by   |    |  Estimated reading time: 4 minutes  |  in Business Technology, Process Manufacturing, Service, Strategy   |  tagged , , , , , , , ,

Breakdowns in a plant or just breakdowns in communication? Is your plant and business at risk?

This is the story of Mike, a maintenance manager who I once met, and number three in a three-part blog series of stories.

Mike the maintenance manager – Specialty Peppery Salads (SPS)

Thursday AM

Mike was in early to oversee the layout of the new SPS packing lines when he gets a call from the washing plant. “Why did they have to build the washing plant in the middle of nowhere away from the packing plant? Just so it can use spring water?” he grumbled to himself and wondering, “What’s wrong with tap water?”

The caller was Tony the operations manager who exclaimed, “The main power conveyor has stopped!” Mike replied, “But we serviced that only a month ago. It’s in my spreadsheet?” Tony continued, “Yeah, well, it’s stopped. You’ll have to come and sort it out. The new engineer doesn’t know what’s wrong and production is at a standstill.”

It took Mike nearly two hours to drive up to the plant, only to be greeted by a stressed Tony. “We’ve had no output!” exclaimed Tony. “Okay, calm down. Get me the last maintenance sheet and conveyor diagram while I take a look, and get me the new maintenance guy Pete,” replied Mike.

The group of men was huddled around the conveyor. “Well, it looks like the secondary motor has burnt out,” said Mike. “What secondary motor?” asks Pete. “The one we fitted to speed up the conveyor. See? Under there. Did you not service it?” Mike said as he showed Pete. Pete: “Nope, not on the drawing and not in the maintenance schedule.”

The men stared at each other in disbelief. Nobody told Pete, nobody updated the asset, nobody changed the drawing and worst of all, nobody bought a spare, even though Mike had sent an email to purchasing that was simply missed. The motor then had to go away for rewiring.

Thursday PM

The courier dropped the motor off at 11:00 AM and the line was back up and running. It had been down for two shifts. No production. Orders had been missed and the consequences were just then being absorbed by the sales director who had very hostile retailers on the phone.

Missing a service level is one thing, but hardly any deliveries is another. It was a costly error.

It doesn’t have to be this way

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions for process manufacturing companies often include maintenance modules. They can be basic, providing simple plant administration and scheduling, or they can be completely integrated enterprise asset management (EAM) solutions. Whatever the level of solution, providing common data and structure avoids the breakdown in communication between departments and the maintenance function, saving costly downtime.

Many standalone packages exist, which if necessary, can provide good extensions to an ERP solution, but lack the ‘out of the box’ integration with the ERP planning, stock, purchasing and finance functions that an integrated solution can provide.

From experience, it is common for companies buying an ERP solution to not implement maintenance, which is interesting since they will spend 100s of thousands, if not millions, on the plant but prefer not to invest in what keeps them producing.

So, what’s next?

For those wishing to maintain and control their assets today, there are even more exciting capabilities. The Internet of Things (IoT) helps you to manage your assets. IoT delivers predictive maintenance, rather than performing routine calendar- or cycle-based inspections and component replacement. Sensors in the equipment will check for abnormal conditions and trigger maintenance tasks when operating limits are exceeded. The data gathered will also enable predictive techniques to monitor equipment for likely failures and automatically inform you when a part is due for replacement/service.

A predictive maintenance strategy greatly reduces the parts and labor costs, since maintenance is only performed on machines when it is required and not when it’s broken and the cost of downtime is escalating.

If you enjoyed this blog, read part one and part two:

  1. A day in the life of Kenny the production planner
  2. A day in the life of Laura the Quality Manager

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