Don't get grounded by ignoring maintenance

Perhaps no single quote that came out of the Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit last month in Chicago better summarizes the state of manufacturing right now than this one: “We are so busy trying to meet tomorrow's build requirements that we don't have time to improve.”


Perhaps no single quote that came out of the Plant Engineering Manufacturing Summit last month in Chicago better summarizes the state of manufacturing right now than this one: “We are so busy trying to meet tomorrow's build requirements that we don't have time to improve.”

Manufacturers are busy balancing costs and managing people, trying to stay on an even footing even as the slope becomes increasingly slippery. Yet we have to stop and take stock and tighten our screws, not just our belts.

Every study Plant Engineering has done in the last year suggests the same thing: the majority of plant managers do not take the time to make sure their system is well-maintained, their people are well-trained and their entire operation benefits from the best available strategy and technology.

There are probably dozens of examples of why it's important to take time to maintain your equipment. None hit closer to home than my trip last month to the ICONICS customer event in Boston.

The event itself was fine, and we'll discuss the specifics elsewhere in this month's issue. But when it came time to go home, American Airlines had grounded its entire class of MD-80 planes over a maintenance issue that they had supposedly fixed the week before by %%MDASSML%% grounding all their planes. This all forced the cancellation of a couple thousand flights over three days, including the one that would take me out of Boston.

Here's some quick math, courtesy of the Dallas Morning News: An MD-80 uses about 3,300 gallons of jet fuel on a trip from Dallas to New York. At $2.60 a gallon, that comes to $8,580 per flight, and with 300 MD-80s in the fleet, that comes to $2.6 million a day in fuel costs. However, take those 300 planes out of the air, with 172 seats per plane. Assume a cost of $200 per seat, and we're talking about $10.3 million in lost revenue. Every day.

Some were quick to blame the bureaucracy of the FAA, and there's some room for that, I guess. But if American got the repair directive 18 months ago, and if they'd fixed one plane every day over those 18 months and gotten the FAA's sign-off, there would have been no crisis.

Imagine such a crisis in your plant. Could you take half your manufacturing operation offline for three days? What would that do to customer orders? To customer loyalty? How could you pay your people with three days of reduced work?

Maintenance can get overlooked in our rush to make things and stay competitive. The lack of full attention to maintenance, however, costs time and money. You can always make more money. Can you make more time?

Maintenance cannot be one of those things we are too busy to do. It has to be ingrained in our system and our psyche. “Break-fix” is a lousy maintenance strategy, because there are some things that can't be fixed with a wrench.

No comments
The Top Plant program honors outstanding manufacturing facilities in North America. View the 2015 Top Plant.
The Product of the Year program recognizes products newly released in the manufacturing industries.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
Your leaks start here: Take a disciplined approach with your hydraulic system; U.S. presence at Hannover Messe a rousing success
Hannover Messe 2016: Taking hold of the future - Partner Country status spotlights U.S. manufacturing; Honoring manufacturing excellence: The 2015 Product of the Year Winners
Inside IIoT: How technology, strategy can improve your operation; Dry media or web scrubber?; Six steps to design a PM program
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
Special report: U.S. natural gas; LNG transport technologies evolve to meet market demand; Understanding new methane regulations; Predictive maintenance for gas pipeline compressors
Warehouse winter comfort: The HTHV solution; Cooling with natural gas; Plastics industry booming
Managing automation upgrades, retrofits; Making technical, business sense; Ensuring network cyber security
Designing generator systems; Using online commissioning tools; Selective coordination best practices

Annual Salary Survey

Before the calendar turned, 2016 already had the makings of a pivotal year for manufacturing, and for the world.

There were the big events for the year, including the United States as Partner Country at Hannover Messe in April and the 2016 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago in September. There's also the matter of the U.S. presidential elections in November, which promise to shape policy in manufacturing for years to come.

But the year started with global economic turmoil, as a slowdown in Chinese manufacturing triggered a worldwide stock hiccup that sent values plummeting. The continued plunge in world oil prices has resulted in a slowdown in exploration and, by extension, the manufacture of exploration equipment.

Read more: 2015 Salary Survey

Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
The One Voice for Manufacturing blog reports on federal public policy issues impacting the manufacturing sector. One Voice is a joint effort by the National Tooling and Machining...
The Society for Maintenance and Reliability Professionals an organization devoted...
Join this ongoing discussion of machine guarding topics, including solutions assessments, regulatory compliance, gap analysis...
IMS Research, recently acquired by IHS Inc., is a leading independent supplier of market research and consultancy to the global electronics industry.
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
This article collection contains several articles on the vital role that compressed air plays in manufacturing plants.
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
This article collection contains several articles on strategic maintenance and understanding all the parts of your plant.
click me