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NEC, Birmingham(B40 1NT)

04/11/2020 - 05/11/2020

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Don't move - improve

Manufacturers can increase output without moving production to new facilities, expanding capability or speeding up production lines; the goal can be achieved simply by improving the existing plant, says Phil Burge, communications manager at SKF.

A need to increase output doesn't necessarily mean a need to provide new facilities; as much as 25% greater productivity can be achieved by unlocking the untapped potential of your existing plant. If you are sceptical that so much increased production can be realised without new facilities, then perhaps you aren't aware of the degree to which improvements in operational practices and reductions in inefficiency can optimise plant performance.

Consider how devastating unplanned downtime can be to your production schedule and you can begin to see how preventing such incidents can make a major improvement to your levels of output. By taking the time to assess the causes of failure, you can begin to reduce downtime by improving your maintenance practices, and by building that knowledge into an organised action plan you can lay the foundations of an on-going optimisation programme. A good way to reinforce best practice is to take a holistic approach and train your staff to conduct front line inspection techniques.

Beyond establishing a strong respect and regime for good maintenance, you then need to evaluate the overall performance of the plant and consider introducing an Asset Efficiency Optimisation (AEO) programme. An improvement program incorporates an effective maintenance strategy, with top-level business planning and system-wide analysis to maximise effectiveness and performance across the board. There are four key elements in an AEO programme: Maintenance Strategy, Work Identification, Work Control, and Work Execution.

The Maintenance Strategy element assesses plant criticality and risk, and, linked to the business goals and objectives, establishes the most important issues and priorities. This enables an effective maintenance plan to be created that is closely tailored to the needs of the business and can be easily communicated throughout the organisation. Maintenance Strategy encourages the active participation of engineers in reliability-related activities, such as Root Cause Failure Analysis (RCFA) or maintenance strategy review processes, while the dominant causes of failure in critical equipment are addressed by SKF's Streamlined Reliability Centred Maintenance (SRCM) processes. This process reviews the asset operating context, failure mode and the effect that failure has on the business goals, and identifies the most appropriate migrating maintenance tasks for that equipment.

Work Identification, the second element of the AEO plan, entails the gathering and analysis of critical plant information through the defined Condition Based Maintenance task. This information along with predefined and planned maintenance activities can be used to determine the corrective actions required for each asset.

By taking into account the needs established by Maintenance Strategy and Work Identification, maintenance activity is planned in detail and scheduled during the third phase of the AEO plan: Work Control.  During this stage, tasks are prioritised according to factors such as the timescales, man-hours, data feedback, and competence levels related to those tasks. At this point, effective planning enables resources to be used in the most efficient and productive way possible.

The fourth and final element of the programme is Work Execution, in which all of the careful planning that has already taken place is put into action. However, it is also important to note that feedback is collected after Work Execution and fed back into the maintenance system to ensure constant 'fine tuning' of the maintenance plan and a maximum return on investment.

The effective use of asset information via a process such as Asset Efficiency Optimisation can consistently achieve high levels of productivity. Key to the value of such processes is the capturing and documenting asset information, as this is a powerful tool that enables operators to minimise maintenance and maximise performance.  

A growing number of operators are recognising that optimisation strategies are a good investment and can increase the capacity of existing plant by eliminating the causes of downtime. When optimising operations, all areas need to be considered and, while some outgoings, such as material costs, may be beyond your control, the optimisation of plant through more effective maintenance is always a strong option. The more holistic and proactive approach offered by an AEO programme delivers change for the better from a top-down operational level, creating a reliable plan for enhanced efficiency that all staff can get behind and a workforce that is better informed and equipped to carry out that plan.
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