Maintenance as a profit center

03/18/2013


Give power to the people

To maximize the effectiveness of the people supporting the assets, it’s important to empower them with the right education and tools aligned to the facility needs.

1. Educate and train in-house resources

Your maintenance plan should have two primary areas of focus: The equipment running in your facility and the the staff keeping the equipment running. Courtesy: Rockwell AutomationAs automation technology continues to evolve to meet productivity demands, so must training programs designed to teach employees how to operate innovative technology. Without highly trained, knowledgeable maintenance employees, manufacturers can’t expect to truly optimize their production environment and maximize their profitability.

A crucial part of developing an effective training program is prioritizing. Training dollars are often scarce, so it’s up to maintenance managers to be specific and deliberate about where to focus. Start with a training assessment to analyze employees’ skills on maintenance critical tasks. There are multiple ways to conduct skills gap assessments: Many times, an automation vendor can provide “do-it-yourself” testing tools that are automatically included in standard support packages. Or, for more comprehensive results, engage a workforce competency expert to assess, document, and align the facility’s skills need with its skills gaps. Following assessment, the next step for most facilities is to build a cost-optimized training regimen. This may include several different delivery methodologies but ultimately delivers just enough training for each individual.

2. Build a community with the right expertise

Prioritization and risk mitigation are key to effective asset management; however, not every downtime event can be predicted or prevented. Building a proactive plan streamlines unexpected circumstances by empowering existing staff to efficiently marshal the right resources whenever they’re needed.

The status quo for many organizations is to call upon numerous resources when there’s a problem with a system, while attempting to keep production flowing smoothly and efficiently. Complex, interconnected technologies make it harder to immediately diagnose and solve problems, and maintenance engineers often are left guessing about the correct cause of a failure.

When a team has direct, predictable access to the right qualified systems engineers and parts, they are empowered to identify and resolve issues quickly, efficiently, and without wasted time.

Self-diagnosis or the delegation of generalist staff members to specialist-level tasks can be unproductive, ineffective, and costly. Between swapping parts, deciphering true root causes, finding and scheduling an expert to come on-site, and searching for necessary replacement parts, it's easy to lose track of production goals. Industry-leading manufacturers are leaning on third-party vendors to provide support contracts and secure, cost-effective remote monitoring that acts as an effective contingent workforce.

When a team has direct, predictable access to the right qualified systems engineers and parts, they are empowered to identify and resolve issues quickly, efficiently, and without wasted time. An organization’s maintenance leader can easily meet fluctuating demands for support without lengthy recruitment efforts, overtime costs, and expensive full-time salaries of harder-to-find talent, all the while protecting against retirements of skilled talent.

Native intelligence is kept in-house, while staff builds upon their experience. With a larger pool of knowledge from which to draw, maintenance managers relieve the pressures of not having the right skill sets readily available, and further empower those they do have.

Reactive, ad-hoc support provided by vendors is unpredictable—it’s difficult to determine when a facility will be up and running again after equipment fails, and it can wreak havoc on the maintenance budget. The production environment has evolved drastically, and a new approach may be in order.

Having the right resources a phone call away makes it easy to troubleshoot downtime events quickly. Guaranteed response times for parts and labor reduces MTTR by streamlining the recovery process. Problems are fixed correctly and efficiently. Establishing a process that automatically executes means fewer people are needed to remedy problems and less time is spent justifying and approving expenditures. Ultimately teams are empowered to fix issues quickly, even those they are not experts on, and they can concentrate on preventative maintenance and improving production runs to fulfill current orders.

Taking a holistic approach to maintenance that focuses on reliability of assets and empowerment of people will deliver measured results to the bottom line. Streamlining downtime support reduces MTTR, while building reliability-based maintenance processes on the most critical equipment helps improve MTBF.

Ultimately, both drive higher OEE and RONA, which are common key performance indicators in most facilities. Get started today—maintenance can drive up competitive advantage and profitability.

Selecting a maintenance vendor

Not all vendor support contracts are created equal. A few factors to consider when selecting a third-party maintenance provider include:

  • Guaranteed arrival of parts – With this guarantee, the maintenance staff can rest assured that a machine won’t sit idle due to an out-of-stock part.
  • Guaranteed arrival of service professional – Once the failure point is detected and it’s determined that physical on-site support is needed, the provider should guarantee that the plant’s support workforce will be on the plant floor to provide immediate service.
  • Guaranteed remote support response– The provider should be able to guarantee that the support team will be able to respond quickly to any machine failures. Failures can happen at any time, so 24/7 support is generally best.
  • Remote monitoring – When a machine or line fails, every minute of downtime means lost profit. A provider that offers remote monitoring technology will be able to quickly and securely connect from any Internet connection to the plant and begin troubleshooting within minutes instead of hours or days. It also can gather real-time data and analytics in order to recognize quickly when a machine is not working properly and efficiently repair the failure point.
  • Workforce enablement tools – A third-party maintenance provider should always provide transparent integration to the facility staff and tools to facilitate better local execution, such as online resources, community sharing, chat, and self-assessment tools.
  • Periodic health checks –When applied on a plant-wide basis, periodic checks can help plants dramatically cut maintenance costs by providing greater insight into impending machine failures, reducing unplanned downtime and minimizing wear on critical equipment. This type of check can help ensure that basic maintenance activities are performed on a regular basis—which can be reassuring when in-house staff is consumed with other critical tasks.
  • Fixed price billing – In an atmosphere of relentless, quarter-by-quarter budget scrutiny, variances are unacceptable. Managers are left scrambling to prevent unexpected spikes or dips in maintenance spend—further hampering their ability to meet productivity demands. Fixed-price billing by the provider, regardless of number of part ships and support engineer dispatches, eliminates these concerns and helps flatten maintenance expenses.

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