Machine maintenance: 5 tips for looking after your machinery
Whatever production facility you are operating, from food production to pet food, chemicals or pharmaceuticals, no business wants to experience downtime. Unplanned downtime causes all sorts of problems from missing customer deadlines, to potentially spiralling financial costs and even reputational damage.
According to a 2017 report commissioned by Oneserve, manufacturers in the UK are each losing up to £500,000 a year due to machinery downtime. With costs likely to have risen since then, it is crucial for every manufacturing business to stay on top of machine maintenance. And this is why it is critical to hold a stock of essential spare parts and consumable spare parts on site – because by doing so any downtime will be dramatically reduced.
The proactive maintenance of your machinery is perhaps the best way to avoid unplanned downtime. Preventive maintenance also ensures better performance, saves on energy consumption and fosters a safe work environment.
Given the importance of having a machine maintenance schedule, we’ve listed our top 5 tips for taking care of your machinery.
- Put in place an Equipment Maintenance Plan (EMP)
Establishing an EMP – a comprehensive record of every piece of equipment and machinery you have in your production facility and the maintenance required to keep it operational – is absolutely vital.
Nothing must be overlooked for an EMP to function smoothly and effectively. The plan itself is a very detailed document that describes every piece of equipment down to the finest details. It is a record of the type of maintenance each piece of equipment needs, how frequently and by whom. It should include a list of the essential spare parts you need to keep on hand and the specialist engineers who know how to fit them.
Gathering together the information you need for an effective EMP is a complicated process that requires a comprehensive record of each maintenance job, together with dates, times, technical specifications of the service, any parts that were replaced, and scheduling for the next service.
Once you have an EMP in place you will be able to reap the benefits of reduced running costs, less downtime and a safer working environment.
- Keep your machinery clean
Thorough cleaning is essential in all manufacturing plants, perhaps nowhere more so than food production. No business wants to end up on a Food Standard Agency contamination alert because unhygienic conditions have led to an outbreak of salmonella or some other bacterial infection. In the same way, no manufacturer wants to see a fall in ROI after investing in expensive equipment.
This is why the implementation of a regular cleaning regime is so important.
The first step is to check the manufacturer’s cleaning recommendations for each element of your machinery. Follow these recommendations to the letter, whether it is using the correct cleaning products, a particular process or recommended frequency – or any other stipulations
It may be that you simply need to hose down heavy equipment with water or that specialist cleaning methods are needed such as power or pressure washing, steam cleaning or acid washing – and so on. Whatever the requirement, make sure it is documented in your EMP so that it is never overlooked. Failure to do so could result in breakdowns or even a reduction in the lifespan of crucial, costly equipment.
- Keep a close eye on wear and tear
Once you have your EMP in place this should be part and parcel of what you do to keep your preventive maintenance plan on schedule.
A planned maintenance timetable will help you predict component wear. Be sure to visually inspect every element of your machinery on an ongoing basis to monitor wear and prevent equipment failure. It is worth bearing in mind that components that need changing ahead of schedule may signal a larger problem that needs to be diagnosed to ward off any potential future disaster.
Check belts, pulleys and chains for alignment and condition. Inspect gears and sprockets for broken teeth, cracks and misalignment. These checks should be made regularly as part of your servicing schedule.
These sorts of issues could be caused by a number of factors such as poor operating habits, accidents, environmental factors and ageing.
- Replace lubricants regularly
It is important to check lubricant levels frequently – and this is another action that needs to be part of your preventive maintenance schedule. Regularly analysing used lubricants should help with the diagnosis of any problems and prevent machinery from seizing up. This is because identifying contaminants in the fluids can lead analysts to the source of wear and damage – and this is useful information for avoiding such issues in the future.
As well as checking fluid levels, it is important to monitor for excessive grease build-up and oil seal leaks. As with cleaning and all other maintenance issues, be certain to always use a lubricant prescribed in the operator’s manual or recommended by the manufacturer.
Finally, check you are using the correct amount of lubricant. If you use too little, you run the risk of increased friction and wear and tear. Excessive lubrication, on the other hand, will contribute to the build-up of grease and may lead to performance issues.
- Ensure all machine operators are well trained
Although staff training is not something that would usually be included in an EMP or machine maintenance schedule, we feel that it absolutely should be. Not only is it good for building confidence and morale, regular training means machinery will be properly operated – reducing wear and tear, avoid injuries and reduce the risk of equipment breakdown.
Training your employees is also the best way to ensure your equipment works within the pre-set operating limits – another important factor in reducing the premature ageing of equipment, injuries and so on.
A good training schedule should include regular updates on emergency planning and safety precautions. Business owners often provide their employees with training when they start operating a particular machine, but with increasingly regular software or hardware updates, you should inspect and update operators’ knowledge base and skills on a regular basis.
The importance of keeping up-to-date with a maintenance schedule cannot be overstated.
Preventive maintenance and the implementation of an EMP bring many benefits such as preserving the value of the equipment, its longevity and safety. This in turn helps with production efficiency, the ability to meet customer deadlines and the likelihood of attracting repeat business. And don’t forget, keeping a stock of spare parts is an essential part of ensuring the effectiveness and smooth running of your EMP.
For more information on how Yamato can help you to shape your equipment maintenance plan, contact us today.