Plant Maintenance: Things You Should Not Avoid
No matter what size company you have or what industry you are in, maintenance is one of the most important tasks that needs to be done to keep your business operating at peak performance.
Avoiding or putting off maintenance tasks eventually leads to production problems, expensive repairs, and extensive disruption to business operations. Too often the simple tasks or a routine task gets overlooked and those simple tasks that could be fixed in a few minutes can, at some point in time, cause you to stop production and pull resources from their jobs to make expensive necessary repairs.
Why Plant Maintenance Is Important
An effective plant maintenance program ensures that the conditions within a plant are maintained so that it can reach peak productivity while maintenance operations are carried out safely.
Some Tasks That You Don’t Want To Overlook
Working with our customers we have come up with insights on some tasks that you don’t want to avoid.
Identify All Plant Equipment That Needs Maintenance
- Don’t skip any piece of equipment. Sooner or later all plant equipment needs some minor or major maintenance, so this is a good time to identify all of the equipment that will need maintenance and come up with a preventive maintenance schedule. This may not seem very important when setting up your preventive maintenance schedules but neglecting something that is insignificant now can cost you big money down the line.
- Keep all documents in a centralized location where anyone who needs them can access them. In your maintenance documentation include any manufacturer’s documentation that outlines their recommendations for maintaining and extending the life of your equipment and keeping it operating at peak performance.
- Evaluate newly purchased equipment. When purchasing new equipment, take the time to evaluate the tasks that it will perform and establish guidelines; you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a machine and use it in an environment that it is not meant to work in and thus destroy it.
- Maintenance check on new equipment. New equipment can breakdown and fail: it is a good idea to look everything over before putting it into operation.
Importance of a Maintenance Plan
- Create a detailed routine maintenance plan. Without this plan you’re nearly always working in a reactive mode. Reactive maintenance costs you a lot of extra time, results in inefficient use of resources, and could cost you more downtime. Having a maintenance plan in place will simplify all of your tasks and schedules and make your organization more productive.
Training – Employees
- Only trained employees\technicians should work on equipment.
- Review employees’ training to ensure that they are educated on the most up-to-date information.
- Provide training for any employees who need to handle specialized repairs.
- Review employee certifications and licenses to make sure they are current. This can save you on fines and possibly a temporary shutdown if licenses have lapsed.
- Make sure that employees know all of the safety regulations and abides by company and government guidelines.
- Delaying or cancelling scheduled maintenance is a big risk. Ignoring scheduled maintenance opens you up to increase risks, extended downtime, and more expensive repairs when something fails.
- Establishing a maintenance schedule for each piece of equipment. Ignoring those smaller repairs can cost you more headaches in the long run. Small problems continue to grow into bigger problems over time.
- Scheduling preventive maintenance during peak time can cost you time and money. Preventive maintenance should be scheduled at a time that is less disruptive to your resources and your business.
- Being overly cautious and doing extra maintenance results in the team doing unnecessary maintenance and, yes, too much preventive maintenance can cause things to break. Analyze repair reports, manufacturer’s manuals, and notes to determine the appropriate amount of preventive maintenance for your specific piece of equipment. Perform a root cause analysis to check whether a failure is related to poor preventive maintenance or something else. You might only need to increase the frequency of preventive tasks if the issue is due to poor preventive maintenance and you feel that the increase will help prevent future failures. Some things should be run to failure, such as a light bulb is more cost effective to change it when it has burnt out.
- Create checklists for the major and minor tasks such as occasional inspections and oil and filter changes. With checklists, tasks are completed, and nothing is missed.
- Make sure that all team members know that daily logs must include details of the maintenance tasks performed on a piece of equipment. Details are important in describing the failures and the fixes associated with the repairs.
- Make it a standard practice to document all repairs at the time they are being done. When making those unexpected repairs you can easily overlook some very important repairs that were made, so it is critical to have everything documented. If anyone else has to work on the equipment at a later time, having detailed notes will enable technicians to quickly get an understanding of what has been previously done and they can quickly take corrective action.
- Automate maintenance processes. Trying to manage maintenance operations using paper or spreadsheets is not a very good use of anyone’s time, is inefficient and results in a lot of human errors. If logs are computerized, users will be able to quickly search for specific issues and find solutions, instead of trying to find notes and troubleshooting all over again.
- Look for opportunities to improve. Maintenance doesn’t get better on its own; you need to invest some time and effort into it. When tasks are completed, take the time to review normal everyday tasks, gather feedback on instructions, tools needed, and spare parts needed, to get a full understanding on what is working, what isn’t working, and what you can do better.
- Identify qualified resources that are trained to work on making repairs.
- Schedule training for individuals that need to be working on equipment repairs.
- Make sure the employees know safety regulations and are equipped with any specialized safety gear.
- Identify any contractors\vendors who you may need to service specialized equipment. When you line up your contractor\vendor, establish a business relationship, ensuring that they will be around for awhile. Arrange for a single point of contact; this is why you have established a relationship ahead of time and when a disaster hits you are not scrambling to find a contact to help you.
- Choose a contractor\vendor that has a staff that is trained adequately in any specialized equipment and has been around for a while.
Backlog Maintenance Cleanup
- Develop a plan to cleanup backlog work orders that don’t seem to ever get cleaned up. When employees have free time and production has slowed down, that is the perfect time for technicians to tackle the work order backlog.
Spare Parts Inventory
- Periodically take inventory of your spare parts.
- Run reports to see which parts are being used heavily, and which parts are expensive or hard to find. Stock up on those spare parts that are hard to find or are going to cost you excessive shipping costs. Adjust your inventory to meet the needs of your business.
- Keeping spare parts inventory up-to-date will result in less downtime.
- A good, computerized maintenance management system can easily identify which parts are being used how often and which parts are no longer needed in inventory.
Noncompliance With Regulations
- Communicate all safety regulations to employees, and make sure they understand them. Failure to follow safety, quality, and environmental standards can have a major impact on a company’s financial results.
- Provide a safe place for workers to make the repairs.
- Ensure that work areas are properly marked for other employees, contractors, or visitors working nearby.
- Make sure that employees know and follow the safety regulations on the specific machines they are working on.
- Have a process in place that allows workers to report damage or faulty equipment from anywhere. Having a convenient process in place ensures that equipment failures are reported in a timely manner. In manual processes people tend to put the reporting off to a more convenient time, if they remember. A good suggestion is using computerized maintenance management system software, which is easy to use and accessible from anywhere. Workers could put in a work order and then get back to their job.
- Provide and ensure that workers have the proper tools to make repairs. Make sure that they are all in good working order.
- Be sure there is a process in place to provide clear and concise communication between maintenance managers, technicians, and other departments; this will improve all aspects of maintenance operations.
- Make sure that everyone understands your company maintenance operations processes and procedures.
- Identify and set up standard reports. Identifying what type of routine reports are needed, such as for inspections, and setting them up to access them at any time will save you a lot of time. Setting up your templates or reports ahead of time will ensure that nothing is missed, and information is consistently being reported the way you need it. If you are using a manual process, then you need to set up a process that can easily be managed. If you are using a maintenance management system these can be set up with a click of the mouse. Reports help in maintenance planning, forecasting, and maintenance budgeting.
Measurements of Success
- Identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) measurements of success. One of the critical points of managing your plant maintenance is that you need to be able to measure team performance and the outcome of their work efforts.
- Make sure that you have relevant tracking maintenance metrics in place to satisfy your requirements. Some of the things that you should be tracking are work order completion times, asset history, maintenance logs, reports, and other historical data.
- Make sure you have the tools needed to keep track of the metrics, whether it be a spreadsheet or automated maintenance software. You need something that provides you with real-time information, is easily accessible and contains accurate information.
- Protecting your data. How secure is your data? When doing work requests manually you are using paper; using a spreadsheet you are using a computer; and when using maintenance management system software your data is stored in the cloud. How secure is your data – let’s look:
- Manual Process: These processes are done using paper and pencil or notes scribbled onto a piece of paper. Anyone can pick up the piece of paper and share the information. It can be an employee or someone who just tossed the information in the trash can. Data on your customers and financials are all at risk.
- Spreadsheets: Cybersecurity is here to stay and as these cyber criminals are getting more sophisticated so are their tactics. Excel and Google Sheets do a fantastic job managing data within their parameters. But setting up passwords and security can be very complex and doesn’t provide a really secure platform.
- Maintenance Management Software: This software has had a major impact on businesses today. Having on-premise or hosted maintenance management system software provides a more robust security program. On-premise users set up and manage their own security. With hosted maintenance management software your data is stored and managed on the vendor’s server. These applications maximize security and minimizes cyberattacks.
Invest in Automated Plant Maintenance Software To Simplify Processes
- Investing in the right tools helps you streamline processes and provide the most accurate data in real-time. Managing all of your processes using paper and pencil or a spreadsheet is time consuming, not accurate, and is difficult to use for reporting. Maintenance management software will track all of your asset information, simplifying the management of your tasks and all of your maintenance operations. Investing in automated software eliminates the manual process and increases accuracy.
Maintenance management is critical in any business operation. Establishing a good maintenance management program that streamlines processes and manages your equipment\assets works well for any plant or facility. We all have these tasks that we take for granted that we are sure we will remember has to get done, but how many times are they forgotten? Taking the time to document these tasks is just as important as the major tasks that need to be done, because they can cause you just as much trouble or downtime. It is important to take the time and invest in the right tools to help manage your plant operations more efficiently.
Jeff Roscher is Co-Founder and President of eWorkOrders (Information Professionals, Inc.). eWorkOrders is an industry leader in computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software. Jeff can be reached at jeff@eworkOrders.com.