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HOW TO TURN YOUR DOWNTIME INTO A MAINTENANCE OPPORTUNITY
written by Stephen Scahill, NCH Asia Pacific Lubricants Regional Managers
The past month has been quite a challenge to us all with the unprecedented pandemic bringing us different levels of lockdown. Your company right now may be one of those who are in different stages of operation—either fully operational to full shutdown. Regardless, maintenance has to continue.
NCH is here to remind all maintenance managers these challenges are a great career opportunity. Now is the ideal time to not only to look after long-awaited issues but most importantly, get started on a proactive approach to maintenance that can save your company significant amounts of money. With this in mind let’s have a look at some basics to kick this process off.
WHAT’S THE STARTING POINT?
In order to understand weak points in the system and drive change, we first need the starting point to measure against. For example, Company A is at full shutdown--how long will this last? Company B is one of the essential industries still operational, but with a skeleton crew—how long can we operate efficiently?
If we can plot the downtime or length of operation, we can schedule a maintenance and equipment review. Primarily we need the answer to “Where are our weak points?”. When we have correctly identified where we are in the system, the better we can adapt a maintenance strategy to help us save time, effort, and money.
THE COST OF DOWNTIME
Once the current situation is established and weak spots identified, it must be quantified. Downtime should always be calculated in dollars/currency. Not calculating your downtime this way is one of the biggest mistakes many companies make, as even small amounts of time wasted add up to large amounts of money over time. There are many factors to consider including man-hours spent on unexpected repair and maintenance, parts replacement as well as the loss of productivity. Calculation of downtime into a dollar figure is the only way to truly measure the success of your preventative strategy.
INFORMATION IS KEY: COLLECT THE RIGHT DATA
What data should be collected? There are many different systems that can be used, but most important is to first select the equipment that is most critical to collect the data on and identify routine occurrences and breakdowns. Using a system that is easy to understand is key, as it will also be important that others can be trained to use it. Any existing data needs to be added first and then decide what are the key metrics that need to be tracked and how frequently to get the best results fastest. Once in place for key equipment, the program can be further developed and expanded to include additional assets.
STICK TO THE PLAN
Once your preventative program is defined, with steps and frequencies, you need to create a detailed schedule for activities that need to be carried out and data collection. Once implemented it will then allow you to begin the transition to predict issues before they happen. A sound maintenance schedule will increase equipment life and reduce the probability of failures.
Set up goals and benchmarks that fit with timelines you want them achieved by. This will vary from business to business but will help you see real results against expectations as well as motivate the team as you start seeing improvements. A good idea is implementing SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and time-bound) goals to keep everything and everyone accountable as well.
FINALLY, NOW IS A GREAT TIME TO TRAIN YOUR TEAM
Maintenance managers, operations managers, and operators all need to be in the loop. However, those operating machinery and equipment are often in the best position to help prevent unscheduled downtime. The operator knows the equipment well and can often diagnose, or at least report issues early. Team leaders and direct managers are able to help collect this information from multiple sources or operators and process into clear data. Higher up management also needs to be involved as they will evaluate the benefits that this has on the business. Additional training, ownership, and buy-in of the preventative maintenance program are vital to its success. Empowering operators and spending the extra time to educate can lead to positive actions in line with the success of the preventive maintenance program.
IT’S ALL IN THE MIND
Probably one of the most important influences to the success or failure of a preventative maintenance program is in the mind. Change is always difficult to accept and implement, and it takes a cooperative team at each level to make it happen. “This is the way it’s always been done.” needs to be eradicated. If the shift in thinking is not made by the key people to being proactive instead of reactive, then the program is doomed, and old ways will continue. Key influencers need to champion and adopt the change and habits to achieve success.
Nobody likes to do something for nothing, so it might be an idea to in accordance with your company policies establish some sort of reward both individually and as a team. It will motivate each team member to buy in and give their best which will be needed to make your new preventative program a success