Maintenance strategies to avoid unplanned downtime

With the continued instability of the global supply chain, the last thing your plant needs is downtime. According to a widely quoted industry figure from Deloitte, in its Smart Factory Report, even in the best of times – before COVID causes disruption – unplanned downtime costs industrial manufacturers an estimated $50 billion. per year.

Protection of operational efficiency against unplanned downtime can be achieved by using predictive maintenance techniques and technologies. Integrated into critical plant processes, a predictive maintenance effort provides organizations with meaningful information about the condition of equipment in real time, allowing them to anticipate potential problems before they become widespread. This approach is part of a larger preventive maintenance strategy that includes pre-planned and scheduled (manually collected) reviews of equipment conditions and overall operations. Together, they can help keep plant operations running smoothly and avoid any unexpected lulls.

For example, predictive maintenance and analytics technology can monitor and collect data from critical components and machinery via wireless sensors. Key performance indicators such as vibration, temperature and pressure can all be observed, measured and analyzed quickly to help companies make informed maintenance decisions. The availability of real-time data provided through technological advances, such as sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT), is a powerful tool to prevent downtime from impacting results.

And it’s not just overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) where predictive maintenance can play a role. Such an approach can build much-needed resilience in your organization, no matter how volatile the supply chain is. By increasing workplace safety, maximizing productivity and capacity, and even reducing costs, it can provide a clear path for how plant operations can evolve and grow, especially more than competitors strive to do the same. To get started and capitalize on the benefits of a preventive maintenance approach, here are three best practices to consider:

1. Take control of scheduled maintenance

Understanding OEE is an essential part of any predictive maintenance effort. Without it, you can’t measure how your operations are performing and if, or how, they can be improved. To anticipate all equipment maintenance needs, put in place a planned maintenance schedule that takes into account not only critical plant components, such as machinery and capacity outlets, but also electrical equipment of your installation, including circuit breakers and switchgear.

Downtime under your control is much more acceptable when you can determine how, when and why it happens. As part of your process, designate a time to take production offline and budget for it in your fiscal year. By scheduling time to take production offline for non-emergency routine maintenance, you can better prepare for the slowdown and avoid further unplanned downtime and expense.

Within this schedule, establish routine maintenance checks. Think of it as a routine checkup you would do with a doctor. The goal is to prevent these small problems from becoming big problems. For example, do some machines get too hot? Machines that run at the suggested temperature will last longer and perform better than those that don’t.

Understanding the performance and reliability of your equipment will help you determine what needs to be addressed now versus what machine upgrades can wait.

2. Make safety and training your top priority

Safety issues and maintenance issues often stem from the same problem: a lack of planning and analysis.

Preventive maintenance can help address unnecessary safety hazards in the plant. For example, consider the last time an arc flash assessment was performed. Are your employees prepared with the right personal protective equipment or PPE to stay safe? Have they been recently trained in arc flash safety? OSHA considers all workers who will work on or near exposed live parts to be “skilled workers,” and these people need specialized training to help prevent electric shock.

Beyond routine electrical safety, a comprehensive training program is an essential part of any workplace safety effort and can go a long way in preventing potential hazards. Take the time to identify hazards, describe avoidance techniques, and highlight opportunities for prevention to keep employees safe and ensure operations continue.

3. Harness the power of technology

This is where predictive maintenance takes center stage, as the transition to all things digital and the adoption of IoT plays an important role in your preventive maintenance efforts. The ability to take advantage of sensors and collect more real-time machine performance data provides critical insights.

For example, products with sensors or those that can be added to various machines are able to measure and capture data regarding the performance of equipment. Drilling deeper into the data of a particular machine or cluster is a valuable exercise. As patterns emerge, savvy organizations identify when machines are most efficient or where they are most likely to break down. This information can be added to your preventive maintenance plan and addressed before an unscheduled shutdown occurs.

It should be noted that implementing any smart item or IoT item does not have to be a colossal undertaking. Consider a phased approach, looking location by location or machine by machine to understand the scenario and the benefits of IoT for improvements.

While additional maintenance measures and increased technology investments can seem daunting in the face of today’s supply chain challenges, predictive maintenance tools are designed to save you and your customers the unexpected: downtime. unexpected stoppages, unexpected costs and unexpected supply chain incidents. And, while the headwinds facing the industrial sector are not in sight, now is the time to embark.

By integrating predictive maintenance technologies and best practices into your operations, your organization can improve plant-wide efficiency, provide a safer work environment, optimize overall operations, and build the resilience needed to meet supply chain challenges as they evolve.

Scott Dowell is senior vice president and general manager of industry and CIG at Wesco.

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