A map to maintenance success: Seven steps to creating the best preventive maintenance checklists

A guide to creating and managing preventive maintenance checklists

Back to blog

There are very few modern processes that don’t benefit from a good checklist— basic car maintenance? Yep. Packing for a trip? For sure! Boiling an egg? Yes, even that.

If these relatively simple tasks can benefit from a checklist, then so can your (much more complex!) preventive maintenance plan. A checklist gets all the steps and information out of a manual and into the hands of experienced technicians by standardizing PMs in your CMMS.

This guide will lead you through how to create PM checklists to make your maintenance team more efficient, cost-effective, and safe.

What is a preventive maintenance checklist?

A preventive maintenance checklist is a set of written tasks that guide the technician through a PM before it can be closed.

A checklist gets all the steps and information out of a manual and into the hands of experienced technicians by standardizing PMs in your CMMS.

The aim of a PM checklist is to create a reliable outcome across your facility—they ensure preventive maintenance tasks are done correctly, regardless of which member of your maintenance team completes them.

PM checklists are known by several names, the most common being preventive maintenance task lists or task groups. There are two main types of preventive maintenance checklists: Pass-or-fail checklists and step-by-step checklists.

Maintenance checklist examples

Pass-or-fail checklist

Many parts of a machine have an ideal condition. For example, a compressor has an ideal operating temperature. A checklist might include instructions to measure the actual temperature of the compressor and compare it to acceptable standards. The compressor can either meet this standard or not. It can pass or fail the test. This is an example of a pass-or-fail checklist. These preventive maintenance checklists can identify problems and prevent bigger issues by scheduling maintenance sooner than usual. While these checklists can be done by maintenance personnel, they are usually the responsibility of machine operators. If a problem is identified during a pass-or-fail checklist, the follow-up tasks are assigned to a maintenance technician.

Example of a pass-or-fail checklist

  1. Record the strokes-per-minute at which Machine-X is running. Is the inlet temperature of Machine-X below 70°F? (Yes/Pass, No/Fail)
  2. Record the outlet temperature of product from Machine-X using the infrared temperature meter. Is the outlet temperature under 95°F (Yes/Pass, No/Fail)
  3. Notify maintenance/create a work request in your CMMS if you have marked “No/Fail” on any of the tasks above.
The short guide to preventive maintenance: Get your free guide now

Step-by-step checklist

There are also asset parts that require preventive maintenance based on the usage of that asset. For example, a motor might be changed every 500 hours. A step-by-step preventive maintenance checklist outlines instructions for changing the motor, from beginning to end. These checklists ensure no critical steps are missed during a PM so failure can be avoided as often as possible. These checklists usually include more complex and technical tasks, which is why they are normally assigned to or lead by maintenance technicians.

Example of a step-by-step checklist

  1. Lockout from main panel to complete the following preventive maintenance task
  2. Test machine to ensure lockout is properly preventing the machine from running
  3. Remove belting from conveyor
  4. Replace both bearings on the non-drive side and inspect shaft for any damage
  5. Install conveyor belting on the belt
  6. Remove lockout/tagout and test conveyor at the following speeds: 5, 10, and 15 on VFD

Benefits of a preventive maintenance checklist

Members of your maintenance team can probably recite the steps to certain tasks off the top of their heads. A formal preventive maintenance checklist puts this knowledge in the palm of your hand for easy access. Here’s how:

Tasks and outcomes are standardized

PM checklists create a standard way to do tasks, which leads to reliable outcomes. There’s no guesswork or miscommunication, reducing the chances of error. For example, if you need to replace an engine, a good checklist will tell you what kind of engine, so you don’t use the wrong part. Reliability helps you plan better and helps mitigate the effects of turnover by ensuring there’s continuity in your processes, even if there isn’t continuity on your team. It makes training more effective, improves safety, and keeps you from relying too much on one person.

Work is more efficient and labour is maximized

Preventive maintenance checklists make is easier for technicians to complete PMs, which makes them quicker. This reduces downtime and allows technicians to move onto more skilled tasks in less time. Detailed checklists also free up time for technicians by allowing other members of the facility, like machine operators, to take on routine tasks. In this way, checklists are an integral part of establishing a great total productive maintenance program.

Troubleshooting and reporting are easier

Because preventive maintenance checklists provide consistency, they create a great baseline for measuring maintenance activity. This baseline helps you to report with more certainty and pinpoint whether a certain action did or did not lead to better results. When all tasks are done the same way, over and over again, it also eliminates the number of reasons why a problem might occur. By reducing the number of possible issues, it makes troubleshooting much easier.

Seven elements of an effective preventive maintenance checklist

Not all PM checklists are created equal. Poorly constructed guidelines can be as problematic as having none at all. The good news is, you are likely halfway there when it comes to building great checklists. Your maintenance team has all the necessary information—the key is to gather that information and organize it into formal processes. There are seven things to keep in mind when you’re going through this process:

Focus on safety– PM checklists should start and end with safety instructions, like required PPE, lock-out tag-out instructions, and steps to sanitize the area.

Ensure it’s sequential– PM checklists should outline tasks in the order they should be completed.

Follow the preventive maintenance framework– A PM checklist should follow this order of tasks when appropriate:

Description of tasks in a great preventive maintenance checklist: Safety, clean, adjust, inspect. replenish, replace, rebuild, safety
  1. Safety
  2. Clean
  3. Adjust
  4. Inspect
  5. Replenish
  6. Replace
  7. Rebuild
  8. Safety

Include necessary detail– PM checklists should provide enough detail that new technicians can realistically complete the task by reading the checklist. Having too much detail can be confusing and difficult to change if needed.

Provide photos and/or diagrams– PM checklists should include visual representations of the instructions to make the task easier and clarify any ambiguity.

Be as concise as possible– Every task on a PM checklist should have a clear action and goal associated with it so you can ensure maximum efficiency.

Insert total time for the checklist or time requirements for each task– Make sure to give sufficient time for tasks so technicians don’t feel rushed.

How to manage preventive maintenance checklists

Now that you know how to create PM checklists, it’s time to decide who should take the lead when it comes to building them.

“Best practice for creating checklists is to have it be a team effort between the maintenance manager, the maintenance planner, and the supervisor,” says Fiix solutions engineer Jason Afara.

Afara recommends having the maintenance planner write and plan checklists with input from the manager and supervisor as well as senior technicians. These experienced personnel have been working with the equipment for years and may be able to identify any gaps in checklists.

Because preventive maintenance checklists provide consistency, they create a great baseline for measuring maintenance activity. This baseline helps you to report with more certainty and pinpoint whether a certain action did or did not lead to better results.

The maintenance manager should be the one reviewing checklists and making sure they’re doing the job they’re supposed to be doing and that there are no instances of pencil-whipping occurring.

“You always want to be proactive to ensure your PMs are still relevant and leading to better maintenance,” says Afara.

“The best time to review checklists and make sure they’re still strong is during periods of high turnover, just before production spikes, or when an asset is consistently breaking down right after it’s been inspected.”

Using checklists to chart a course to better maintenance

Preventive maintenance checklists are an essential part of an effective PM program. They eliminate miscommunication and reduce the chance of human error. Checklists make everyone’s life easier and allow your maintenance to focus on tasks that optimize their skills and time. Creating checklists for each preventive maintenance task only takes a few steps and can yield tremendous benefits across your facility. So before you set out on the next leg of your maintenance journey, make sure you have well-built maintenance checklists to act a compass on your way to higher efficiency, better spending, and a safer operation.

Modernize your maintenance

Get the Executive's Guide to Digital Transformation and find out how.

Get the guide

Exec guide laptop graphic

Want to see Fiix in action?

No problem. You can try it today.

Free tour

fiix dashboard screenshot