Don’t separate production needs from maintenance strategy

Almost every facility has the age-old struggle between production and maintenance. This is very similar to the old adage “Which came first the chicken or the egg?” Which do you feel is more important to a facility: the production side or the maintenance side? Without production there would be no product and thus no revenue being generated.


Almost every facility has the age-old struggle between production and maintenance. This is very similar to the old adage “Which came first the chicken or the egg?”

Which do you feel is more important to a facility: the production side or the maintenance side?

Without production there would be no product and thus no revenue being generated. This is very important, but is it the most important?

Without maintenance the machines that create the product would cease operating and then the production stops. This also is very important because without running machinery, production levels can not be achieved.

Why is it even necessary to think of the chicken and the egg as separate entities? There is a time in the cycle when the chicken is inside the egg and they are one. The goals of both maintenance and production are identical: to make the plant profitable. Production personnel and maintenance personnel differ only by the fact that they perform different tasks in order to meet common goals. Maintenance should not be thought of as separate from the production process. Maintenance is part of, and adds value to, the production process. This way of thinking will do much to break down walls within the organization and help the production/maintenance process to perform with maximum effectiveness.

Both production and maintenance are required to create the product. By applying this logic, it is easy to understand that equipment reliability cannot be achieved by maintenance only. Good operators add much to machine reliability. Everyone in the plant is responsible for equipment reliability. Required production levels will not be achieved without a well-oiled team consisting of both production and maintenance.

Due to modern-day advances in the predictive maintenance field, most machines can be monitored while they continue to run. Advances in vibration, alignment, balancing and thermography %%MDASSML%% just to name a few %%MDASSML%% assist in determining the health of machinery.

These condition monitoring technologies make it possible for us to “listen” to what the machine is telling us about its condition and detect defects before they result in functional failure. If corrections need to be scheduled, these tools allow the job to be completed quickly and efficiently without adversely affecting production.

Finding the happy medium

When a machine has an unknown critical breakdown, it can affect other pieces of equipment and have a longer outage for repair time. This can have a big effect on plant production and also on all plant personnel.

Which brings up the question again: “What is more important to a plant: the production output or maintaining healthy equipment? Can the two be separated? Can the chicken exist without the egg or the egg without the chicken? No! Both are required if the process is to continue.

Most plants that are successful in using predictive maintenance tools have found that allowing time for performing required maintenance tasks will actually increase the amount of time that the plant can make product. A happy medium allows maintenance certain time frames to perform scheduled maintenance while at the same time minimizing the effect on production. This medium brings a high level of reliability to plant machinery allowing the plant to meet both production and profit goals. The maintenance process should not be looked upon as a separate process when fully integrated into the production process.

Is your plant up to the challenge of finding that happy medium by meshing both production and maintenance into an all encompassing process of plant reliability?

The main thing to keep in mind is that finding that happy medium does not happen overnight and it is usually not a quiet conversion when the production team and maintenance team are sitting at the same table, but it can be achieved if both sides focus on the final output and are willing to tear down walls that have taken years to construct.

Remote monitoring devices, such as vibration data collection, have put predictive maintenance tools in the hands of maintenance personnel.

Measuring alignment is one easy way to make sure your manufacturing uptime remains high.

Author Information

Bill Hillman is a partner with A&B Asset Management Specialists. He can be reached at . Mickey Harp is vibration application engineer for LUDECA, Inc. He can be reached at .

The checklist on maintenance

  • Maintenance is a necessary part of the production process.

  • Maintenance adds value to the production process.

  • All plant personnel are responsible for equipment reliability.

  • The only real differences between plant personnel are that they perform different tasks in order to meet common goals.

  • Condition monitoring tools make it possible to detect defects so corrections can be made before resulting in failure.

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