Click image to enlarge

A proactive approach to maintenance can deliver long-term benefits

by Tim Wilson

Shop floor maintenance often gets short shrift: when business is good there isn’t time; and when things are slow the money’s too tight. But whatever the circumstance, taking a proactive approach to maintenance can deliver long-term benefits while also adding to the bottom line. 

“Companies are not generally proactive with maintenance,” says Greg Robbins, a manager at GKR Services in Kitchener, ON, which operates as a division of WIT Manufacturing. “Often all they see is what it costs them: if it is $1,000 to shut down a machine to do maintenance, that work doesn’t appear to have a direct benefit.”

One problem is that maintenance is often not a simple proposition, but instead becomes another layer of bureaucracy. When that happens, it can be frustrating, with employees sometimes cutting corners.

“I have seen maintenance people sign off on paper work just to keep the auditor happy,” says Robbins. “And these are companies with ISO standards who are qualified to supply to the Big Three automakers.” 

In effect, everyone wants to see a decrease in breakages, but no one wants the paperwork and downtime. The key is to make an efficiency argument for maintenance. But that’s not easy.

The price of neglect
Andrew Skoog, president of Hexis, a manufacturers’ representative agency in Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, argues that a company has to include the potential cost of an emergency situation. If scheduled maintenance is anticipated it can minimize disruption, while also avoiding the very expensive repercussions of a catastrophic failure. 

“Tool life is known; pump life is known,” Skoog says. “It is pretty straightforward to set up regular intervals for changing these things, and to know when a product has reached its maximum efficiency. The problem is that people don’t have a good handle on preventive maintenance, with the general care of equipment done on a daily basis.”

New machines will have OEM requirements. As these machines age, preventive maintenance schedules can become more aggressive, with automated systems for triggering purchase orders. Standardized plans can also be put in place for coolants, with more sophisticated operations able to use sensors and remote monitoring. Benchmarking past performance can then help indicate whether or not your proactive approach is bringing results.  

“Nothing is going to last forever, but you need to get ahead of the problem,” says Robbins from GKR Services. “For example, order a pump as soon as it starts making noise, not when it fails. Then, you can switch it out during scheduled downtime and avoid costly disruption.”

Maintenance’s uneven playing field
Getting a proactive approach together is a possibility for shops of all sizes, though the advantage may lean toward those bigger operations with more resources.

“It depends on the size of the shop and how organized it is,” says Skoog. “As a general rule, smaller shops are spread pretty thin. They may have internal maintenance staff, but they still tend to be reactive.”

One way that smaller shops can level the playing field is to employ shop floor management software. 

“A lot of people are using software, and those who stand by it religiously are probably seeing the benefit,” says Robbins.  “This is the real work. It’s a challenge because customers are saying they want the parts today, and you can’t do that if you’ve shut down a machine.”

As well, shops large and small are working within the same regulatory environment, which means that all equipment has to be working in accordance with safety and environmental codes. 

“There is increased enforcement to comply with discharge regulations,” says Fred Wagner, a project manager at Hydroblaster in Salt Lake City, UT. “But the regulations can differ within jurisdictions, and most people don’t know what they are.”

Nonetheless, shop floors, and the machines that run in them, must be maintained to address the build up of hydrocarbons –specifically oil and grease–as well as other pathogens. Often water is treated with ozone or a chemical base every half hour.

“There are some systems out there that will make operators ill because they are treating water with chemicals and acid,” says Wagner. “If you reuse that as a wash, you are getting an acid mist.”

A large part of the resistance to taking a proactive approach to some of these problems is that they do not deliver any obvious benefit to the bottom line. As long as operators are working in environments driven by short term economic gain, a lot of the structural problems won’t get addressed.

“If some people can save $50 by extending an oil change, they’ll do it,” says Robbins. “I have seen machines that haven’t had a filter changed in five years–they just add oil. That machine should have lasted ten years, and only lasted eight; but during those five years when it was at full bore they were making money.” SMT 

Tim Wilson is a contributing editor. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 
Pull studs: under pressure

by Alan Miller

Why pull studs are under more pressure than ever before

Machining case study: Ahead of the Curve

by Kip Hanson

Calgary job shop realizes big benefits from its investment in advanced machine tools

Complex panel bending with Salvagnini PX4e

Watch the Salvagnini PX43 panel bender in action bending complex parts.

When and How to Sharpen Gundrills

by Ryan Funk (left) & Eric Krueger (right), UNISIG

Gundrills are excellent candidates for re-sharpening

Talking Safety

Shop Metalworking Technology discusses welding safety with Dave Hisey

Doosan's five axis machine in action

Doosan Machine Tools showcases its five-axis machining centre.

How to achieve the perfect weld

by Jonathan Douville

Eliminating weld spatter is more science than art and these tips may help you achieve perfection in welding

This drone-car hybrid could transform city travel

Aircraft manufacturer Airbus has unveiled a driverless drone-car hybrid that could deliver a fully automated ‘taxi’ service combining road and air travel (maybe rail too) in a single trip.

Being centered

by Timothy Fara

Are you centered with your machining centre processes?

Your Business: Keeping the Best

Retaining your highly valued employees

by Tim Wilson

We hear a lot about the difficulty in finding good people. However, the flip side of this reality is mentioned less often: how to retain those high value employees after you've hired them.

Troubleshooting Solid Carbide Boring Bars

by Ruth Christopher and Harvey Patterson

Misdiagnosis can lead to tool failure and costly downtime

Retooling for a Rebound

Retooling is a critical practice in manufacturing, usually taking place when producing a new product or after signing a deal with a new customer.

Live tooling

by Preben Hansen

Consider your options if working with driven tools

Inside the factory of the BMW 7 series

The BMW 7 Series is an automobile model developed by the German manufacturer BMW. This series is the high end brand, representing what BMW does the best in comfort, technology and mechanics. There are six successive generations. The first named E23 was released in 1977 and the E32 released in 1986, the E38 in 1994, the E65 in 2001, the F01 in 2008 and the current G11 in 2015.

5 Motorcycles of the Future

Want to know what motorcylces will look like in the future? Check out thse designs.

Stay In Touch

twitter facebook linkedIn

Top