Prevent Defense

Take plant environments into account before performing preventive maintenance.

Preventive maintenance can either save a plant hours or even days of downtime -- or be a big waste of time. Rather than simply following the OEM recommendations for machine maintenance, a more effective way to know how frequently equipment should be serviced is by taking into account how work environments can impact machine performance and recording data that can help forecast more appropriate maintenance schedules, says Vlad Bacalu, product manager at maintenance outsourcing and training firm Advanced Technology Services Inc.

"Most of the end users of machine tools use the OEM-recommended PM (preventive maintenance) procedures, which are established by the manufacturer of the machine tool, but they are not always fully applicable to the environment or the conditions that these machines are used. For instance, one plant may be using a CNC tool to cut aluminum and another plant is using the same tool to cut hard steel. So obviously the wear and tear and the PM tasks have to be adjusted accordingly."

ATS applies a variety of tools to determine maintenance schedules, including vibration analysis. The firm refers to this as preventive maintenance optimization. "So instead of saying, Every three months this has to be done,' we're now moving more to how many hours the machine has run," says Jeff Owens, president of ATS. "Rather than taking the machine out of service too much or too little, we're trying to get it just right."


By The Numbers: Maintenance

According to a statistical profile of IndustryWeek's 2007 10 Best Plants:

17.3% the median percentage of plants conducting reactive maintenance work in 2007

18.6% the median percentage of plants conducting reactive maintenance work from 2003 to 2007

67% percentage of plants whose machine operators practiced preventive and routine maintenance in 2007

79% percentage of plants whose machine operators practiced preventive and routine maintenance from 2003 to 2007

95% percentage of plants that practiced total productive maintenance in 2007

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