There are many different strategies for equipment maintenance that teams can use to help raise and keep the operational availability (OA) up on the production lines. And every one of those strategies comes at a cost. It’s a balancing act between keeping the right number of technical resources on staff, keeping the lines up and running, and of course, keeping profits up.
Four equipment maintenance strategies
There are four main equipment maintenance strategies. These are:
- Preventive maintenance
- Predictive or condition-based maintenance
- Reactive or run-to-failure maintenance
- Corrective maintenance.
Using a combination of these maintenance strategies, can make a company’s uptime successful or cost a lot of time and money. Corrective maintenance in particular can be a good equipment maintenance strategy if it is used by all the people on the floor to help maintain the equipment and drive production efficiency.
Corrective equipment maintenance
I used to teach total productive maintenance (TPM) classes at the plant where I worked. It was a lot of fun because the operators are the people who really know how the equipment is running. Like in NASCAR, they (production) are the drivers of the cars and can report back to the crew chiefs (maintenance and engineering) what they are experiencing.
On the day before the start of each training session, I would sneak out to the production line where the 3-day workshop was going to be held and take photos of some items that needed to be addressed. Things like cuts in cables, small leaks in hoses, missing bolts, etc., and I would show them those photos in the opening presentation.
I would hear comments like, “Wow! I’m glad I don’t work on that line,” and “This can’t be here at our plant.” You can imagine the shock to these same people when I would tell them that those photos were taken from the very line they run each day. It seems the operators were so focused on building the product they had developed tunnel vision. They could not see the machine itself.
Oftentimes, people do see these problems, but then one of several things happens. They don’t take the extra time required to acknowledge individual items because their plant’s Work Order reporting system is too cumbersome. Worse yet, they think nothing will be done if they do document what they’ve seen. Or maybe they don’t even have a system that they are allowed or trained to use. Maybe they don’t have anything to write with or anywhere to write these things down. So, they think they will be sure to remember to tell their supervisor. They simply go back to running the equipment and it slips their mind.
Maintenance teams see these same issues but are usually in a hurry doing their checks or repairs on the equipment. They may make a mental note to tell their supervisor, but that gets wiped off the human hard drive on the next job they go to. If they do write it down, they don’t find an opportunity to create that work order until a few days or weeks later. They usually try to make some time to review their notes. Unfortunately, it’s probably too late and the issue they saw has already created the downtime they were hoping to prevent.
In order to take advantage of these opportunities, people must do two things to increase awareness of the corrective equipment maintenance approach:
1. Train the eyes, ears, and noses of those who are running the equipment, including the maintenance staff. Train people to recognize what abnormal looks, sounds, feels, and yes, even smells like, as well as what normal (desired state) looks like. Discuss the costs these seemingly small issues can have on the production line, such as:
- Safety issues can occur (When it comes to safety, the cost is always high)
- Quality of the product could come into question
- Cost of premium freight to expedite shipments caused by delays because the machine or line is down
2. Provide an easy way for the teams to log and note these issues. Allow both maintenance and production to plan for a time when the line is scheduled to be down to make those needed repairs and return the equipment back to normal operating conditions.
This reminds me of a time when I was part of our maintenance team and went to a downtime call out on the line. After talking to the associate and asking how long the air had been leaking from the cylinder, he said, “Well, it’s been getting progressively louder these past couple of days, until now it won’t open the door.” So, they heard the noise, just didn’t know or acknowledge what was going on, or realize what was about to possibly happen.
This could have been corrected by maintenance on the off shift or at lunch break and cost the line zero downtime. Training is key to recognizing what abnormal is.
Have a digital equipment issue reporting process
The next step is creating a process to report issues and get them scheduled to be corrected and returned to normal. Hopefully, you can create a new standard for this purpose for your teams to follow. One that is close to real time and preferably a digital system linked to the machine history.
I have seen systems where teams would fill out a tag and affix it right to the issue. This does make it visual, but also sometimes forgotten since it was “written down.” In time, the tag gets soaked with oil or dirt, making it hard to read the problem, which was from the leak itself they were reporting.
Today, more people are utilizing a software system that is easy for the operators to use to report abnormalities. They don’t even have to step away from their work area. This software makes it much faster for the people on the plant floor to capture the details. It also makes it much faster and easier for the maintenance teams to quickly follow up the reported abnormality. They can then coordinate with production to schedule a time to complete the work.
While your maintenance people are out on a PM or repair, and they see an issue, they can use the same system that is tied to machine history and put in a follow-up work order to get the issue addressed. Scheduling and completing the corrective work can hopefully be done during planned production downtime of the equipment, saving time and money, and further reducing unplanned downtime for the line.
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