Developing standard maintenance procedures

Bill Hillman
Tags: maintenance and reliability

A maintenance program is only as good as its measurement data. Poor data may be worse than no data at all because poor data may lead to the wrong analysis, resulting in working on the wrong thing. One of the best ways to help ensure good data collection is to have well-written procedures for collecting the data. Plants often fail to see the importance of having well-written procedures for most tasks and especially for tasks seemingly as simple as data collection. This article covers the importance of having good procedures and presents the details needed to develop well-written standard maintenance procedures.

A standard maintenance procedure is a detailed list of steps that describes how to perform a maintenance task and is also a documented standard to which the job or task should be performed. All repetitive maintenance tasks should be covered by SMPs, regardless of who performs those tasks, be they craftspeople, contractors or operators. How does a preventive maintenance (PM) write-up differ from an standard maintenance procedure? The answer: It doesn't. A PM is simply a type of task written into an SMP.


Standard maintenance procedures are the basis of effective and efficient maintenance work.

Why are standard maintenance procedures necessary?

What information should be contained in a standard maintenance procedure?

Feedback is critical to the success of SMPs. In order for SMPs to be effective and accurate, a formal feedback mechanism should be supplied to the job performer. The SMP should be updated when feedback reveals mistakes or more effective ways to perform the job. Poorly written SMPs are unsafe and largely ineffective.

When writing an SMP, there will always be a trade-off between too much or too little detail. Too much detail will waste resources in writing the SMP and may slow the job by wasting the time of the job performer. Remember that there is no perfect SMP regardless of how much detail is included. Too little detail and the job may be performed in an unsatisfactory or unsafe manner. So, what is the proper amount of detail to be included in the SMP? The proper amount of detail will provide for a trained craftsperson (or an operator trained in maintenance skills related to the job) to perform the job, even if that person has not performed the job before.

Who should write standard maintenance procedures?

What are the rules for writing standard maintenance procedures?

Remember to write for safety:

It is one thing to develop good SMPs, but quite another to get people to use them. Many companies go to considerable expense to develop SMPs, only to have them stashed away in a file cabinet or stored on a computer where they are never viewed by the job performer. In these cases, the SMPs are only useful to show the auditors when they come in to evaluate that they exist. With a little effort and personnel training, the SMPs can be put to actual use, adding real value to the company. If you really want people to use the SMPs, require their use and make them easy to access. Attach them to work orders, post at the machine or post at the operator station.

The information in this article can also be used to develop good standard operating procedures (SOPs). Good procedures are important tools and a requirement of any successful reliability process.