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.

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September 2018
2018 Engineering Leaders under 40, Women in Engineering, Six ways to reduce waste in manufacturing, and Four robot implementation challenges.
GAMS preview, 2018 Mid-Year Report, EAM and Safety
June 2018
2018 Lubrication Guide, Motor and maintenance management, Control system migration
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Burners for heat-treating furnaces, CHP, dryers, gas humidification, and more
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Choosing an automation controller, Lean manufacturing
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Effective process analytics; Four reasons why LTE networks are not IIoT ready

Annual Salary Survey

After two years of economic concerns, manufacturing leaders once again have homed in on the single biggest issue facing their operations:

It's the workers—or more specifically, the lack of workers.

The 2017 Plant Engineering Salary Survey looks at not just what plant managers make, but what they think. As they look across their plants today, plant managers say they don’t have the operational depth to take on the new technologies and new challenges of global manufacturing.

Read more: 2017 Salary Survey

The Maintenance and Reliability Coach's blog
Maintenance and reliability tips and best practices from the maintenance and reliability coaches at Allied Reliability Group.
One Voice for Manufacturing
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...
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Marshall on Maintenance
Maintenance is not optional in manufacturing. It’s a profit center, driving productivity and uptime while reducing overall repair costs.
Lachance on CMMS
The Lachance on CMMS blog is about current maintenance topics. Blogger Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group.
Material Handling
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IIoT: Machines, Equipment, & Asset Management
Articles in this digital report highlight technologies that enable Industrial Internet of Things, IIoT-related products and strategies.
Randy Steele
Maintenance Manager; California Oils Corp.
Matthew J. Woo, PE, RCDD, LEED AP BD+C
Associate, Electrical Engineering; Wood Harbinger
Randy Oliver
Control Systems Engineer; Robert Bosch Corp.
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