Facility Maintenance checklist

Jul 01, 2004 9:30 PM  By

The most important starting point in any maintenance program, though it’s often overlooked, is to identify the greatest risks to your ability to operate. If you were down for four hours, what effect would that have on your business? Define the pieces of equipment or physical plant that will paralyze your operation if they fail, and plan whatever level of preventive maintenance is required to keep that from happening. This often involves automated equipment, such as conveyors in the shipping area or powered lift equipment, that could potentially require expensive maintenance programs. Your willingness to invest in maintenance or a spare-parts inventory should not be determined purely by the cost of that maintenance, but rather by the potential impact of a multi-hour failure.

Further, it is important for even small companies to have some sort of on-site “handyman” who has both mechanical aptitude and at least a working knowledge of the equipment you depend on. Even if he doesn’t perform the maintenance himself, it is essential to have someone to serve as your coordinator for all maintenance issues.


Physical plant

  • Test alarm systems at least every quarter. This includes perimeter security alarms, audio monitoring systems, fire/smoke detectors, boiler alarms, etc. We all tend to rely on our investments in various alarm systems, yet such reliance is often unjustified. I have personal experience with alarms that never sounded (especially audio-monitoring systems), and with alarms that went off without cause far too often.

  • Test sprinkler systems twice per year. Check pressure readings regularly. Ensure that all valves and hoses are unobstructed and operate freely. Make sure that the keys for any locked valves are highly visible and readily available. One client recently had a broken sprinkler head run for 25 minutes because he had to locate the landlord to get the key to unlock the shut-off valve.

  • Charge fire extinguishers annually. Fire extinguishers are actually used much more often than sprinkler systems, yet they are frequently not properly serviced or are blocked by stacked boxes, pick carts, etc. Maintenance contracts with a service company are inexpensive and effective. Also, you should periodically have a live, hands-on demonstration for new employees of how to use fire extinguishers.

  • Check all emergency exits monthly to ensure that exit lights and backup lights are working correctly. Also check that push bars are functional and that batteries in the exit alarms are good.

  • Repair floor cracks and joints. Cracked and pitted floors beat the living daylights out of your power equipment, and significantly increase noise and dust. Most cracks can be repaired by your own staff, but make sure you do the job thoroughly by cutting out and squaring off edges — don’t just pour epoxy over the crack. You’ll get a better finish that will last much longer. Find a suitable-quality epoxy or filler (check out www.metzgermcguire.com for some good options).

  • Keep floors well sealed. If your floor does not have a sealing agent built right into the concrete, it is essential to apply a high-quality seal over the floor. This will keep dust to a minimum and facilitate cleaning. Depending on the quality of the sealer and the amount of traffic, floors should generally be resealed every two to eight years.

  • Grease overhead doors and dock levelers at least once per year. Clean the truck pits and drains.

  • Check and replace lighting monthly. Maintain a backup inventory of bulbs and ballasts. Clean dust off of lighting fixtures at least once per year to maintain sufficient lighting levels.

  • Install motion-activated switches and timers on lights in reserve areas and rest rooms. The initial cost will be more than offset by savings in electricity and bulbs, and it’s environmentally responsible besides.

  • Check HVAC belts and filters regularly, and replace them annually. It makes sense to have a contract with a service provider. Scheduled service will ensure that the units will run more efficiently and last much longer without costly repair. Replace filters and belts whether or not they look worn.

  • Check motors and belts on exhaust fans every spring. Lubricate louvers to ensure that they open and close freely. I’ve seen an exhaust fan literally go up in smoke … pretty spectacular, but not something you really want to experience. It’s more common — very common, in fact — to see at least one or two exhaust fans in a facility not operating at all, because no one’s gotten around to fixing or replacing them. Too bad … good fans can make an enormous difference in the comfort of your staff.

  • Check electrical systems annually for capacity and proper grounding. This is particularly important if you have made additions or purchased additional equipment. Sometimes you end up with 10 lbs. of stuff jammed into a 5-lb. bag. Even if they’re not unsafe, those systems become more difficult to maintain and change in the future.


Lift maintenance

  • Set up a preventive maintenance schedule (PM) for each vehicle more than one year old. This is typically arranged through a contract with the vendor, as very few companies have the equipment or technical training to provide this maintenance in-house. Power lift equipment is typically the largest maintenance expense for many operations, and as a result many operations skimp to control costs. As much as we all depend on our power equipment, this is not the place to cut corners. PM makes a difference.

  • Inspect and clean the battery-charging area monthly. Ensure that eye-wash stations are working properly. Clean chargers, floor, and batteries. Check for frayed or loose wire contacts on vehicles and chargers.


Conveyors

  • Conveyor systems are among the few pieces of equipment that can totally paralyze your operation when they go down, because they are usually the heart of the packing and shipping operation. There are rarely any realistic work-around options. You need to protect your investment in these expensive systems with professional and thorough maintenance programs — both preventive and responsive. The more complex the automation, the more complex the maintenance requirements. In addition to maintenance contracts, some larger companies send their maintenance staff to the vendor for training.

  • Check out any smell or unusual sound immediately — they are reliable indicators that something is not working properly. Even if no imminent failure is expected, letting a damaged conveyor run uncorrected invariably does further damage.

  • Check fluid in reducers and gear boxes monthly. It sounds technical, but it can usually be done by your own staff.

  • Check belt seams monthly. Staple seams on belt conveyors are one of the most common failure points, though not necessarily expensive or complex to repair. Many companies perform seam replacement/repair in-house.

  • Check belt tracking. New belts always stretch and begin to shift. They must be adjusted.

  • Oil rollers and grease bearings monthly.

  • Keep spare inventory on hand for critical parts such as motors, rollers, belts, drive belts, cables, etc.


Carton sealers

  • Taping machines are nearly bulletproof and easy to maintain. Still, keep spare parts of cutting blades, tape cartridges, and belts that drive the carton through the taper. Operations that ship more than 800 packages a day should keep an entire backup machine on hand. They’re inexpensive (around $7,500) and indispensable in the shipping process. The backup machine always comes in handy for box-making, repacking projects, speed lines, etc. This also applies if you’re using desktop tape dispensers. FYI, carton sealers typically jam less frequently when using thicker and wider tape (which also provides a better seal).

Bill Kuipers is a principal of Spaide, Kuipers & Co., which provides operations management and information technology solutions for the direct commerce industry. He can be reached at (973) 838-3551, or by e-mail at kuipers@spaidekuipers.com.