By guest author, Mario Soccio*
You know what they say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. For decades, many manufacturers have relied on a “fail and fix” approach for equipment, waiting until the very moment it breaks down before fixing the problem. However, there’s a growing school of thought that an alternative “predict and prevent” approach is the best — and perhaps only? — way to run a production line.
So which should you choose?
Here we look at the pros and cons of each approach:
What is preventative maintenance?
Preventative maintenance, or planned maintenance, is the process of making sure that all equipment is operating at peak efficiency at all times. Depending on the equipment, it may comprise quick daily inspections, cleaning, lubricating and minor adjustments. In the short term, this means minor problems can be detected and solved before they become a major problem. And in the long term, preventative maintenance helps you get the most from your equipment for longer.
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Think about your car. Most people don’t wait until it breaks down before getting it serviced. Instead, you book it in for a service every 10,000 kilometres or so. The same approach should apply to labelling, coding and packaging equipment in your plant. And yet, some manufacturers wait until their equipment fails before doing anything about it.
What is breakdown repair?
Breakdown repair, or “fail and fix”, simply means that you wait for equipment to fail before fixing it. This approach goes back decades, founded on the belief that maintenance is unnecessary and costly. In the past, maintenance has simply not been recognised as a task that contributes to the bottom line. Instead, workers are focused on those activities that are seen to directly impact productivity.
The cost factor
Let’s face it; everything comes down to the bottom line. So the biggest question manufacturers want answered is what is the cost of preventative maintenance versus breakdown repair?
On the surface, you might think that breakdown repair has the edge. After all, you only need to budget for the one-time expense of repair and parts, right? Wrong. The cost of breakdown repair extends far beyond the repair labour and materials. Because a breakdown is never planned, it causes production to stop for an undetermined period. For every minute that production stops, the company is losing money. It may miss deadlines, which impacts the rest of the supply chain and can increase the risk of losing customers. It’s no surprise then that the true cost of a machine breakdown has been estimated as between four to 15 times the maintenance costs.
It’s not only the downtime that costs the business; if equipment starts to wear without detection, a plant may be producing items with unacceptable quality without realising it. We’re talking about labels with unscannable barcodes and illegible product codes, inspection equipment that lets contaminants slip through undetected, checkweighers that let containers pass through with too much or too little inside, and so on. Before long, this will erode customer and consumer trust in your products and brand.
By maintaining your equipment on a regular basis, you are also ensuring you get the most out of it. Because it’s working more efficiently, you ultimately benefit from a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and a stronger return on investment (ROI) in the long run. (This article explains what TCO is, while this one explains how reducing TCO fits into improving your bottom line.)
The time factor
One factor that deters some manufacturers from preventative maintenance is the time involved in checking and inspecting equipment. It’s that there’s some investment required in setting up a preventative maintenance program (PMP). A good maintenance program demands company-wide support from the top executive right down to the machine operators. However, once established, the process of checking equipment is minimal compared with the time that could be lost if a piece of equipment breaks down without warning (not to mention the hassle and stress of getting the machine up and running again).
While you can take a self-maintenance approach, most manufacturers choose to take advantage of a dedicated service by their equipment providers. This is often available for a monthly fee, depending on the provider, but comes with the invaluable benefit of access to highly qualified service technicians. For example, Matthews provides a preventative maintenance program whereby skilled technicians conduct thorough routine service procedures and inspect your coding, labelling and inspection equipment. Where required, the technicians replace consumable parts, clean equipment and advise on any areas of concern.
The time for breakdown repair is long gone, and any company that wants to continue growing and generating profits needs to invest in preventative maintenance.
The good news is that there are smart technologies designed to make preventative maintenance easier and more cost-effective than ever. The current labelling and coding machines, for example, are fitted with sensors that can check the output quality and warn of potential issues long before the machinery breaks down and brings production to a grinding halt.
Data-capture solutions can also be integrated into the production line to monitor performance and provide visibility and access to data across the line. Matthews’ iDSnet software is one such example of a data-capture solution designed to see, interpret and communicate exactly what’s happening on the factory floor. (Download the Intelligent Software Solutions brochure for more detail.) Together, these technologies help manufacturers not only prevent equipment breakdowns but drive overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) and improve efficiency. (See here for a blog on OEE and here for technologies, solutions, industries, videos and a free whitepaper to download on OEE and harnessing the power of metrics.)
Get more tips here on building a successful planned maintenance program. You can also read about why scheduled maintenance is the “ounce of prevention that’s worth a pound of cure”, how planned maintenance is one of the 12 most important metrics to measure in manufacturing and how important TPM (total productive maintenance) is to Australian manufacturers. And then, why choosing a local provider, with 24-hour support, puts you in front.
You may also find this whitepaper interesting; it looks at the primary objective of preventative maintenance in maximising your equipment’s performance by keeping it running safely for as long as possible, without deteriorating or unplanned, costly failures.
Matthews has a vast library of whitepapers, industry presentations, case studies, detailed infographics, production-line videos, FAQ’s, news, brochures, datasheets and thought leader articles. And they’re free to download!
About the author (right):
* Mario Soccio is Matthews’ National Technical Service Manager. He has been responsible for implementing a 97% first-time fix-it rate (which customers love) and a fully digital central service maagement system, that’s sped up response times, facilitated a well-stocked inventory and improved customer service (which customers also love).
Image credit / vladru