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Preventive Maintenance Programs - A Low Cost Solution


Jim Cavalluzzi

Computer/Internet/Software Articles
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You don't need to purchase those expensive software packages to establish a workable preventive maintenance program. Large companies with complicated equipment and huge spare parts inventories may find these canned programs advantageous and loaded with all the bells and whistles, but if you need a system that is just as effective and is quick to implement, easy to manage, and low cost, then why not create your own? You can create a successful program by using any spreadsheet software you already have, such as Excel or Works.


First, you will need to make a list of all of your equipment, maintenance tasks, etc. that you need to monitor and assign some unique type of identification to them. This can be a name, however, I prefer using a numbering code that tells me what type of equipment it is, where it is located (department, facility, etc.), and how many similar items I may have. With this code I will now be able to locate, monitor and maintain all of my equipment, while tracking costs and work performed.


Next, you will need to determine the tasks or procedures needed to be performed on each piece of equipment and their frequency. Make sure to list every task that needs to be performed, no matter how simple or obvious it may seem. The hardest part of the whole program will be identifying these tasks.
A good place to start is with the manuals that came with your equipment. Round up all of your manuals and identify each of them with the same identification code you assigned to its respective equipment. The manuals will provide the essential maintenance tasks necessary to maximize your equipment life and also to meet the requirements of the applied warranties. These tasks will usually be the obvious ones such as checking lubricant levels or calibration procedures.

Another good resource will be your equipment suppliers. Your suppliers will either have the information you cannot find or they will be able to get that information from the manufacturers themselves. Many suppliers have a place on their websites where you can quickly access and download old maintenance and parts manuals. In addition, your suppliers may have information you were not aware of regarding warranty issues or newly recommended procedures to address known problems.
Finally, state, local and federal government agencies, entities, watchdogs, societies and the like will have information you will need in order to comply with codes and regulations that may be applicable to your equipment. For example: certain types of equipment or chemicals are strictly regulated and have set procedures for compliance. OSHA, the Federal Codes and Regulations, and the Department of Natural Resources are examples of places you may need to research in order to ensure you are meeting all of obligations.


Now that you know what it is that has to be done, you will need to determine when it needs to get done and who it is that is actually going to do it. The frequency of your maintenance tasks should be outlined in the same place you found the tasks listed. Determining who will perform each of the tasks is a little bit more difficult since there are many ways to handle it.
Will your maintenance workers be responsible for all the tasks? If so, you may need to hire more maintenance personnel. A common route is to assign the simple and menial tasks to your equipment operators. Tasks such as checking fluid levels or belt tensions can be performed at the beginning of a shift by almost anyone. Since the operators will typically be paid a lower wage than your maintenance workers, you can often times save money by having them perform these simple duties. You will also save a great deal of time when numerous operators simultaneously are checking their own equipment versus having one or two maintenance personnel making the rounds and checking each and every piece of equipment themselves. Save the more involved and time consuming tasks and repairs for your maintenance department. In some instances items may require outside services for certain intricate calibrations or the programming of controllers.


Now is a good time to gather up all of the specific and pertinent details required to perform your maintenance duties. If someone needs to check something, they will need to know where that something is located. This is very important, especially if you are going to have non-maintenance people performing tasks. You will need to spell out exactly where they will find the fluid dip stick or sight glass, or where the fill opening is located. You certainly don't want someone adding antifreeze to the oil reservoir because the radiator is little low. You will need to state exactly what type of oil, etc. will be used. You will need to explain how much tension may be required in a belt or how much backlash is allowable between drive gears. Detailing specific part numbers of frequently replaced items such as air and oil filters is also a great idea.


Take all of the information you have accumulated and put it into some useful form such as a Microsoft Works database or an excel spreadsheet. Use the column headings for the tasks, frequency, person, part numbers, etc. Use the row headings for the equipment identification codes. You now have all the necessary information in one place that can be easily updated or referenced in the future.


Take the information from your database and create a worksheet or procedure which you can then post at each piece of equipment. Post the sheets in a conspicuous location where operators and maintenance personnel can easily find them and auditors can verify that the maintenance is being carried out. Include the maintenance items and other pertinent information along with a place to have each responsible person check off that they have completed their tasks. You can use initials, clock numbers, whatever works best for your organization. The check off area is essential to the success of your program. Without this accountability, you cannot ensure that the required tasks are actually being performed. It is a good idea to audit these procedures from time to time as well. I have seen where persons were signing off that they were checking fluid levels, but when the equipment refused to run one day, it was determined that the oil reservoir was nearly empty. No oil leaks could be found and subsequent discussions with the operator revealed that they were not checking the items, but were simply signing off that they were.


Along with your database a very useful tool is a maintenance log of some sort. Again this can be a database or a simple spreadsheet. Keep track of the work performed, the date of the work, the costs involved, and the hours spent on the work. Tracking the hours will help you to more accurately determine your true costs for each piece of equipment, department, plant, shift, etc. A log is great for determining the problems or occurrences that you are experiencing in your shop. When you start to notice that you are performing the same tasks on certain pieces of equipment, you can use this information to schedule regular checks by adding the task to your database and equipment maintenance procedures.
You can also plan for the maintenance tasks that need to be performed. When you notice recurring items at consistent time intervals which cause downtime or require replacement parts that have long lead times, you can now schedule these tasks for a time when the equipment is not being run, reducing lost production. You can order parts just before they are needed, thereby eliminating the need to carry these parts in your inventory. You are now moving toward predictive maintenance. In addition to planning for your major maintenance tasks, you can now budget for them as well. Since your log alerts you to the recurring costs in addition to the tasks themselves, you now have the ability to predict your expenses for quarters, years, departments, plants, etc.; and you can use this information to determine your overhead with much more accuracy.
One more advantage of the log is the ability to determine when certain equipment has reached the end of its useful life. You can tell, without any doubt, that a machine has become obsolete. When the annual maintenance costs for an old slow piece of equipment exceed the cost for a new state of the art piece of equipment, you can easily justify the purchase of the new equipment. So put together that maintenance program and start increasing your up time while decreasing your maintenance costs.

About the Author

Mr. Cavalluzzi is the founder and owner of CONSOLUTE, LLC engineering support and consulting services providing site search, industrial, manufacturing and design engineering support. His extensive background in engineering dates back over 30 years and includes the robotics, automotive, aerospace, metals and plastics industries.

Visit them at: Consolute, LLC Engineering and Consulting Services

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Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2009-12-05 06:53:08 in Computer Articles

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