Excellence is in the details

Jon Lawson

Terry Stemler explains how to get the most out of your processing equipment 

Your processing equipment can make or break your success.

The downtime that comes from a breakage (not to mention the secondary issues such as spoiled raw materials) is enough to make any business owner or manager see red.

How can you avoid this scenario? How can you make sure you get the most out of your processing equipment? 

The most important point is to do everything you can to avoid breakdowns. This means staying on top of routine maintenance.

Just as you’ll take the time to keep your car engine maintained by regularly scheduling oil changes, it’s important to schedule maintenance inspections into the routine of your operation.

Maintaining your processing equipment is a necessary step that preserves the longevity of the machines and prevents inconvenient and costly breakdowns.

Regularly inspect all of the components of the equipment, and replace worn-out parts. In addition, maintain accuracy in proportionate mixing and weighing of products by regularly calibrating your equipment to keep your meters and gauges in alignment. 

Record keeping is also important. Keep a log to make sure you’re covering everything on time, every time.

Equipment maintenance: time it right

Look at the big picture and analyse your needs when determining how often to schedule maintenance. Just because a manufacturer suggests maintenance every six months doesn’t mean that is the mandatory schedule for your equipment. If you only use the piece of equipment for a few days during that time, you can likely extend the duration between maintenance tasks.

Likewise, if your processing equipment is run on a continuous basis, you may need to do inspections and routine maintenance on a more frequent basis than is recommended. Make sure you’re performing the required maintenance often enough for the workhorses of your factory to ensure machinery performs to its potential.

The next key point is to train employees to do basic maintenance and repair. Cut down on time spent waiting for someone with knowledge to show up and fix a small issue.

Train your employees to clean equipment, inspect machines and their parts, and perform basic repairs.

The difference in downtime between having equipment repaired by a trained employee of your own and the wait associated with the manufacturer sending a technician to your facility can be vast. Ask the manufacturer to be sure your maintenance crew is properly trained to perform simple troubleshooting and repairs during the installation/ start-up visit.

In addition, keep spare parts on hand. In the event of a breakage, you can get your processing equipment back online much faster when you have the required parts available immediately. 

Schedule at optimum times

It sounds like a no-brainer, but remember to schedule your maintenance during scheduled plant shutdowns. Your equipment will be out of service for a time, so make sure you choose the time when it’s least needed to perform in-depth maintenance tasks.

It is also worth considering purchasing extended warranties or service agreements.

Many manufacturers offer extended warranties or service contracts for their equipment. Both of these options come in handy in the event of a major failure or equipment issue. Some issues that lead to breakdowns cannot be handled in house and an outside technician will need to report to your plant to address the problem. Some agreements give priority to customers with service agreements. This is very beneficial when you are in a situation of a complete shutdown of production.

One of these options may be a wise investment for your company – especially if spare parts are not readily available.

Terry Stemler is president of APEC.  

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