What Is Equipment Maintenance? (And Why It’s So Important)

Tools for equipment maintenance

When was the last time you had your business’ most essential assets checked, repaired or replaced? Even more importantly: How do you maintain your heavy equipment?

High-functioning assets are crucial to the success of your business. Should your most valuable machinery malfunction unexpectedly, the results can be disastrous to your growth, operations and, ultimately, your bottom line. That’s where equipment maintenance comes into play: It reduces the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns occurring and enhances performance of heavy machinery, leaving you free to focus on business as usual.

This article will cover the ins and outs of equipment maintenance to help you get as much as possible out of your critical assets, while also outlining useful maintenance management strategies, average costs and applicable examples of equipment maintenance.

What Is Equipment Maintenance?

Equipment maintenance is defined as any preventive or corrective process, cleaning or update applied to a business’ assets to keep them running smoothly. It may be applied to any essential machinery that a business relies upon for standard operation, including delivery vehicles, HVAC machines, forklifts, refrigerators, ovens, etc.

Equipment maintenance comes in several forms and may include preventive maintenance action or incorporate types of predictive maintenance or reactive maintenance — all of which we’ll explore in detail.

Why Is Equipment Maintenance Important?

Are you looking to minimize repair costs or reduce the likelihood of having to purchase new (and costly) equipment? These are just a few of the reasons why equipment maintenance is so important. Others include:

  • Preservation of assets or equipment: Routine maintenance ensures longevity for the equipment you use most.
  • Expenses saved on labor and overtime: Fewer equipment breakdowns or failures will help you save on employee overtime payments as well as costly repair fees that could have been avoided with routine maintenance.
  • Time saved on production and scheduling: If your equipment is functioning as it should, you can save the time you would have spent scheduling repairs and allowing for (unplanned) downtime.
  • Uninterrupted business and cash flow: If your assets are all up-to-date, you’re in a much better position to enjoy steady business and consistent cash flow. Fewer machinery malfunctions equals less money and potential business lost.

For all of these reasons, equipment maintenance is worth the investment — so what exactly can you expect to spend on it?

What Is the Cost of Equipment Maintenance?

A good rule of thumb to follow is that your equipment maintenance costs should never be higher than 5% of the total value of your assets. For this reason, it’s advisable to invest in quality equipment that’s dependable and in excellent working condition. This ensures a worthwhile investment that will require fewer repairs than used or cheap machinery. Of course, high-quality equipment should be inspected and upgraded routinely to reduce the likelihood of failure.

While average equipment maintenance costs vary (depending on your machinery and necessary upkeep), it’s in the best interest of your business to budget approximately 2-5% of your total replacement asset value, or RAV. You can calculate this figure by adding together all maintenance-related costs performed on a given asset over the course of a year, multiply that number by 100 and divide that number by the total cost to replace said asset.

Equipment maintenance rav calculation

To put this into action, if a restaurant waits around for equipment to break down before performing maintenance, RAV could reach as high as nearly one-fourth of an asset’s annual RAV. This means that equipment maintenance tasks being performed may only be cost effective for four years. Luckily, there are several types of equipment maintenance strategies that you can use to extend your asset’s lifespan.

3 Types of Equipment Maintenance

There are three specific types of maintenance you’re likely to use as part of your equipment maintenance program — reactive maintenance, preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance. Let’s explore what these might look like for your regular maintenance plan.

Reactive Maintenance

Reactive maintenance is your response to equipment failures after they occur, and it involves scheduling repairs to restore your machinery to working order. It’s a responsive form of maintenance rather than a preventive form, and it may make more financial sense for your business than preventive maintenance depending upon the value and operating costs of the asset in question.

Types of reactive maintenance you might use include:

  • Emergency maintenance: Last-minute response to the sudden breakdown of an asset. This form of reactive maintenance is never planned and poses some type of health and safety threat to workers or your business while broken.
  • Breakdown maintenance: Repairs made to a completely broken piece of equipment. In this scenario, such machinery is totally dead and won’t start, run or operate whatsoever. Breakdown maintenance repairs are often costly and extensive, and they may still not be enough to fix the equipment in question.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance entails having essential machinery routinely inspected, tested and upgraded to prevent equipment downtime. Since equipment malfunctions are typically costly as they arise, preventive maintenance is a good way to stay ahead of —  and avoid — the inconvenience of unexpected breakdowns.

Types of preventive maintenance actions include:

  • Usage-based maintenance: Tracking the functionality and total usage of your assets in order to stay on top of proper care and system updates. Examples might include analyzing a vehicle, an equipment monitor or a production cycle to gauge overall equipment performance, especially if such equipment doesn’t produce tickets or notifications once a certain limit has been reached.
  • Routine maintenance: Scheduling or planning for routine inspections, upgrades or part replacement on a monthly or annual basis. You should consult the manufacturer’s recommendations before performing scheduled maintenance. Doing so will help you avoid unnecessary maintenance services or inspection fees.

Predictive Maintenance

Predictive maintenance is a proactive maintenance strategy that uses sensors to track the performance and condition of your most essential machinery in real time. Predictive maintenance will help you stay ahead of impending asset failure by catching issues before they escalate. The only kicker? Predictive maintenance is one of the most expensive forms of maintenance, as it relies on advanced technology to track and report machine functionality. If your business relies on less-expensive machinery for standard operations, it’s recommended that you invest in preventive maintenance actions rather than predictive maintenance.

Examples of predictive maintenance include:

  • Acoustic monitoring: Works to detect any unusual sounds that may be indicative of equipment failure and is most commonly used in industrial facilities.
  • Infrared technology: Evaluates the temperature of equipment and identifies “hot spots,” which may stem from overheating due to asset malfunction. This type of predictive maintenance will also work to identify faulty fuses and electrical circuits, among other things.

5 Examples of Equipment Maintenance

A few industry-specific examples of equipment maintenance are:

  1. Your restaurant’s main refrigerator is noticeably warmer: This could be the result of a number of issues, including a malfunctioning temperature gauge, a faulty door hinge or dirty condenser coils. Check these essential areas, and schedule or perform equipment maintenance accordingly.
  2. An elliptical in your gym is making strange sounds while in use: Most likely, a squeaky or noisy workout machine calls for proper lubrication of parts. Apply manufacturer-recommended grease to the relevant areas of your machine as an equipment maintenance measure.
  3. A construction excavator needs track tension attention: To run properly, an excavator’s tracks require the right amount of tension. If the track is too loose or too tight, it can lead to unnecessary wear and tear on the machine, which makes it difficult to use on a construction site. Equipment maintenance will rectify this problem or prevent it from happening to the construction equipment in the first place.
  4. Your hotel’s HVAC system needs updating: A standard HVAC system should be updated every 10 years and inspected at least once per year. To ensure adequate heating and cooling for a hotel, the HVAC should be evaluated for any potential issues such as decreased performance and increased energy costs, which may indicate an issue with the unit.
  5. A forklift used in your distribution center completely breaks down: A forklift is a valuable asset to your distribution center, and breaks down unexpectedly. The machine will not start or run at all, and it’s completely dead. Equipment maintenance in this situation involves scheduling an emergency repair (or emergency maintenance) to attempt to fix the forklift. A replacement might be necessary.

How to Track Equipment Maintenance Activities

Ready to apply equipment maintenance measures to your business? Here are three easy ways to track or log each inspection, repair or equipment update.

Pen and Paper

While it’s not the most technologically savvy method, pen and paper are the quickest and easiest way to get started as you log equipment maintenance actions. Of course, there are more drawbacks to this approach than electronic mediums; for instance, it can be difficult (and messy) to track what’s been done or needs to be done, especially if inspections need to be rescheduled. Hand-writing anything is also more time-consuming than other approaches and also more likely to be lost and ignored by your maintenance team.

As a manager, this method will force you to constantly chase down your maintenance technicians to figure out the progress of a work order to see if it’s in progress or completed.


While spreadsheets may be more efficient than pen and paper, you will still need to fill in the bulk of information manually if you opt for this method of logging equipment maintenance actions. Spreadsheets are more organized and help keep all your work orders in one centralized place. However, they suffer from many of the same problems as pen and problem in managing your team, as you still have to constantly remind your employees of the work orders assigned to them and follow up with them to understand the progress of a work order.

Computerized Maintenance Management System (CMMS) Software

By far the most efficient of your options, a CMMS software is your best bet for staying organized when creating a proper maintenance plan for equipment management. Coast, for instance, is available for desktop and mobile use, and it acts as a centralized, electronic database to create and track all of your existing work orders. This makes it easy to stay on top of all equipment maintenance checklists, and it can even be used for asset management as you start to scale your operations and add more equipment to the fold.

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