With growing business confidence post-GFC, many companies are once again looking to bolster their activities. Regardless of the industry these companies operate in, this renewed vigour invariably requires an investment in additional revenue-generating assets.
However, as businesses move from an asset consolidation phase characteristic of difficult times, into an asset acquisition phase, it will be even more important for management to continue to consider cost-containment measures they readily embraced during the GFC.
A key part of these measures is an effective asset maintenance process.
It’s not surprising improved asset maintenance systems are one of the first measures introduced when business conditions deteriorate. Companies cut back on additional spending and look to extract the most returns possible from existing assets.
Despite this, it’s also surprising that asset maintenance is often one of the first measures to slide as business conditions improve. As market demand returns, companies can be distracted from containing costs by growing revenues.
While the time, resource and cost-saving benefits of a bone-fide asset maintenance system is widely accepted, unless intrinsically linked to a company’s management and processes, the system will always attract the danger of being “forgotten” as new priorities emerge.
Computerised maintenance management systems (CMMS) are an innovative way many engineering and manufacturing businesses embed best-practice asset management into their processes.
CMMS help users increase their efficiency in maintaining assets by helping users record preventative maintenance, maintain work order data and scheduling, monitor labour productivity, and reduce equipment downtime.
No longer dismissed as an administrative exercise, preventative maintenance saves companies in the engineering and manufacturing sectors millions of dollars a year through simple preventative work – in good times and in bad times.
With strict government policies and an increasingly discerning end user, businesses in the engineering and manufacturing sectors also need to continuously monitor assets to ensure they operate at the highest standard. Many companies do this through CMMS solutions.
Usually managed by the maintenance department, regular inspections are an important part of preventative maintenance and are designed to determine the current condition of machinery, infrastructure, inventory and other assets.
This data is then imputed into a CMMS, allowing facilities managers to instantly know what assets they own and manage, the work that needs to be done and has been done on an asset, and information on the manpower usage, spare parts, costs and failures of an asset.
An efficient inspection program must be simple and straightforward. Ultimately, it should be performed on a handheld unit to minimise paperwork and double handling.
With unique advances in mobile technologies, like the iPhone and iPad, asset intensive companies are now more equipped than ever to design a quick and efficient inspection procedure that better manages their assets and inventory.
The key to developing a cost-saving, efficient preventative maintenance strategy is
mining quality and accurate data, and management buy-in.
Mining quality and accurate data
Your system is only as good as the data imputed into it.
Every person has a different definition of what a normal asset looks like and how it performs. For example, one person who looks at a worn component of manufacturing machinery may record the asset as ‘damaged’, while another person may record it as ‘average condition’. This can lead to assets being maintained at an inconsistent rate.
That is why it is so important to remove ambiguous criteria from inspection reports.
The key is to keep it simple. Auditing a manufacturing machine, a report should ask very specific questions like:
• To what degree has the component worn down?
• Has the efficiency of the machine been affected?
With specific questions, the opinion of the person inspecting is avoided. The inspection focuses on answering the same specific questions each and every time the same asset is inspected. It may seem like overkill, but it’s important to get it right. Ambiguity then disappears in the inspection and the quality of data received increases remarkably. The quality of data can then be turned into useful information.
Information is only useful, though, if acted upon.
If asset inspection is treated by management as an administrative exercise, then preventative maintenance will cease to be a strategic and valuable forward-planning tool. Staff, failing to see value in something their management doesn’t take seriously, become complacent and indifferent to the process.
Securing management buy-in and training your staff to produce quality and accurate inspection data allows companies to integrate routine inspection results with preventative maintenance work.
This also allows for transparency and benchmarking so that the data recorded is properly reviewed, trends are identified, and long-term improvements are sought.
Maintenance management in the engineering and manufacturing sectors can certainly appear to be a never-ending process. But integrating the right preventative maintenance management strategies through CMMS solutions will help drive productivity and profits. This way, whether the company is experiencing a market upswing or downturn, it can be assured that it is using its assets in the most effective way.
Article by Steve Ninnes, CEO & Founder, MEX.