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 2013 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...
A cool solution: Collaboration, chemistry leads to foundry coat product development; See the 2015 Product of the Year Finalists
Raising the standard: What's new with NFPA 70E; A global view of manufacturing; Maintenance data; Fit bearings properly
Sister act: Building on their father's legacy, a new generation moves Bales Metal Surface Solutions forward; Meet the 2015 Engineering Leaders Under 40
Cyber security cost-efficient for industrial control systems; Extracting full value from operational data; Managing cyber security risks
Drilling for Big Data: Managing the flow of information; Big data drilldown series: Challenge and opportunity; OT to IT: Creating a circle of improvement; Industry loses best workers, again
Pipeline vulnerabilities? Securing hydrocarbon transit; Predictive analytics hit the mainstream; Dirty pipelines decrease flow, production—pig your line; Ensuring pipeline physical and cyber security
Upgrading secondary control systems; Keeping enclosures conditioned; Diagnostics increase equipment uptime; Mechatronics simplifies machine design
Designing positive-energy buildings; Ensuring power quality; Complying with NFPA 110; Minimizing arc flash hazards
Building high availability into industrial computers; Of key metrics and myth busting; The truth about five common VFD myths

Annual Salary Survey

After almost a decade of uncertainty, the confidence of plant floor managers is soaring. Even with a number of challenges and while implementing new technologies, there is a renewed sense of optimism among plant managers about their business and their future.

The respondents to the 2014 Plant Engineering Salary Survey come from throughout the U.S. and serve a variety of industries, but they are uniform in their optimism about manufacturing. This year’s survey found 79% consider manufacturing a secure career. That’s up from 75% in 2013 and significantly higher than the 63% figure when Plant Engineering first started asking that question a decade ago.

Read more: 2014 Salary Survey: Confidence rises amid the challenges

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.