Monthly Archives: May 2016

Comprehensive preventive maintenance and asset management ensure both the functionality, and efficiency of high-value equipment at a given business throughout its lifecycle. Yet, without an equally comprehensive auditing and optimization strategy for the ancillary processes around enterprise assets, businesses may accidentally overextend their operating budgets in unnecessary, preventable ways.

How can manufacturers, process industries, energy providers and other asset-intensive sectors optimize their preventive maintenance programs without hurting their productivity?

Reduce preventive maintenance schedule variance
When it comes to preventive maintenance, no matter how beneficial it may be to enhancing the performance of enterprise assets, it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

Preventive Maintenance Schedule
Is your maintenance schedule overbooked, underbooked, or just right?


Uneven scheduled downtime, for instance, could hike up operational costs in one of three ways:

  1. When preventive maintenance occurs too frequently, maintenance labor costs outweigh the threat posed by machine deficiency or outright failure. Balancing these costs is crucial to getting everything a business needs from its PM, but not overpaying for superfluous maintenance.
  2. Spacing scheduled preventive maintenance too far apart has its obvious consequences, like unintentionally allowing a small deficiency to exacerbate unnoticed.
  3. Choppy preventive maintenance schedules that vary hinder managers from planning strategically over the long term, both in an operational sense and financially.

Moreover, as The Maintenance Phoenix pointed out, scheduling variance could be the result of uncalibrated enterprise asset management software like computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS). Variance could also occur when maintenance professionals assigned repairs don’t carry out work orders within a tight timeframe. To cut down on preventive maintenance variance, businesses should assess their operational data, determine whether their maintenance programs suffer from any of these issues and take the needed corrective steps.

Minimize spare parts inventory management and costs
Traditionally, spare parts management follows along the same vein as asset management. In fact, there is considerable overlap between the two. Both preserve asset availability and mitigate the impact of downtime when it strikes.

That said, businesses must constantly work toward honing their spare parts inventory as much as possible without compromising the insurance these components provide asset uptime. Accomplishing this involves a two-pronged approach to spares: analysis and adjustment.

When a particular component within an asset breaks, an inventory of spare parts on hand accelerates the repair process. However, spare part inventory growth inexorably leads to cost increases, sometimes to the tune of as much as 20 percent or more of company expenditures, according to Life Cycle Engineering. Instead of adding a new batch of spares to the pile whenever assets appear to require them, it might be more cost-beneficial to perform root cause analysis on the “bad actor.”

For example, if a manufacturer spends $2,000 per month stocking fan belts for an asset integral to production, perhaps spending a little more on a one-time RCA cost may uncover why the asset churns through fan belts in the first place. A successful RCA, followed by corrective maintenance, could effectively eliminate the recurring cost entirely.

After tackling spare parts inventory, businesses should then be sure to adjust procurement plans accordingly so they represent the new optimized operations precisely and cut costs.

In life, bottlenecks crop up from time to time; moments where we’re stuck and can’t push through a problem. Patience may be the only remedy. In the manufacturing sector, however, bottlenecks can be a serious drain on productivity, revenue, efficiency, and asset utilization.

What does a bottleneck mean in manufacturing terms?
When people think casually of “bottlenecks,” they might think of forced congestion, like traffic on a multi-lane highway pinched down to a single lane for construction or emergency reasons. Traffic would be an apt metaphor, as bottlenecks on the road and those in a manufacturing plant are both concerned with throughput and achieving continuous flow.

However, in manufacturing, bottlenecks have their own clear-cut definition as well. According to the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers, bottlenecks occur when:

To identify bottlenecks, plant managers ought to utilize operational data and tighten their focus on steps in assembly that meet these specifications or come close. However, seasoned plant employees and equipment operators may be able to sense and point out potential bottlenecks without crunching the numbers.

What do bottlenecks look like on the plant floor?
For some manufacturing processes, bottlenecks are easy to spot. For instance, if asset operators in a bottling facility – to continue with today’s theme – notice visible accumulation of goods clogging a labeler, chances are the labeler is the issue, so long as all other operations appear to be functioning to capacity.

Manufacturing Bottlenecks
“One common indicator of a bottleneck is inventory overabundance.”

Other times, bottlenecks are not as readily apparent, but misbehaving processes ancillary to production may clue plant managers into trouble elsewhere. One common indicator of a bottleneck is inventory overabundance. When manufactures have aligned inventory needs against demand properly, inventories should remain relatively lean. Materials overflow in that context, therefore, would signal capacity issues somewhere in production. All that’s left to do is hunt them down and sort them out.

How can manufacturers overcome bottlenecks?
Once plant managers locate their bottleneck, they must perform three basic functions to formulate a solution. First, they must temporarily reduce the capacity of the entire process, carefully watching how a bottleneck functions for any observable performance problems.

Second, upon gathering a few notions as to what may be creating a bottleneck, plant managers must then conduct root cause analysis on each. Root cause analysis involves tracing the conspicuous bottleneck issue back to its true catalyst. Perhaps it’s as simple as a mechanical failure, or maybe as comprehensive as accidental overproduction.

Finally, after arriving at the bottleneck’s root cause, plant managers should assess whether it is a long- or short-term concern. Long-term concerns may require organizational change to correct the issue once and for all, but may require scheduled maintenance or production downtime to finalize the fix.

Short-term concerns generally correct themselves with little to no intervention. However, in the meantime, plant managers may feel more secure in their operations by decentralizing capacity over multiple employees or machinery. That way, should an out-and-out failure occur, manufacturers minimize the effect of downtime on productivity.