Running a manufacturing business is challenging enough as it is without encountering unexpected machine failures that bring operations to a grinding halt. Many would chalk that up to just another day in the life of a machine shop. After all, there are just certain things that are outside of our control – that’s life, call in the machine technicians.
There’s some truth to that, to be sure. Sometimes things just happen, and it’s up to you to overcome it and keep the trains running on time. A positive attitude can certainly go a long way in the face of trials, but an effort to minimize the tribulation in the first place ought to be a focus. Therein lies the other side of the coin: the things we can control, things like preventative maintenance.
I get it, it’s been busy, and in many ways, you might feel like you can’t afford the downtime to get preventative maintenance work done. This can be especially true if you are low on bandwidth and having a hard time managing on-time delivery as it is. After all, if it ain’t broken, why fix it?
Great question, and one that I have an answer for. If you’re feeling overwhelmed as it is, you need to stack the deck in your favor and optimize your fleet for performance and reliability. The key word here is “preventative.” The reason we do preventative maintenance in the first place is to keep those spindles turning at max capacity and avoid unexpected downtime.
While routine maintenance doesn’t always feel urgent, its importance ought not to be minimized. The electromechanical systems that comprise your equipment will eventually fail unless they are tended to. This fact alone would necessitate a preventative maintenance program in your facility.
Acting proactively with preventative maintenance allows you to control the situation, schedule, and circumstances. Acting reactively to an unexpected machine failure will create a lot of stress, especially when it occurs in the middle of an important job. Besides the mental toll, this can also go a long way to impacting customer relationships and the bottom line when a critical resource goes down in the middle of an important job. Plus, repairs are so much more expensive than maintenance. Hopefully it doesn’t take replacing a $20k spindle when $100 in oil or grease would have prevented the failure, to have you decide to take preventative maintenance seriously.
What to do about it?: The truth is, you need more than just a “to-do” list for each piece of equipment. It’s certainly a helpful start, but a list of tasks on their own is unlikely to get done. The key is to be specific about what the tasks are, when they need to be completed, and who is responsible for getting them done. Without some level of accountability, these things will inevitably find a home on the dreaded back burner which doesn’t help anyone. Beyond completing the maintenance checks, you also need to record the results and completion date in order to maintain an accurate maintenance history and trigger the next maintenance due date. If you don’t have a preventative maintenance program in place already, the few steps outlined below would be a great place to start. While you could take advantage of tools like Google Calendar or Excel as your database and scheduling tool, the features we’ve built into ProShop ERP to manage preventative maintenance will simplify the process. We’ll talk a bit about that, too.
1. Define the maintenance tasks:
A helpful start is to create an Equipment record for each machine. Within that record, record a list of tasks that need to be completed on a recurring basis to keep that machine maintained. For each task, include detailed instructions for how that job is to be properly completed. In addition to clearly defined instructions, ProShop’s equipment maintenance features allow you to include any required consumables, such as replacement batteries, oil, filters, and allocate them from inventory or trigger a purchasing requirement if needed per the example below.
2. Define the frequency:
How often does each task need to be completed? For small tasks like checking coolant concentration, that might be a weekly recurring schedule. Other maintenance tasks might be completed monthly, quarterly, or annually depending on the requirement. Follow the recommended frequency per the manufacturer. When the frequency for a maintenance check is defined in ProShop, it will automatically schedule the next due date based on that frequency after a maintenance check has been completed.
3. Assign a team member: Unless you get specific about who is going to complete the task, it won’t get done. I bet this is the reason why so many shops don’t follow through with preventative maintenance despite the best of intentions. ProShop’s maintenance functionality will send automatic alerts to the assigned team member when maintenance becomes due. Once the team member records the completion and results, it triggers the next due date for that maintenance check as seen in the example below. You can also assign a Company Position which will alert all of the employees with that roll.
Perhaps you’re thinking: “That’s great! We’ll be sure to get on that later when we have time.” I hope you do! Though I realize that some probably won’t. In a world of competing priorities and limited resources, sometimes you have to pick and choose. That ball is in your court now. The ProShop approach has always been to systematize and simplify operations so that more gets done with the same resources. Preventative maintenance is no different and is one of the many ingredients that play into increased business performance. Not only will it ultimately reduce cost, stress and failures, if you’re a certified shop (ISO, AS9100, 13485…) it’s likely to help your audits go more smoothly as well.
4. If it ain’t broken, maintain it:
The shift from reactive to proactive machine maintenance puts you in control of the situation. Sure, you can’t completely eliminate unexpected mechanical failures. They might still happen now and again. That being said, reducing the frequency of downtime will allow you to increase reliability and uptime so that critical jobs aren’t unexpectedly impacted on account of missed machine maintenance. That’s a win, and potentially one less fire that needs putting out (hopefully not a literal fire, that’d be tragic). Reducing the stress of shop operations is what we’re all about at ProShop. If you’re tired of putting fires out all day, ProShop can help with that. Give us a call to find out how!