Creating Preventive Maintenance Culture Through Comics

Joel Levitt; Breanna Moll

Creating Preventive Maintenance Culture Through Comics

There are many reasons why a facility would want to change its maintenance culture to focus on preventive maintenance (PM). Maybe the reactive workload has outpaced what team members are able to keep up with, maybe unplanned downtime has eaten away too much of the profit margin, or maybe a new manager was hired and wants to implement a different way of doing business.

Whatever the reason, when implementing a new PM culture, it’s important to understand what you’re teaching and to actively engage your employees. People can’t practice what they don’t remember, and without that, your program will fail before it begins. 

To help a new culture take root, we must stimulate our team members in unique ways to differentiate ourselves from the daily monotony of information being supplied to them. One exciting way that Joel Levitt, President of Springfield Resources, found of creating engaging content about preventive maintenance is through his original comic book.

What is Preventive Maintenance?

Preventive maintenance (PM) is a standardized process for scheduling equipment inspections, which detect issues or defects and allow for corrective maintenance to be performed before the issue can progress into a serious problem. The goal of PM is to successfully prevent equipment breakdowns and experience zero downtime.

Keeping our machines as healthy as possible can prevent unplanned downtimes from occurring. Unplanned downtime is one of the biggest hindrances to productivity and profitability. In fact, one study found that across every type of industry, a single hour of equipment downtime costs a company nearly $260,000. With a single incident taking an average of four hours to repair and get the machine back online, these costs can quickly threaten the stability of any facility.

Did You Know?

The average ROI for a preventive maintenance program is 545%, and the bulk of the return comes from increasing the useful life of equipment.
Source: International Facilities Management Association

There are many benefits to having a preventive maintenance program at your facility besides decreasing costly unplanned downtime, such as:

  • Increased equipment life expectancy
  • Reduced large-scale repairs
  • Improved worker safety
  • Improved efficiency
  • Reduced waste
  • Improved productivity
  • Increased profitability

In general, a preventive maintenance activity can be considered any activity that isn’t reactive, which restores a machine to its normal operating condition only after failure. Four types of PM include:

  • Calendar-Based Maintenance: Equipment maintenance performed according to a set schedule.
  • Usage-Based Maintenance: Equipment maintenance performed when specific usage parameters are met for an individual piece of equipment.
  • Predictive Maintenance: Equipment maintenance that monitors the performance and condition of the equipment. It uses historical and current data to determine when downtime is likely to occur, allowing for maintenance to be scheduled before it happens.
  • Prescriptive Maintenance: Equipment maintenance that monitors the performance and condition of equipment using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) to schedule maintenance tasks before a machine experiences downtime.

Four Parts of Preventive Maintenance

No matter what type you choose, there are four main parts to any quality preventive maintenance program.

Part 1 – Identify All Failure Modes: Failure modes are the ways in which a piece of equipment could fail. Potential failure modes include:

  • Implementation failure
  • Lack of equipment reliability process knowledge
  • Lack of accountability
  • Lack of commitment
  • Lack of strategy

Part 2 – Inspect to Predict Future Failures: Have the proper tools, techniques, and knowledge required to adequately inspect all critical equipment using condition monitoring strategies, which will help predict future failures. Condition monitoring strategies include:

  • Vibration analysis
  • Infrared thermography
  • Ultrasonic analysis
  • Oil analysis

Part 3 – Perform Basic Maintenance to Postpone Breakdowns: Perform the simple, yet necessary, measures needed to keep critical equipment in a stable, healthy condition for as long as possible to help extend times between breakdowns. Basic maintenance procedures include:

  • Cleaning
  • Lubrication and contamination control
  • Performing alignments
  • Strengthening operating practices

Did You Know?

Poor operating practices are the common cause of more than 50% of equipment failures and breakdowns.
Source: Reliable Plant

Part 4 – Correct All Identified Problems: Take proactive steps towards repairing and fixing the issues that will eventually cause the equipment to fail.

The Basics of TLC

In the manufacturing industry, TLC stands for tighten, lubricate, and clean, and it represents the basic steps needed to care for our critical assets and secure their health and continued performance. While new technologies are inundating the market to help with our preventive maintenance efforts, they are rendered ineffective if we aren’t carrying out the most basic components of machine care – routine, basic maintenance.

Preventive Maintenance Technology

To enhance the efforts of the preventive maintenance plan, many facilities turn to technologies to increase their efficiency and help them uncover hidden issues. One way to accomplish this is by installing high-tech sensors on critical equipment to monitor equipment conditions in real time. These sensors feed information into a demonstration and CMMS (computerized maintenance management system) unit, which can help establish a game plan for how to correct the issue.

Did You Know?

80% of manufacturing companies link CMMS to greater maintenance productivity.
Source: Infraspeak

But this technology can also come with a false sense of security. While technology can help enhance our abilities to see within the machine, nothing can fully eradicate the need to physically inspect and work with the equipment. We must have the skills and abilities to handle these machines if we hope to establish a well-rounded and progressive preventive maintenance program.  

Three Maintenance Secrets

As we progress through our careers, we learn tips and insider secrets that help make performing our maintenance tasks easier and more efficient. The key is to pass on this knowledge to help others achieve a higher level of excellence on their way to becoming a world-class facility.

Secret #1

The less you touch an asset, the lower the chance you’ll mess it up.

While it’s critical to physically inspect and maintain our equipment, this should only be done when absolutely necessary. Performing maintenance to stay busy causes more harm than good. Instead, by combining our equipment data with our CMMS, we can identify the optimal time to perform maintenance. In this way, we successfully prevent failures while limiting the machine’s exposure to the human error element and outside contamination.

Secret #2

The best-laid task list in useless unless your preventive maintenance team performs the work the way it was designed and at the right time.

This boils down to the quality of the communication from leadership about why the tasks are necessary and how they actively contribute to the facility’s reliability and productivity goals. If done correctly, these tasks will:

  • Enhance the quality of work being performed.
  • Reduce the number of reactive work orders.
  • Create a stable and workable maintenance schedule.

Leaders must also acknowledge their PM team members for a job well done. Without recognition of their efforts and the wins they’ve created for the facility, team members lose visibility and risk slipping back into old culture behaviors, threatening the success of the entire preventive maintenance program.

Finally, it’s crucial to provide training to build a team that is confident with the expectations and standards of how to perform these maintenance tasks. This helps guarantee the machines are well taken care of; after all, human error, caused by insufficient knowledge, remains a serious threat to program success and productivity. Human error leads to incorrectly performed maintenance tasks, which can end in costly machine failures.

Did You Know?

23% of all unplanned downtime in manufacturing is the result of human error.
Source: NRX

Secret #3

There are actions we can take today to reduce breakdowns and create quick wins.

While a long-term PM plan is required, we can create quick wins that boost morale and shift the facility’s maintenance culture, preparing teams for the full culture transformation.

To start, perform corrective work. Corrective work is maintenance performed after the equipment has failed. Performing these tasks first not only puts the equipment back into service but allows teams to immediately see the fruits of their labor. This breeds confidence in the preventive maintenance plan and excitement for future projects.

Next, perform overdue preventive maintenance tasks. These often sit on the back burner longer than necessary, not only representing a serious threat to equipment health, but also a heavy weight on team morale.

Finally, begin defect elimination. Defects are anything that could lead to customer dissatisfaction, and they can be introduced during any of the six main life cycle phases, often arising from variations in processes or equipment performance. This can be improved through:

  • Improved equipment reliability
  • Properly calibrated instrumentation
  • Disciplined operations
  • Quality raw materials


When creating and deploying a new maintenance culture, it’s critical to understand how the human mind remembers new information and responds to environmental stimuli to create positive mental correlations. By meeting your team where they’re at and presenting the information in a way that breaks through the other noise competing for their attention, you build a new confidence founded on knowledge and a drive for success.

Leadership must be strong and steadfast in their vision, and they must communicate clearly and consistently in order to form permanent facility culture changes that result in positive benefits for all. No matter how the information is communicated, whether through training, meetings, or even comic books, the key is to continually build team member confidence and knowledge. Only then can we guarantee the success and health of our critical assets.

This article’s featured comic book is “Stories of PM: A Comprehensive Primer of Preventive Maintenance,” by Joel Levitt. To purchase a copy, please visit

Comic book images provided by author Joel Levitt and republished here for the use of Reliable Plant Digital Magazine with explicit author permission. Author permission is required to republish these images in any format.  

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About the Author
About the Author

Breanna Moll is a Managing Editor for Noria Corporation. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Northeastern State University and has nearly ten years of experience in marketing and...