Every minute of lost production time is crucial for any industrial or manufacturing operation. Unscheduled downtime could result in high costs to businesses. Businesses need to find ways to prevent or at the very least minimize delays and disruptions.
Unplanned downtime can have obvious negative consequences, but many businesses view equipment inspection and testing as a burden. It is, however, a business necessity and, very often, a competitive advantage.
This issue should not be approached in a linear manner. “We need to keep our equipment operating at optimum production levels. So what must we do? It requires a positive, dynamic approach to problem-solving that includes all aspects of the business and, most importantly, the human element.
It’s not new. There have been many versions of preventative maintenance over the years, including OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), TPM (total productive maintenance), and RCM (reliability-centered maintenance). Because people are what make things happen at work, it is crucial that organizations create a culture in which everyone knows their roles and follows through.
Even if your business depends on automated equipment, it is impossible to avoid production loss simply because you have the correct testing instrument or detailed maintenance procedures. It is the human factor that ensures things run smoothly, efficiently, and cost-effectively.
As you go through the checklist on how to prevent unplanned downtime, remember your people and look for ways to empower them to solve the problem. You are their frontline, so get their input and include them in the decision-making process. Your preventative maintenance program will succeed if your employees have a proactive mindset and are determined to solve problems before they happen.
1. Make sure your machine operators are able to take control of their processes
Workers who take on responsibility for essential maintenance and problem notification of their machines and process increase their skills and empower them to push for the best outcomes. Continuous monitoring also reduces the chance of unplanned downtime.
2. Plan for maintenance well in advance.
It’s as obvious as it sounds, yet many businesses only have short-term plans. You should plan ahead in order to take advantage of slow output times, such as if your operation is quieter during Christmas. Also, ensure you have enough downtime for a thorough check. You must also ensure that your team follows regular preventative maintenance strategies. This includes keeping equipment clean, applying appropriate lubrication, and using non-destructive equipment like laser alignment systems to ensure that machinery runs optimally.
3. Make sure you have all the necessary parts and accessories
Many businesses have fallen for the trap of keeping too many tools, parts, and accessories on hand but failing to replenish them as they are used. This can lead to equipment downtime and production delays that are longer than anticipated.
4. Regularly audit maintenance stock
Why would you keep a stockroom full of obsolete parts or spares? Regular inspections of your maintenance stock will help you to ensure that no equipment is left behind or that obsolete spares are not kept unnecessarily.
5. When scheduling maintenance checks, take into account the equipment’s age.
While you may have procedures and policies in place to maintain your equipment, does the frequency of inspections increase with age? It is essential to inspect older equipment and plants more often when scheduling maintenance. However, it is easy to forget about the age of equipment and plants. This may require more downtime, but it’s better than unplanned breakdowns.
6. Involve the operator daily in equipment condition monitoring and checks.
Operators should continue to look for ways that they can improve service and equipment operation and identify potential problems. The operator should keep an accurate record of equipment maintenance history, track down any downtime and use this information to plan future servicing and prevent potential problems. Remember that the human element is crucial – and if an operator has concerns about maintenance or production issues, they should address them immediately.
7. Train employees properly
Your team must be able to use the equipment correctly. Therefore, it is essential to provide comprehensive training to minimize operator-instigated shutdowns or slowdowns.
Preventative maintenance doesn’t mean putting aside time to clean and inspect equipment. Businesses will save time and money by performing regular testing and inspections. This strategy should be implemented across the entire team.
Many businesses are unaware that the supplier of testing and inspection equipment can play a vital role in improving their operations and building a business.