Preventing Plant Downtime: Ten Maintenance Tips

Downtime wreaks havoc in manufacturing plants. Orders are unfulfilled, employee productivity drops, supply chains are backed up, and profits fall. Recent technical advances help suppliers avoid such problems. Preventing plant downtime requires preventative maintenance solutions are one way that companies manage such problems proactively rather than reactively. The following ten tips enable your factory to minimize its downtime.

Unplanned downtime arises from a number of factors. Operator error; hardware, software, or network error; and slow changeovers can create a ripple effect that eventually leads to a stagnant production line. Traditionally companies had little visibility into their manufacturing components. Consequently, recognizing the problem, pinpointing the faulty component, and fixing it has not been easy.

Recently plant equipment has become more intelligent. Preventative maintenance tries to get in front of the problem. Rather than wait for an element to fail, companies take steps to ensure it continues to work. These solutions improve production, boost employee productivity, and enhance plant performance. So, how can your firm take advantage of these features?

1. Understand Your Environment

The first step to a sound predictive maintenance plan is getting a complete picture of your plant. In most cases, companies have a variety of old and new equipment. In some cases, these businesses work with 15 to 20-year old equipment. The geriatric systems may no longer be supported by manufacturers, so getting parts can take days or even weeks. Enterprises need to understand how well their devices work, the likelihood of them failing, and the timeframe needed to replace defective components.

2. Evaluate Your Environment

2. Evaluate Your Environment

The reality is that a plant includes many different items (machines, people, electricity, cooling) that work together. Sometimes, one element impacts another. A robotic arm may be negatively affected by extreme humidity. Your corporation needs to understand its typical conditions but also be able to accommodate work in extreme conditions. For instance, heating and cooling problems cause electrical and mechanical faults.

3. Calculate Downtime’s Costs

Every plant is different, so two hours of downtime impacts each manufacturer differently. Also, outages touch upon a number of areas within the organization. Downtime includes lost staff productivity, less production of actual goods, and hours devoted to rescheduling various tasks. The costs extend beyond the price of repairing equipment to soft areas such as the time needed to communicate changes to satisfy customers and damage to the brand. Businesses need to understand those costs in order to determine how much to invest to prevent downtime.

4. Install Low-Cost Sensors

4. Install Low-Cost Sensors

Increasingly, manufacturers are delivering low-cost sensors that collect various types of performance information. These systems measure items, temperature, heat, and light. They then send data back to a central point for analysis.

5. Harness Data Analytics

Businesses are able to collect more information today than ever before. By itself, the data does nothing. Companies can leverage this information and use it to improve uptime. Predictive analytic tools provide you with the insights needed to ensure that you maintain your systems so they do not fail unexpectedly.

6. Train and empower your employees

6 Train and empower your employees

User error is a more common cause of unplanned downtime in the manufacturing sector than any other industry, according to a Vanson Bourne study. User error is responsible for 23% of manufacturing outages compared to as little as 9% in other sectors. The staff who have the most potential to prolong downtime are often in the best position to prevent it. You need to train and empower operators, so they are able to diagnose and problem solve issues with their machines. The trend toward combining operator and maintenance technician roles means that employees know the machines intimately and can fix any problems.

7. Create Comprehensive Documentation

Manufacturing workforces can be transient, so it is important for enterprises to have consistent business processes and documentation that outlines those steps. The documentation acts as a living history of each device and illustrates where they are in their life cycles so that the business can squeeze as much performance out of them as possible.

8. Put a Strong Change Management System in Place

Plants change system configurations dynamically. In some cases, an employee or contractor makes a change but does not fully understand its ramifications. Companies need to put strong change management systems in place to recover from any outage caused by such moves. The employees should know the location of the change management documents and be able to roll back alterations that bring devices down.

9. Find a Strong Network Option

Your plant relies on its network to pump information throughout the organization. So, you need a robust, tested network standard. Ethernet/IP networks are popular in the manufacturing sector because they feature high speed, low signal loss, high bandwidth, and flexibility. These systems include change-of-state monitoring and have an object design orientation so you control their performance. This network option includes strong security features. Finally, the factory floor becomes more cohesive. With ethernet/IP, you connect all of your devices to one IP address and therefore gather data in a consistent manner.

10. Hire an Expert

Keeping factory systems running has become more challenging as technology has become more complex. Many manufacturers need help from an expert. Where should they turn?

DC Plus delivers proven solutions, ones built on their vast experience in the manufacturing market. They have been working with manufacturing companies for many years and understand what causes plant downtime. In fact, DC Plus created a guide “Eliminate Manufacturing Network Downtime”, which helps companies keep their plant manufacturing networks up and running. The guide examines both the technical issues, such as network design, and the personnel challenges, like training employees, that cause networks to go down.

Such information is vital to preventing downtime. So, download a copy of the guide or contact DC Plus today. Together, you can work proactively to increase your plant’s uptime.

 

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