Six Ways Downtime Is Slowly Killing Your Business

Businesses are spending millions of dollars annually to buy/build machines and equipment to make their operations safer, more productive, and to reduce the cost of manufacturing.

Unfortunately, the reliability of these machines can be at risk, if not properly maintained.

An unreliable plant seriously affects productivity, resulting in high costs, poor use of resources, and product supply insecurity. Failure to deliver products can damage your brand and erode hard-won customer confidence.

Lost production and repairs

When a machine fails unexpectedly, the first reality is the lost production that results from the ‘down time’ and the cost that this will have on the business’s profitability. The cost of machine repairs including the extra labour, replacement parts, and resources required to bring the machine back into production could be very expensive. Production lost can never be recovered.

Risk to other processes and equipment

Failed critical machinery, which might have to supply other manufacturing stages in a continuous stream, will cause these other processes to come to a halt for lack of material for them to process. A failed machine can potentially cause the loss of millions of dollars by causing damage to other process equipment that relies on an uninterrupted supply of material from the failed machine. This “Domino effect” can be much greater than just the initial machine failure.

Workers Safety

There is a significant risk to workers, who as a consequence of machine failure, could be seriously injured or even killed. Failures of some critical machinery could result in fire, the release of dangerous gases or chemicals, electrocution, injury to machine operators from impact with failed machine parts or even explosions. Threats such as these will have a major effect on the business and its employees. There can be no acceptable price for worker injury.

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Raw material loss

When critical equipment fails, particularly when processing expensive or hard to source materials, the loss of these materials can seriously increase manufacturing costs, as replacement raw material must be sourced. Delays caused by the loss of raw materials could threaten relationships with customers relying on a timely supply of products or materials.

Capital expense increases

If machines are allowed to fail regularly and production output is always running lower than required, more machines will have to be purchased and operated, to maintain a target output. This will increase the capital costs of running the business, reducing profits and potentially threaten the viability of the business, particularly if competitors are able to produce their like products with lower costs of production than you.

Environmental Impact

Resources lost, energy lost and poor productivity will mean that more potential environmentally damaging emissions and wastes are created. Environmental damage can also affect other workers and the community around the production facility. This should not be permitted nor accepted if we are to be socially responsible citizens.

If the company is continuously spending time and money on repairs, maintenance, and hiring extra employees just to meet requirements, it will miss the opportunity to use these resources to grow the business. All these avoidable costs hinder the business and prohibit it from reaching its maximum potential.

A well developed Preventative Maintenance and Condition Monitoring Program can help avoid and even detect impending equipment failure – before it happens.

Being proactive will enable the business to reach its maximum potential.

Read the following Tips to Reduce Downtime in Industrial Manufacturing Operations

How to Reduce Downtime in Industrial Operations

Businesses spend millions of dollars buying machines to make their operation easier, safer and more productive. This critical equipment can break down when its condition is not monitored nor corrected, hence, the costly downtime and a potentially shorter operational design life of the equipment.

Unlike humans, machines cannot repair themselves. A failing machine will continue to run to failure if its symptoms are not detected and treated in a timely manner. Machine failure is not only a real threat to productivity, it is also a serious safety risk. (READ: Six Ways Downtime is Slowly Killing Your Business)

The failure of a bearing which cost may be only a few dollars can lead to the catastrophic failure of the whole machine – potentially costing millions of dollars.

Well, just like humans who must continually check their well being and communicate undesirable symptoms to their doctor for treatment, we also must monitor the condition of critical plant and take corrective action before potentially catastrophic failure occurs.

Critical equipment can have sensors to detect, prevent, and reduce downtime by monitoring potential symptoms of impending failure. Tests such as excessive temperature, unusual vibration, and extreme load are continually monitored and alarms are transmitted to engineers to take corrective measures, where this may be indicating unusual results. In some cases, special tests must be conducted to do what sensors cannot, or to assist in diagnosing potential threats to functionality.

It is often said that ‘prevention is better than cure’ and in this case, being proactive in maintaining the machines/equipment, is better than being reactive to the failure, once it occurs. Thus the term – Preventative Maintenance.

So how do we reduce downtime in industrial operations and most importantly, how do we detect impending equipment failure – before it fails?

Create a Preventative Maintenance Program

Every manufacturing plant and the critical machine must have a Preventative Maintenance Program designed to ensure that all critical functions and performances are monitored and actions are defined for times when conditions outside of the ‘normal’ operational condition are detected. The principle is to avoid issues from occurring and taking the correct actions before potential failure occurs.

By planning machine downtime for timely wear part replacement and or when necessary adjustment can be conducted, unplanned or unexpected machine stoppages can be largely avoided. Well-managed and timely maintenance shutdowns allow for a swift return to service and work being conducted in an orderly and safe manner. This significantly reduces downtime and excessive costs that would otherwise have occurred, had the machine runs till it failed.

Condition Monitoring

Condition Monitoring is one of the most critical tasks of any modern manufacturing facility. It is the key to reducing potential downtime and a vital part of the Preventative Maintenance process.
For this discussion, we will assume that the fundamentals of plant functionality have been correctly assessed with a particular focus on lubrication, potentially the most problematic function in the machine and the most critical condition to monitor.

When humans feel unwell, our doctors call for certain tests, such as a blood test. These tests detect chemicals in our blood that should either not be there or be present in different concentrations. Such a test determines the condition of our blood and our bodies. The same principles are involved with oil analysis. These tests provide not only an insight into the oils’ condition but also the condition of the machine in which the oil is operating.
An oil analysis program as part of a Preventative Maintenance Program is an absolute must

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Use the best lubricant

Virtually, all moving machine parts require lubrication to primarily reduce friction and heat and thereby extend machine life as much as possible. It is, therefore, a fundamental necessity that the lubricants chosen for the machinery are appropriate and which specifications are the best possible to meet the machine manufacturers requirements.

Premium, high-performance lubricants are key to machine reliability and actively contribute to reduced downtime and lost productivity.

The machine maker (often referred to as the ‘OEM’ or Original Equipment Manufacturer) will recommend the lubricant specifications which best suit their design and performance criteria and will also recommend their respective maintenance and service requirements. Often recommending the frequency of certain critical lubricated component inspections, oil changes, and condition monitoring criteria which provides the highest operational reliability.

Premium lubricants reduce rust and corrosion, reduce oxidation, reduce the formation of sludge and varnish, offer extended life between oil changes, reduce energy consumption and aid in keeping the oil system and components clean and operating to design.

Often the machine maker (the OEM) will specify oil change intervals based on their experience and/or recommend that oil changes be based on oil condition, as determined by routine oil analyses.

The Fundamentals of Lubrication is yet another topic, to be covered in another article.