Well preserved

It’s one thing to buy the best material handling equipment available, but quite another to keep it in shape. Few operations managers have the time to develop and follow a rigorous preventive maintenance (PM) program; all too often, facility maintenance jobs tend to deteriorate into a series of emergencies. Consultant Michael V. Brown of New Standard Institute, a maintenance management consultancy, offers some suggestions for how to move away from crisis mode to a planned approach to equipment maintenance:

  1. Identify any equipment with high downtime, high maintenance, or repetitive repairs. This is usually a small percentage of the total equipment in the facility. Conduct an ABC analysis (using the 80-20 rule), or use old-fashioned “fat files” to help in this identification. In the absence of a formal cost justification, this list will certainly get you closer to the best result for each dollar spent.

  2. Take only the top one or two pieces of equipment on the list and attempt to identify the root cause of the problems most commonly encountered. A detailed review of work-order history may yield the source. A brainstorming session with operations and maintenance personnel can be just as productive. PM programs that are developed with the involvement of operations staff have proven to be the most successful.

  3. Develop a solid PM procedure to combat the root cause of the problem. All too often, a PM work order is handed to a maintenance worker without any more detail than a statement such as “PM the plant air compressor” or “Inspect the gearbox.” The mechanic is expected to draw on personal knowledge of equipment and do all the preventive work required. What is actually accomplished can vary widely from one employee to the next, and the work performed may not even be the work that the manager requested.

The time taken out of the normal workday to perform PM should be productive, and to improve the productivity, the work needs to be defined accurately. For most PM work, a written procedure with a data sheet is essential. Good PM procedures should incorporate at least the following elements:

  • a list of tools, parts, or instruments required for the job, provided at the beginning of every procedure

  • a form to record measurements or readings, if applicable

  • inclusion on the data form of a limit or range of values, which will indicate whether the measurement or reading is normal

  • a full listing of safety considerations and procedures for both the operator and the facility.

After the equipment is fixed, the frequency of the maintenance may have to be adjusted. Obviously, if a failure has occurred between PM inspections, the maintenance procedure and frequency should be reviewed, but equally important is the identification of PM work that is performed too often. As a rule, an effective PM program will generate three corrective-action work orders, or on-the-spot repairs, for every 10 inspections performed. If a procedure doesn’t seem to be paying off in this way, modify the time between inspections.

Michael V. Brown is president of New Standard Institute, a training and consulting firm specializing in industrial maintenance. The information above is extracted from his article “The Planning and Scheduling Machine,” available in full at www.newstandardinstitute.com.

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