The purpose of equipment maintenance in manufacturing is simple: to minimize costly breakdowns, and ensure that machinery operates at its top functionality. Yet there’s still a faction of the production world that views maintenance as an unnecessary consumption of manufacturing hours.
Figuring about four hours per unplanned episode, the cost of each incident of equipment downtime averages $2 million in total expense, including lost production hours, labor, parts, sales, and product due to equipment failure.
With costs being so exorbitant, why would a manufacturing facility risk unexpected downtime due to lack of machine maintenance? The answer is, of course, time. In a manufacturing facility, there are never enough hours in the day to get the job done. If customer orders are there, it seems the only answer is to produce the components to fill them as quickly as possible. But that isn’t always the best approach.
By ensuring that equipment is properly maintained, the element of surprise in the form of machine failure is virtually removed from the facility. Regular servicing of equipment, and ensuring that worn machine components are addressed early, not only extends the life of the machine, but also stops the risk of rework or scrap product caused by the production of out-of-spec material.
Even routine visual inspections can save a facility time and money. If a maintenance technician notices a machine behaving erratically, or not performing to the best possible standard, that technician is able to pinpoint and repair the problem before it leads to lost product and production hours. This is more than an early-detection tactic; it’s a vital part of machine maintenance, and a key technique used in manufacturing facilities to keep production equipment running smoothly.
When we hear about regular equipment service, we often think of the preventive maintenance program a facility has in place. However, some regular services don’t fall under that effort. Certain maintenance tasks don’t need to be performed every year, bi-annually, or even every five years. Yet if they aren’t performed on an as-needed basis, the integrity of the machine is jeopardized.
Tasks such as replacing worn tooling might not be on a regular schedule because the amount of wear isn’t predictable. However, visual inspection of the tooling needs to be part of the preventive maintenance schedule. Otherwise, worn or bad tooling won’t be caught before defective product shows up on the production line. Just because the tooling can’t be scheduled in the preventive maintenance program doesn’t mean inspection can’t be added to it.
Regular equipment service is vital to a manufacturing facility. That’s just the bottom line with production machinery. It will eventually give you time for repairs when it can no longer operate.
If at all possible, repair work should be scheduled for a given piece of equipment. For example, if a production line will be down because an inkjet printer needs to be serviced, roller inspection and replacement should be scheduled for the same window of downtime if feasible. This makes full use of downtime, and ensures that production isn’t interrupted for a task that could easily have been performed during a previous window for maintenance.
By scheduling repair work ahead of time, facilities can group minor maintenance tasks that are due within the same time frame into the repair schedule, instead of causing small yet costly episodes of downtime. Scheduled repair work also allows for parts to be ordered and received, and labor hours planned, avoiding the need for costly overtime.
Machines have components that are subject to wear and tear. Gaskets, seals, and even motors are meant to be replaced after a set number of hours in use, and will completely fail if they aren’t switched out within the proper time frame. By ensuring that all such components are part of a preventive maintenance schedule for replacement, the risk of unplanned downtime is nearly eliminated.
That said, sometimes parts fail well ahead of schedule. It’s simply a fact when dealing with machines. Having well-trained operators who recognize erratic behavior in machinery is invaluable. In addition, requiring daily visual inspection of a production line can help to stop a bad product before it even starts its trip down the packaging line. A seal might seem like a minuscule piece in the grand scheme of the machine, but resulting damage to the product can be substantial.
A machine that’s inspected visually on a regular basis becomes noticed when not performing to spec. Every piece on the production floor should be part of a mechanic’s daily rotation. While not all machines can be verified by visual inspection, a great deal of problems can be avoided simply by noting that the correct operation is taking place.
Your production machines are your bottom line: without them, you’re out of business. Each machine in a facility should be treated as a major part of your success. One it’s treated as disposable, it will act in precisely that manner. A poorly maintained machine isn’t going to behave to the manufacturer's specifications, because those specs are based on a properly maintained piece of equipment.
By ensuring the health of equipment in your facility, you’re giving your best possible product to your customer base. This is what sets you apart from the competition, and should be the reason you make sure that no maintenance issue is ignored. Well-maintained machines deliver the best product every single time, and keep your facility’s reputation in good standing.
Talmage Wagstaff is co-Founder and CEO of Redlist.
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