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Six steps to a rock solid maintenance program

You’ve done the research, planning and finally made the purchase of your new piece of processing equipment. Now what? It is time to start planning a maintenance program and practices that ensure the maximum availability of your equipment and reduce total production costs. Putting in place these standard processes will maintain years of continuous and efficient operation.

Regardless of your site or equipment, maintenance programs should all have similar objectives. These include:

  • Being proactive, instead of reactive.
  • Ensuring the equipment can be operated safely and efficiently.
  • Ensuring targeted reliability of equipment at rated capacity.
  • Maximising the useful life of equipment.
  • Performing equipment improvements to minimise production costs while increasing production quality and capacity.
  • Ensuring training is provided to effectively perform/support maintenance activities.

It is important to understand the key factors needed to develop a successful, “rock solid” maintenance program. Start by developing a standard process to maintain the operating quality, safety and efficiency of your processing equipment. On average, 20 to 25 per cent of total production costs for most operations are maintenance costs.

By putting together rock solid maintenance processes and practices, operations can ensure maximum availability of the equipment and reduce total production costs.

1. Regular equipment inspections

Operations should establish a formalised process for fixed and mobile equipment inspections, define inspection tasks and create a checklist of items to be reviewed during inspections. These checklists will help verify that the equipment is operating safely and efficiently. This establishes the maintenance program as proactive, rather than reactive.

With a proactive maintenance program, the company will know what consistent maintenance activities to perform to identify and repair equipment before it breaks down. Often, this could be as simple as performing equipment maintenance according to the manufacturer’s schedule or best practices.

2. Recording defects, repairs

It is important to keep a log of maintenance tasks that need to be completed and ones that have been completed. This way, an operator can effectively prioritise its time and money to address the maintenance tasks that could impact uptime and reduce production.

Whether electronic or something as simple as a whiteboard, an operator needs to effectively communicate what tasks need doing and where in a maintenance process the organisation is. This way, site personnel are clear on the maintenance tasks that have been performed and what else still needs done.

3. Prioritising repairs

If not addressed, what repercussions will maintenance issues have for the site? Are they going to cause downtime for a day? A week?

Everyone from operators to executive management hates to hear that a machine is not going to be functioning for any amount of time. Prioritising repairs that will keep the machine running should be at the top of the list.

It is important that everyone from plant personnel to supervision understands the importance of preventative maintenance tasks to keep equipment running. It is always important to communicate machine repairs or defects to management, so they can plan operations around making the necessary fixes.

4. Scheduling repairs

Scheduling maintenance at least a week in advance is usually a good rule. All affected parties should be informed of the maintenance required and the time it should take. There should be consideration about the best time to work on the machine.

Is there a time the machine isn’t active? Is there a time that another machine could step in until maintenance is complete? Scheduling maintenance should be an integral part of an operation to keep the site running at full capacity, while being scheduled at a time that will minimise any impact to plant production and sales.

5. Getting it right first time

The first thing to examine is how much an hour of downtime really costs an operation. It is important to fix the machine correctly the first time to prevent future downtime. Time and resources are already being committed to fixing it once; surely the obvious conclusion is to fix it properly.

Operators should take the time to research and diagnose the nature of the problem and how to fix it. Fix the disease, not the symptoms. If a machine is leaking, the spill shouldn’t just be mopped up – the cause of the leak needs to be pinpointed and fixed. Following a maintenance program correctly can be seen in a dollar amount on the bottom line.

6. Program effectiveness

A maintenance program can only be considered rock solid if it is improving the site. How can you tell? Operators need to develop a process that allows them to track the program’s effectiveness. Is the plant seeing increased uptime? Are production levels improving? This also allows operators to prioritise their focus on certain areas or machines. Is there a continued pattern in maintenance activities? Is there another option to consider to extend the wear life?

When looking back on effectiveness, it is also important to consider the time spent on repairs. How could the repair be undertaken more quickly next time? What lessons were learnt from this repair that could be used in future repairs? Should additional training be provided on maintenance activities to make them more efficient? These are all questions that can be answered at the end of the analysis of a maintenance program.

By keeping these six things in mind, quarry operators will be well on the way to developing a rock solid maintenance program. From a well developed program, operators can maintain the operating quality, safety and efficiency of the fixed and mobile equipment through a more proactive approach to maintenance.

It also allows them to prevent costly failures and to maintain control of processing plants through effective maintenance planning. By practising good maintenance processes and practices, operators can ensure maximum availability of their equipment and ultimately reduce total production costs.

A rock solid maintenance program supports productivity and cost improvements that will make an operation more efficient and profitable.

Source: McLanahan Corporation

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