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What are the Main Differences Between Preventive and Predictive Maintenance?

Now that we understand the basics of preventive and predictive maintenance, we can better understand the differences between the two. When compared to one another, we can see how they line up.

Preventive Maintenance Benefits

  • Increases lifetime span on equipment
  • A proactive approach to a frequent problem
  • Efficient enough with experienced personnel

Preventive Maintenance Challenges 

  • Carried out when it is unnecessary, therefore wasting time and not benefiting the worker, machinery or client.
  • Lack of accuracy. Maintenance may happen too late, so damage may already be done and technicians will have to start from scratch.
  • Increases planned downtime.

Predictive Maintenance Benefits

  • Identifies actual issues early on so that they can be addressed, eradicating any non-issues, saving time and money.
  • Improved inventory efficiency- parts are used and stored properly.
  • Real time analytics provides several options for maintenance, right at your fingertips.

Predictive Maintenance Challenges

  • May require new technology or equipment in order to collect and share data
  • May require new training or additional personnel
  • More complex than preventive maintenance
  • Can be expensive to start

Depending on the needs of your company, you can weigh the pros and cons of both maintenance techniques and determine which one is best fit for your technicians and clients needs. With the rise of data-driven decision making in field service, we are sure to see growth in the use of predictive maintenance. Data-driven decisions will make or break companies in the modern field service industry. 

With predictive maintenance in play, we are seeing a shift in the way that the field service industry works. We are moving from a “repair and replace” model to a “predict and fix”. The covid-19 pandemic has elevated customer expectations in a way we have not experienced before. Rather than merely fixing the problem, customers are going to expect us to get ahead of the problem.

As competition for field service increases, customer satisfaction will be another huge differentiator in what makes or breaks a company. Investing in technology, such as predictive maintenance, could be the wow factor your customer’s need to retain services for life. 

Another reason to invest in predictive maintenance involves the aging workforce. The aging workforce is expected to cause a shortage of 2 million workers in the field service industry. Technology is going to be integral in closing that gap between services needed and actual technicians available. 

Although preventive maintenance has worked for many companies thus far, it may become more of a nuisance as the workforce dwindles. Since preventive maintenance is not always needed, it could be unnecessary time spent on a job. That time and effort could be spent on a new customer or an actual problem. With the anticipated service technician shortage, companies will want all hand on deck for pertinent problems. Predictive maintenance could be that saving grace to help close the gap and save time and resources. 

Whether or not you are a company who relies on preventive maintenance, or you are considering venturing into predictive maintenance, both maintenance techniques will have benefits and challenges. Depending on the company's needs and the dedication to the digital transformation in field service, one will work more than the other.

Learn more about how IoT will play a role in field service management. If your field service company is looking to enable real-time data driven decisions, learn how ServicePower’s ServiceSTATS can deliver business intelligence to your field service company.

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