12 Tips on Building a Factory Maintenance Strategy for Businesses

Do you have a factory maintenance plan in place?

No factory can run well unless it is well maintained. But keeping your machinery in a working environment can be a difficult task. But it doesn’t have to be.

We are here to help. Read on for our tips on building a factory maintenance strategy.

1. List What Your Maintenance Team Should Look After

This is a good starting point. To improve your preventative maintenance, you need to know what assets need maintaining. And you need to know where they’re located. To get a plan in place, you need to be certain than all you’ve got all your vital assets covered.

Your list should include all the individual needs of each asset. Include maintenance instructions and any specifications. Include equipment like:

  • HVAC systems
  • essential production equipment
  • buildings
  • vehicles
  • property

You can use a CMMS or similar program to manage your assets and maintenance plan. These usually allow you to set an asset hierarchy. You can link different parts with their assets. You can also link assets with where they’re located and so much more.

2. Assess Your Maintenance Teams

When you want to improve maintenance plan, you need to know where your teams stand. Survey your teams to work out what is working well for your team. And what isn’t.

This will help your teamwork with you to improve your maintenance plan. Here are a few questions you should ask:

  • Are all your maintenance team members qualified for working on all your assets?
  • Will you need to bring in third party help to improve your preventative maintenance (PM)?
  • Does the team have the right resources to keep up with PM?
  • Does the team have the right amount of these resources?
  • Do you have back up resources to cover any absences or injury leaves to cover PM at all times?
  • Which team members are responsible for each asset or asset group?
  • How will you hold teams and team members accountable for meeting PM deadlines?

Your maintenance staff need to be on the same page with any changes you want to make. Finding out from people on the ground what the situation is better informs your plan.

3. Review Your Documentation

Maintenance management is a big job and all documentation must be up to date. When your team can make do with existing guidance, keeping up to date can fall by the wayside.
So, you need to set aside some time to sit down and review your current procedures. You then need to make updates where they’re needed to your guidance and documentation. Here are some places you should consider starting with:

  • EOPs — emergency operating procedures
  • SOPs — standard operating procedures
  • OSHA guidelines — PPE, process safety management, Lockout-Tagout processes, emergency action plan, etc.

Depending on your documentation’s status, this step could keep you busy for a long time.

4. Preventative Maintenance Checklists

You should be doing some proactive jobs. Even if you’re not currently running a full preventative maintenance plan. Things like filter changes, oil changes and equipment inspections.

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Most companies without a full maintenance strategy are reactive. They spend all their time fixing machinery as it breaks. To break out of this cycle, create a preventative maintenance checklist.

Practice reliability centered maintenance by creating lists of all the faults you regularly repair on your machines. Think about what could have been done to avoid downtime and repair. These will form the basis of your preventative maintenance program.

As you carry out your maintenance, continue to add to this list. Before you know it, your preventative measures will substantially reduce downtime. It is worth talking to the manufacturers and technicians for your machinery. They will have a wealth of knowledge and be able to provide you with additional tips and optimizations.

5. Set Standards to Measure Performance

You can do this by analyzing your maintenance reports. These will help you work out what benchmarks you need to set. It’ll help you set clear expectations for your people and machine performance too.

There are a many asset management KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) you can set. This will help you track performance and will tell you what goals you’re hitting. It’ll also highlight what areas need attention and where you should be doing better.

6. Clear Your Maintenance Backlog

It is important that your maintenance plan allows you to make the most of any scheduled downtime.

If you have regular downtime each week/month, try to schedule larger or longer preventative maintenance during these times. With no unexpected breakdowns during this time, your maintenance team can work on these issues uninterrupted, and longer jobs won’t delay production.

If you have had to delay any work for any reason, this is also the perfect scheduled time to clear this backlog. That is why it is important that you record your checklists and keep them updated. You don’t want to miss any opportunity when it presents itself.

Of course, downtime is never as long as your maintenance team would like, so make sure that you prioritise the most important and longest tasks.

Thanks to the extra planning time scheduled maintenance allows, make sure that you know what you will be doing, and have all the parts on hand. The last thing you need is having to stop production again after a scheduled stop because the parts have arrived.

7. Track Preventative Maintenance

There is no point in having a detailed preventative maintenance strategy unless you are tracking what you are and aren’t doing.

Not only does this give you a record of what is being missed and needs to be caught up on, it also allows you to track goals.

Information like how long a job takes in practice and problems that have caused delays provide valuable information for improving your strategy.

You can use your data to find jobs that are not providing overall value to the maintenance process Duplicate jobs, jobs carried out too frequently and staff not performing their optimum task are all common low value tasks that can be fixed. This will allow you to reduce the burden on your staff, and perform more thorough, timely maintenance.

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8. Include Flexibility in Your Plan

Having a set plan is all well and good. Under ideal circumstances, you would carry out your preventative maintenance jobs on all of your factory machinery at regular, defined intervals.

But mechanical faults and breakages never follow your plans. No matter how good your maintenance plan, some things will still break or wear out faster than you expect. Make sure that your maintenance team are trained to look out of warning signs in your machinery. Squeaky bearings, shaking motors or suspicious drips need to be found as quickly as possible.

If you notice any issues or areas of concern, you should change your schedule to fix these problems immediately. While this may sound like a simple idea, the real trick is to ensure that you adjust the rest of your schedule around this change instead of just delaying your schedule.

This ensures that you don’t fall back into the habit of having reactive repairs take over your schedule. The last thing you want is a well-planned repair schedule that your repair team are too busy to follow.

9. Work with Your Team

It doesn’t matter how well you think you know your machinery and maintenance staff, no factory maintenance strategy will work if it is imposed from above.

You need to communicate with your maintenance team, asking them for input. Find out how they feel about the current systems. What is working and what isn’t. What needs tweaking and what needs to be scrapped entirely.

Not only will this give you valuable insight into the shop floor, it will also result in a better plan, and easier adoption. If they feel they had a part in it, your maintenance staff will be more incentivised into making sure it is a success. The last thing you want is staff doing stuff ‘the old way’ because they don’t see the need for improvements.

10. Detailed Equipment, Tools, and Inventory control

Even the best maintenance crew can’t do their job without the right tools. That is why part of your factory maintenance strategy should incorporate inventory control for your tools and other equipment.

At all times you should know what equipment you have, where it is and its condition. This is especially important for PPE for you to fulfil your OSHA requirements.

If equipment is broken, or starts to show wear, your maintenance team need an easy way to report it and arrange for a replacement to be ordered. There should never be a situation where you are unable to perform maintenance because equipment is broken, and you are waiting to order more.

You should follow the same pattern for managing your spare parts.

It is no good going to collect a spare part only to realise that it was used months ago, and no-one ordered a replacement. Most factories cannot afford the extra downtime waiting on a new delivery can cause.

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All spares and equipment should always be organised and clean to make sure they are in top condition and easy to find.

11. Help Technicians Improve

Your factory should always be looking for ways to improve efficiency and production output, and it should be the same for your maintenance team. Now we aren’t suggesting that you replace them with a newer model, but you should invest in them and help them be the best they can be.

Consider allowing your team some downtime each month. Not only will this help them recharge their batteries, they can also use this for self-improvement. You may initially get some resistance from the team, who see little benefit, but stick with it and the results will be clear.

During their downtime, allow your staff to go through the following options, and pick the ones that work best for them:

  • Training courses – there are plenty of training courses available for free, or at little cost online
  • Review documentation – the people that use your documents each day will be best placed to find errors and missing information
  • Check checklists – as your processes change and you get new machinery, it is likely that your checklists will become outdated.
  • Knowledge transfer – allow your maintenance staff from different shifts to catch up and mingle, they may have useful information to share

This also gives you a framework for your staff to work from when there is little work to do. Instead of making them wait around for something to break, they can continue self-training.

12. Check Your Critical Assets

Not every piece of machinery in your factory is critical. But what is needs to be running at maximum efficiency 24/7.

Make sure you know exactly what is business critical so you can give it extra priority for all maintenance jobs. There is no point in keeping your supporting machinery running if it is unusable when a critical machine breaks.

Whenever you go through a period of downtime, make sure you schedule a complete inspection, cleaning, and servicing for all of your vital machinery. This will ensure the highest availability for your machinery during peak times.

When you have periods of extended downtime, try, and clean and inspect all of your machinery, in order of importance. This is also the perfect time for stress testing, calibrating and any other jobs needed to keep them running.

This will help your understanding of the entire health of your factory and give you advanced warning if it looks like a machine is starting to get a bit long in the tooth and will soon need replacing entirely.

Creating the Perfect Factory Maintenance Strategy

Without a factory maintenance strategy, even the most high-tech factory will develop problems. But by incorporating these 12 tips into your strategy you should be able to stay on top of things and keep everything running throughout the year.

If you found this article useful, be sure to check out our other blog posts.

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