Improving Uptime Requires Scheduling Downtime
Often the focus of a maintenance systems upgrade relies on improving uptime. The benefits of this can be significant, allowing for increased asset availability, capital costs reductions, reduced spare part usage and efficient use of technician time.
While there may be advanced methods available to tackle downtime, the first step is to set aside the time for preventive maintenance and managing the availability of technicians with the needed skills. There is no process, whether it be Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM), Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA), Wiebull, or anything else that will improve the reliability and uptime of an asset if there is no time proactively set aside to maintain that asset. Setting aside 10, 30, or 60 minutes, let alone an entire shift, can be a difficult request due to high production demand for the asset’s time, but in the end, both the operations and maintenance departments will suffer by not working together to block out the needed time.
Some industries, especially aviation, have learned the importance of not using an asset if the maintenance has not been done or done correctly. Planes don’t fly if they need critical maintenance, even if the engines start and the passengers are onboard, for the simple reason that it’s difficult to idle a plane mid-flight if something fails. Instead, preventive maintenance (PMs) and overhauls are scheduled, and those schedules are respected.
But in the world of plant-or land-based mobile maintenance, which often lacks the same safety concerns as aviation, the push is to run the machine as long and hard as possible when orders are coming in. That may be fine for a day or a week out of the year, but often the exception becomes the norm, and maintenance crews find that they only respond to emergency work, often with operations demanding an immediate turnaround.
Asset management software such as Infor CloudSuite EAM can help schedule the maintenance and minimize the idle time during any planned PMs or overhauls.
The major roadblock is developing a management structure that will allow for the work to be done. For that to happen, the maintenance department needs an equal seat at the scheduling table along with operations. A strong leader needs to be in the role of lead maintenance manager, and report directly to the plant manager. If maintenance reports directly to operations, then they are secondary to operations and will be treated as such. If they work as an integral part of the production, then true uptime and efficiency gains can be reached.
The transition to a balanced production team will take effort, time, and most importantly, a committed champion that will smooth out the growing pains. Within months, production will benefit from a more reliable operation that allows for higher volumes, lower scrap, and better labor utilization.