Effective and all-encompassing maintenance programs can make manufacturing plants safer, more competitive, and more profitable. Here are seven ways that focusing on factory maintenance can help, plus some actionable ways to get started.
1. Minimize Product Defects
Product defects can damage a company’s reputation, eroding customer trust. They also typically result in more costs related to providing replacement products and addressing the issues that caused the faults. A recent study also confirmed that using preventive and predictive maintenance instead of reacting to problems once they appear caused a noticeable improvement in defect rates.
More specifically, the top 50% of organizations investing more in those strategies had a 54% reduction in defects and 35% fewer lost sales due to maintenance problems compared to manufacturers with reactive approaches. In contrast, the top 25% of companies relying the most on reactive maintenance experienced 16 times more defects.
Business leaders can facilitate improvements by looking at internal data to identify patterns associated with specific machines or products related to defects or recalls. From there, it’s easier to adjust existing maintenance measures to prevent future issues and understand why previous problems occurred.
2. Eliminate Unnecessary Spending on Spare Parts
When company leaders don’t have enough maintenance insights, they may purchase parts prematurely, assuming it’s better to have them on hand in case of a sudden machine failure.
Similarly, if upkeep doesn’t happen often enough, manufacturers may pay more for urgent technician call-outs or rush-ordered components. That’s on top of the expenses related to things like unexpected production line shutdowns.
Having a detailed maintenance strategy prevents many such expenses. For example, if a business implements a predictive maintenance program, company leaders can get early signs of possible impending problems. Those symptoms might include things that would otherwise get missed, such as increased vibration or elevated temperature.
Understanding how inadequate maintenance negatively affects profitability could also spark discussions about using in-house equipment to facilitate repairs.
Enel Green Power is an Italian company that manufactures and installs renewable energy equipment. Leaders turned their attention to impellers used on centrifugal compressors at a geothermal power plant. They repurposed an existing 3D printer, programming it to repair those components. The company previously discarded the parts instead.
3. Prevent Worker Injuries
Keeping injury rates low maintains a factory’s productivity and demonstrates to the workforce that leaders have measures in place to keep them safe.
Factory maintenance plays a significant role in safety, too. For example, a leaky roof or piece of equipment could create slippery surfaces. Plus, manufacturers often use brightly colored paint or tape to show safe zones. If those measures become worn or faded, people aren’t as likely to notice them.
Inadequate maintenance can also cause problems, like machine-related explosions and fires, or result in safety features failing to activate. When that happens, people get hurt and fatalities may occur. Such accidents attract headlines, too. Then, workforce recruitment and retention may become more challenging as people worry about risking their lives for their paychecks.
A crucial part of a maintenance plan involves giving employees an easy way to report issues. Next, the people responsible for looking into those matters should take such feedback seriously. If a person does not know how to alert someone about a problem or fears negative repercussions for doing so, they’re more likely to stay quiet.
4. Develop Better Inspection Procedures
When manufacturers focus too much on reactive maintenance, they often lack thorough processes for ensuring a machine performs as expected for as long as possible. That’s because the parties may take a potentially risky approach of only dealing with the most obvious, urgent issues.
In such cases, there could be other problems that don’t come to light until a catastrophic failure happens. However, when companies have preventive maintenance measures, the people responsible for maintenance often follow checklists that specify what to examine and when. When following that strategy, individuals often find suspicious signs before major problems happen.
For example, the paint may flake on an oil-filled transformer before the equipment breaks down. That’s because the excessive temperatures of a transformer running hot can cause the coating to look that way. If a person sees consistent flaking during inspections, that sign could prompt them to check for other symptoms, such as loudness or dark-colored transformer fluid. Developing clear-cut inspection procedures gives an accurate picture of machine health.
5. Decrease Unplanned Downtime Costs
Unexpected equipment outages in a manufacturing facility can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per hour. They can also substantially disrupt worker productivity. However, when manufacturers use preventive or predictive maintenance strategies, those unwanted events typically decrease. They also benefit a company’s bottom line in other ways.
For example, statistics indicate that machine lifespans extend by almost 40% due to preventive maintenance. That percentage increases when companies opt for a predictive approach to maintain company assets. Having hard data about impending failures gives company leaders more flexibility.
For example, they might change production plans if the maintenance data for a particular machine indicates it needs prompt replacement. That approach shifts workplace resources rather than halting operations.
Company leaders should consider investing in connected sensors that detect possible signs of trouble that humans may miss. Getting results doesn’t necessarily mean installing them on every piece of equipment, either. Making an initial plan to focus on the most critical machines or those with the most previous breakdowns is a smart approach when manufacturers have limited resources or want to see concrete results before upping their investments.
6. Gather Accurate Metrics About Maintenance Needs
Many company leaders find themselves eager to implement automation to help with maintenance but aren’t sure how to get started. Tracking how long certain maintenance tasks take can reveal where automation would pay off the most. That way, a company’s workforce can tackle responsibilities more efficiently. Data about maintenance timeframes can and should factor into a maintenance plan.
Some companies in the aircraft industry handle both manufacturing and maintenance tasks due to the specialization involved. A client might use the same company to source airplane parts, overhaul areas of the cabin, and have maintenance performed. A recent example of boosted efficiency via robotics concerned cleaning airplane exteriors.
One automation company calculated that aircraft washing takes 16 hours of manual labor to accomplish. However, it’s a vital step in preventing corrosion. The business developed a drive-through robotic solution that reduces the washing time by as much as 95%. It also keeps workers safer because they have to stand on ladders and slippery surfaces while washing a plane.
7. Save Diagnostic Time
Creating a factory maintenance plan can also reduce the time technicians take to pinpoint problems. Perhaps records show that a certain part got changed just last month. Then, a maintenance specialist could feel relatively confident that an issue originated in a part of the machine that did not get such recent attention.
Additionally, if a manufacturer opts for a maintenance approach that includes smart sensors, some solutions highlight a problem’s precise location. Amazon recently launched an industrial maintenance option that shows which sensors identified a problem, plus the estimated magnitude of all detected abnormalities.
Another benefit of prioritizing maintenance is that maintenance specialists should have more accurate answers about when a problem started. It’s not optimally helpful if a manufacturing company representative says something like, “Well, I guess it was about two weeks ago that several people said the machine was vibrating more than usual.”
Thanks to smart sensor data, maintenance records, and checklists, people can give precise responses about when a problem began or worsened.
Prioritize Factory Maintenance to Conquer Challenges
Emphasizing maintenance in a factory is an excellent way for manufacturers to increase resiliency in an ever-challenging marketplace. Equipment malfunctions can interfere with meeting client expectations, result in costly repair bills or fines from regulatory bodies, and cut into a company’s output potential.
However, when company leaders recognize the value in equipment and facility upkeep, they can steer clear of those unwanted circumstances. Even more importantly, committing to maintenance allows manufacturers to demonstrate reliability. Then, current and potential customers establish a crucial sense of trust.
Applying some of the tips here can help manufacturers make progress with their existing maintenance measures. These suggestions can also identify weak points that could reduce a company’s competitive advantage.
*This article is the work of the guest author shown above. The guest author is solely responsible for the accuracy and the legality of their content. The content of the article and the views expressed therein are solely those of this author and do not reflect the views of Matmatch or of any present or past employers, academic institutions, professional societies, or organizations the author is currently or was previously affiliated with.
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