Organizations compete fiercely for a larger market share, more revenue, and a better customer retention rate in any given industry. For these objectives, organizations must provide exceptional goods and services that satisfy their customers using the resources they have access to. While employees are crucial, the various equipment used to produce the goods or services is also an essential resource. Even if one of the crucial machinery isn’t performing reliably, it will disrupt the entire process, create bottlenecks, hamper productivity, halt production, generate unplanned downtime, and lead to lower revenue or even losses. Organizations and their maintenance managers, thus, need to work on equipment reliability to ensure consistent production and uninterrupted services.
Having said that, here are some valuable practices maintenance teams and organizations use to optimize equipment reliability and reduce unplanned downtime.
Five beneficial practices for improving equipment reliability
Inspect if the equipment is used correctly
There are several reasons why unexpected equipment breakdowns occur. Maintenance managers and organizations need answers to the following questions:
- Is the machinery operating in conditions that adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendations?
- Are the machine operators handling the machinery properly?
- How frequently Is the machinery pushed beyond its limits?
- Is the equipment allowed to cool down?
Inspections are the best way to identify whether the equipment is being used properly or not. After concluding the inspections, maintenance managers can develop strategies to mitigate the problems, if any. For instance, if the problem lies with the machine operators, it can be easily remedied by training them. Not only will they learn how to operate the machinery properly, but they will also learn the importance of doing so and the consequences of mishandling the equipment.
Regularly clean the equipment
For most organizations, the most common yet effective way to improve equipment reliability is regularly cleaning the machine. Plants and facilities have numerous machinery spread throughout the floors or processes – many have vents and other components that need proper ventilation to function properly. When unwanted materials like dirt, debris, and byproducts clog the ducts, it can generate overheating, inconsistent performance, and even workplace safety incidents. On the other hand, improper lubrication might cause the lubricant to spill over to other components or the equipment’s surface, something that can hamper its performance.
Maintenance managers must ensure that the equipment is cleaned properly and regularly. By testing out different schedules, the maintenance team can identify precisely when the machine needs to be cleaned – helping it perform consistently. Moreover, proper lubrication management is essential so that the lubricant does not spill over to other surfaces or components. All of this is part of maintenance management, and speaking of maintenance, let’s move on to the next point.
Ensure robust lubrication management
Every organization focuses on reducing costs; however, it should never lead to adverse impacts. For instance, while many organizations might think that reducing costs by using cheaper lubricants is a good solution, it will ultimately cause equipment reliability problems down the line. Moreover, manufacturers specifically mention which type of lubricants are required by the machine – using anything other than these specialized lubricants can also cause unexpected problems. All of these will accumulate towards higher maintenance costs in the future because the equipment will perform inconsistently, malfunction, or break down entirely.
By ensuring high-quality and appropriate lubricants, organizations might incur more costs now, but in the future, doing so will lead to better performance, lower downtime, and smoother operations.
Consider having alternatives to problematic equipment
The hard truth about machinery is that there will be problems at one point or another. A piece of equipment consists of several moving parts, and one small failure leads to the equipment malfunctioning. Moreover, frequent wear and tear make the equipment more vulnerable to malfunctions. In such cases, if the equipment is used for critical operations, then having an alternative can reduce unplanned downtime and production disruptions. Even if the primary machine malfunctions or fails, the organization can use the secondary equipment to mitigate its consequences, at least to some extent, until the primary one is repaired.
Ensure preventive maintenance
One of the best ways to ensure equipment reliability is by taking proper care of the different machines, and for that, preventive maintenance is the most balanced approach. By having a robust maintenance plan, maintenance managers can identify the most critical assets, schedule maintenance tasks and activities, and conduct inspections to identify and address problems before they cause breakdowns. There are several tools available for organizations that take maintenance seriously – CMMS software solutions, for instance, helps streamline maintenance management efforts.
Ensuring preventive maintenance reduces unplanned downtime, provides smoother operations, and improves equipment performance, among other things.
While several factors hamper the reliability of equipment, properly inspecting the machinery and coming up with strategies to address the problems is the only way forward. Organizations now have access to many resources such as the industry’s best practices, forums, etc. If used effectively, they can help them deal with the problematic pieces of machinery.