As technological innovations and advancements continue to change the face of manufacturing at record pace, one thing remains the same no matter how “smart” our factories become: machines need maintenance.
Yet as the current economic climate requires companies to produce more with less just to stay competitive, maintenance is often one of the first areas that executives look to for cost reductions. The thinking is typically along the lines of:
- Maybe maintenance can be delayed until a time when budget issues aren’t so acute? This is the famine mentality.
- Schedule it later because we have orders and we need to keep running. This is the feast mentality.
- Perhaps machine reliability can be put on the back-burner to focus on other “more pressing” concerns?
- Could we downsize the maintenance staff to free up funds?
Yes, maintenance can cost a lot of money. And, when everything appears to be running smoothly, it seems almost counterintuitive to continue to spend the same or more on maintenance.
But at a time when manufacturers need to push their production equipment to the brink to squeeze out every last ounce of capacity, does making cuts to the one thing that has and will continue to help keep your valuable assets running at optimum efficiency really make sense?
It’s penny wise and pound foolish.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure
As Ben Franklin’s famous axiom implies, taking a little precaution before a crisis occurs is preferable to a lot of fixing up afterward.
When you’re trying to cut costs by trimming expenses that aren’t “absolutely” necessary in the short term, a reactive approach to maintenance (also referred to as emergency or breakdown maintenance) seems to be the best, most cost-effective way to go – it requires a lower initial investment, less staff, and less planning.
But here’s the rub – while it might save you money initially, over the long-term, the cost of reactive maintenance is incredibly high due to unplanned production downtime, damaged machinery, overtime, and callout fees due to the uncertain timing and nature of failures. How can you possibly control a budget amid unpredictable equipment failures?
The short answer: it’s incredibly tough.
What you end up doing is playing a risky game of chicken with the consequence being a devastating unplanned failure and shutdown.
Conversely, investing in a more predictive strategy such as condition based maintenance (CBM) may cost more initially, but in the long term, the return on investment can be substantial by greatly reducing overall maintenance expenditures.
With CBM, the actual condition of the equipment is monitored and maintenance is only performed when certain indicators show signs of decreasing performance or upcoming failure. Performing CBM does not require the machine to be shut down so normal operations are not disrupted.
Data can then be gathered at certain intervals, or continuously (as is done when a machine has internal sensors) and is often based on things such as the analysis of the vibration signature of rotating equipment, visual inspection, lubricant condition, and/or the bearing heat signature.
The bottom line…if your equipment isn’t running, you aren’t making money! The best thing that companies can do to increase the odds of avoiding costly unplanned downtime is to have a long-term, well-rounded maintenance strategy in place and qualified people with the right expertise to maintain it.
IVC Technologies is the leading provider of CBM services in the country and our analysts are some of the top minds in the industry. We have over 30 years of experience in helping our clients get the most out of their maintenance strategy. Contact us to see how we can help you.