They say there are two certainties in life, death and taxes. Manufacturers can add a third item to the list – machinery breakdown. Matt McDonald looks at how to handle that third dreaded certainty.
Machinery is an essential part of most manufacturing operations. Put simply, when your machines break down your production grinds to an abrupt halt.
So it’s important to keep on top of plant and machinery maintenance. What’s more, it’s important to be able to anticipate problems before they happen; and it’s important to plan for them – both in practical terms and financial terms.
How can manufacturers manage the upkeep and maintenance of their plants and machinery?
According to Steve Ninnes General Manager of MEX, they have two options.
Firstly, they can rely on the thoroughness of their own people to develop procedures and maintain an in-house maintenance regime.
“...They may have their own system which is made of excel spreadsheets mainly,” Ninnes told Manufacturers’ Monthly.
Or, alternatively, manufactures can invest in a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This is a software package designed to help keep track of the upkeep of assets and its associated costs, with the goal of prolonging their working life.
Ninnes explained that the latest member of the MEX Suite, MEX v14 is the next generation of the MEX CMMS and is now fully browser based.
Its features include an asset register for the entire company; management of requests, work orders, preventative maintenance plans, inspections and history; recording of readings and invoices; a comprehensive inventory management system; and management of the entire requisition and purchasing process.
According to Ninnes, such a system is the way to go for any company which doesn’t have the above-mentioned in-house excel set-up and the diligent staff to go with it.
He said that CMMS can help “to save money... to save time...to make the place work safer. It’s to provide better service to the people who use the equipment ... it’s very simple.”
“A manufacturer with good maintenance will have better up time, greater reliability, produce more, and I could list about 100 different benefits,” he added.
When asked if a CMMS is easy to integrate into a business, Ninnes answered, “That comes down to personnel more than anything else. Do people want to use it? Do they understand why they’re using it? All that sort of thing.”
But he added that, all else being equal, he has had systems up and running for customers in as little as two hours. In addition, he said that MEX systems are suitable for businesses of all sizes.
“We’ve got single man operations using it, through to operations that may have over a thousand users. They’ve got 20 sites and they all work off a central database from around the world...multiple languages, etc.,” he said.
Asked what other considerations (apart from CMMS) are needed in a maintenance plan, Ninnes answered that manufacturers need to ask themselves – “What’s the aim of maintenance in the operation? What does the business want out of it?”
And the answer to those questions, he says, is generally “reliability, plan up time, things that don’t fail every three hours...and consistency.”
He points out that MEX v14 involves not only a standard PM program but also analysis functionality. Using this, a business could find that, while it does services just once a month, its machine fails once a week. So it can look at what is causing the problems and make the appropriate changes to its maintenance plan.
“So I think the thing is a maintenance plan is never set in stone. if you are switched on, you are always looking at making those little changes,” Ninnes explained.
The other important thing about a CMMS, he adds, is the request system.
“The guys on the shop floor use the gear. They know how it works. They know what’s good and what’s bad. And they want changes made. So you need the maintenance system to also handle all of those request ideas that come through in an efficient manner because they will get heaps of them every day.”
A business which runs a CMMS has the capacity to log and deal with requests from the factory floor. Forum type communication can be opened and that communication can be recorded online in an efficient manner.
“It’s basically a communication cycle, saying ‘yes we can do it, no we can’t or give me further explanation’,” Ninnes explained.
In a similar vein, the planning and implementation of other important maintenance functions are made easy for businesses employing a CMMS.
“There’s the spare parts inventory, there’s purchasing, there’s the damage that’s done to equipment...and a lot of these things are handled by our system,” Ninnes concluded.
So these are the options. Get a CMMS, rely on your diligent workforce armed with their spreadsheets, or hope and pray that your machinery just doesn’t break down.