By Xinbo Zhang • August 17, 2018

10 Steps to Achieve World-Class Manufacturing Maintenance Practices

Developing a sound maintenance strategy ensures higher levels of machine reliability, availability, and performance within a reasonable budget. Although not given a lot of weight a few decades ago, many organizations are now realizing the benefits of planned maintenance and recognizing it as a major component of their operations.

However, keeping the maintenance costs reasonable, while realizing its benefits require proper planning and strategies as well as embracing emerging technologies. Regular inspections during maintenance or other schedules allow the technicians to identify potential and impending failures, hence giving them an opportunity to fix them early.

New technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles or drone inspections are assisting organizations to safely access and inspect difficult-to-reach areas as well as confined spaces at the fraction of the cost of a traditional method. Other new technologies include robots/drones, Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), virtual reality, and more.

Using these technologies individually or in combination enables the organization to perform more inspections and monitoring of their assets, hence obtain more useful data that can help make better maintenance decisions.

Any organization can establish a world-class maintenance strategy by following the following 10 steps. This allows an organization to break down the maintenance into small, easy and achievable steps that the managers can track and measure progress. This not only reduces the operations costs, but also the downtimes and production losses.

Oil refinery plant at night-1

1: Get data about the cost of downtimes

To justify the need for preventive and regular maintenance, you need data that shows the cost of unplanned or unscheduled downtimes due to failures. You need to collect as much information as possible in regard to the effects of a machine breakdown and consequent downtime.

In particular gather information on

  • Meantime between the machine failures
  • Cost of replacement parts
  • Response time by the maintenance personnel

Collecting the accurate information about the issues makes it easier to quantify or estimate the cost of one-hour downtime.

2: Determine the value of maintenance

Using the estimate of the cost for every hour of downtime, it is possible to calculate the amount of money an organization will save by improving its maintenance practices. Find out how the equipment availability will add to the company revenues. The best approach is to assume that preventing downtime for one-hour translates to equipment availability and additional one-hour production.

Even if it is not possible to get the full one-hour, any improvement in production will boot the organization revenuers because a failure in one system or equipment means halting all the other downstream activities along the production chain.

Click to Download a Sample Drone Inspection Report 

3: Analyze and optimize the operational variables

Find out how much you will save by improving the variables in your maintenance operations. Although maintenance improves the machine availability, an organization can realize more benefits by optimizing the components of the processes and operations.

Improving the way the organization handles the spare parts, work orders and flows, technician’s response time, and others can go a long way. Having the critical spares, right skills, better response time, work order flows, and others are some of the things that you should consider, to see if there is room for improvement.

Business meeting against bleached wooden planks background

4: Use effective technologies tools

Adding digital tools such as a Computerized Maintenance Monitoring System (CMMS) will help streamline operations and capture the effect of each variable. Such tools help you to pinpoint where there are opportunities to save costs and improve reliability.

In particular, the CMMS will show the work order information and can assist in improving the technician’s response time and hence reduce the amount of downtime and losses. Using the CMMS, you can view each of your asset’s status. It also gives you the ability to track the critical parts and spares, as well as schedule the preventive maintenance and generate its checklists.

Management software allows you to

  • Eliminates paperwork while allowing easy and quick retrieval and management of work orders. Including seeing what has been done on a particular asset over a given time.
  • Repair equipment faster by checking how past issues were sorted out.
  • Easily and better schedule maintenance, and reminders when it is due.
  • Improve people management and processes

5: Schedule preventive maintenance

With a CMMS in place, you can easily view work orders, monitor all equipment and also track all the replacement parts. With such information, it is easier to now schedule preventive maintenance based on the equipment status and availability of all parts and technical skills for a successful service.

Having a maintenance checklist can help you to streamline everything by knowing what is required, what is available, what needs to be done, what is actually done, the maintenance tasks, part replacements, reports, next service etc. In addition, involve other department heads and users so that they prepare well.

Business man looking at factory that makes money from ideas concept-2

6: Add schedule planning function in your organization

Shifting from the reactive to preventive maintenance requires proper planning and support from everyone in the organization. Introducing a scheduler planning function in your activities helps you to improve the efficiency of the preventive maintenance.

This assists in the proper planning and scheduling of the service, instead of waiting to work on the equipment when they fail. In particular, it ensures planning well for the technician’s time as well as for the departments where the machines will be shut down, hence reducing the downtime while maximizing the benefits of the preventive maintenance.

7: Start using predictive tools

Predictive maintenance allows your organization to forecast failures and reduce downtime by fixing equipment before it breaks down and goes out of service. Use different predictive maintenance tools and historical data to discover various failure patterns and predict potential breakdowns. New technologies such drone and drone inspection software allows you and your company to gather data efficiently and effectively. 

Typical tools integrate sensors for thermal imaging, ultrasonic testing, vibrations analysis, high definition photo, video, corrosion etc. Almost all equipment will give an early warning sign when there is an impending failure. As such, using the correct predictions and alerting tools as early as possible can greatly help the managers to identify impending failures and address them before they become critical.

The choice of the predictive tools varies according to the industry, type of equipment as well as structures. For instance, if you want to inspect roofs, tanks, pipelines, and other structures, you can use drones or robots to inspect and relay back the status data of the structure.

The advantage of drones and other modern technologies is that it takes very little time, and they are safer and less costly to deploy. In addition, equipping the drones with different sensors allows you to gather a lot of information that would take days or weeks using traditional methods. Further, you do not have to shut down the operations and the devices can carry out the inspections while production is still going on.

8: Shifts towards a Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

After adopting a predictive maintenance plan, involve all the machine operators and let them familiarize themselves with a few basics about the equipment. Train them to perform simple tasks such as lubricating and cleaning the machines where applicable, as well as performing visual checks as they use the machines. This enables them to see that everything is in order and report when there are issues requiring technical expertise.

In addition, simplify things for the operators by ensuring that the paint is always in order, hence easy to see surface problems and other issues. Also, visual aid such as visible gauges enables operators to monitor the liquid levels, etc.

9: Practice Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM)

After putting together the monitoring tools, technologies, and practices, it is time to start practicing the Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) to further reduce the downtimes. RCM strategy combines predictive, real-time monitoring, proactive, preventive, and run-to-failure or maintenance practices, to ensure that equipment or components function properly over their design life and at the lowest maintenance cost.

In the RCM approach, you do not have to follow a schedule to bring down individual machines for preventive maintenance while they are still operational. Instead, you run the machines up to the threshold of failure until you get a warning for an imminent failure.

This helps in achieving the most production between one service and the other while reducing the cost of maintenance and downtime.

10: Engage third-party experts

A shift from a reactive to preventive maintenance requires a change in culture in addition to having the time, right technical skills and support from all stakeholders. When you do not have the right skills and expertise, consider engaging a technical consulting company to help you to change your company culture and streamline your maintenance practices.

Such technical consultancy helps you to define processes, establish the best practices as well as the metrics and checks to measure progress and ensure that your maintenance department is on course and always improving.

Find out how other companies assisted by the third party provider are dealing with cultural shift and see if it will work for your organization.

 

Conclusion

Maintenance is a critical component of a manufacturing or service organization because it ensures improved uptime and productivity. While most organizations wait until equipment breaks down, performing a regular preventive maintenance can greatly improve the state of the equipment, efficiently and production while reducing downtimes and expensive repairs.

Any organizations can enjoy a wide range of benefits by following maintenance best practices, re-evaluating current approaches, and undergoing cultural and technical transformations. In addition, they must embrace new technologies such as drones, IoT, cloud computing, robotics and others that can help them to monitor and improve their equipment and facilities availability and efficiency.