Designing The Best Preventative Maintenance Process For Manufacturing Equipment


Preventative maintenance programs take care of your manufacturing equipment before problems can occur, thereby minimizing product defects while maximizing equipment uptime. There are several approaches that you can take based on your particular operation, from scheduled to condition-based and predictive maintenance. 

In this blog, the team at Fintech Abrasives goes over your different maintenance options, the potential costs and advantages, and guidelines for designing the best preventive maintenance process for manufacturing equipment in your facility.

What is Scheduled Preventative Maintenance?

With this type of maintenance program, tasks and activities are calendar-based, such as once a day, week, month, etc. While some machines benefit from calendar approach, others may be better off undergoing maintenance based on the following factors:

  • Number of start-up and shut-down cycles

  • Number of products produced

  • Number of operating hours

For example, the abrasive on a wide belt sander will wear down over time. If it cuts the same type of material at the same volume every day, a calendar-based maintenance schedule would work. If the sander is only used for certain projects and otherwise sits idle, maintenance can be scheduled based on hours of use or number of units processed.

What is Condition-Based Maintenance?

With condition-based maintenance, action is taken in response to observations of the machine’s condition or performance. Examples include:

  • Checking the rollers when a sanding belt appears to slide from the proper position

  • Repairing or replacing a saw blade when the cut is slower or messier or excess smoke is released during production. 

For machines without internal sensors, condition-based maintenance relies on operator observation and output measurement. When a machine issues an alarm based on feedback from internal sensors, it is generally in need of repair rather than signaling a need for maintenance.

What is Predictive Maintenance?

With more advanced predictive maintenance programs, computers analyze the output of certain internal sensors and use the deviation from standard product specifications to detect problems earlier and provide a longer lead time.  These methods require more sophisticated sensing devices and, generally, better computer modeling of the machine and its failure modes to yield better results.

Analysis of a machine's repair history and condition-based maintenance can lead to near-optimal planned maintenance. The use of predictive maintenance provides similar lead times while responding to actual deterioration. A longer lead time means better use of scheduled downtime in both cases.

What are the Costs of Preventative Maintenance for Manufacturing Equipment?

Like any other process, there is a cost involved, mainly:

  • The labor required for scheduling and planning

  • Labor for maintenance

  • Lost production and productivity during scheduled downtimes

  • The cost of maintenance supplies or materials

However, these costs represent an investment in the following results:

  • There is less risk of unexpected outages due to machine breakdown. Some larger, mission-critical machines are extremely expensive to replace.

  • You can avoid repair costs, which are typically higher than the cost of preventative maintenance. For example, failure to lubricate and maintain a motor can result in an expensive repair bill when it eventually fails.

  • Rework costs are lower due to fewer defective products. For example, excessive wear on a saw blade can result in product defects that affect an entire run, costing the company a significant amount of time and money.

  • Safety standards remain high. By replacing a worn belt drive before it snaps, you can reduce the risk of accidental injury.

A preventative maintenance program is designed to balance costs and benefits. If you run every machine until it breaks down, your preventative maintenance cost is zero, but repair costs and an interrupted factory schedule are serious issues. On the other hand, carrying out maintenance too frequently causes productivity to take a hit. By finding the ideal medium for your facility’s needs, you can keep your equipment and output in good shape and your budget under control.

Why a Culture of Preventative Maintenance is Important

Establishing a culture of preventative maintenance across your facility will benefit your operations. It should be a top priority for everyone to schedule and follow through with maintenance for manufacturing equipment.

Additionally, employees can participate in preventative maintenance procedures, such as lubricating equipment, inspecting their station for wear, and keeping their areas clean and free of debris.

Preventative Maintenance Documentation

Be sure to keep a record of equipment maintenance performed by your maintenance staff or service provider, specifically:

  • Date the equipment was serviced

  • Which equipment was maintained or repaired

  • Equipment parts addressed

  • Equipment adjustments or repairs

  • Notes from the technician for future reference

When you start a preventive maintenance program, you should consider reliable ways of storing data, such as in a computerized maintenance management system, or CMMS. A CMMS lets you do the following:

  • Track critical information

  • Limit permissions and access to records to ensure their integrity  

Brief Guidelines for Designing the Best Preventative Maintenance Program

Before implementing preventive maintenance programs, manufacturers should take inventory of their critical equipment, including: 

  • Identification numbers

  • Descriptions

  • Maintenance schedules

  • Checklists

  • Procedures

This allows you to schedule work orders on a daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly basis. You should also assess the risk associated with each piece of equipment: for production or safety reasons, some machinery may need to be maintained more frequently. 

When you’re ready to start putting together a preventative maintenance plan for each item of equipment, start with the plan recommended by the manufacturer, particularly if the warranty is still valid. Then review the machine’s history, noting if any repairs had been made and whether timely maintenance could have avoided them. 

Once you’re armed with this information, put together a schedule that allows smaller tasks to be completed during the last 30 minutes of a shift. Whenever possible, refrain from scheduling longer tasks, especially those that involve disassembly, until the plant is shut down.

After identifying what preventive maintenance activities need to be performed and when, assign follow-through responsibility to a maintenance coordinator, machine operator, or other appropriate person. These employees can sign off on maintenance activities using a sheet attached to each machine or, ideally, a software program. Regardless of the method you decide to use to track preventive maintenance, keep a consistent schedule.

Questions About Maintaining Your Abrasive Equipment?

Sanding belts and sanding discs are like any other sanding tool or equipment in that proper maintenance can increase product life and reduce downtime. A trusted and established abrasive manufacturer can provide you with tips on how to get the most out of your product as well as insights into when things may be going wrong.

At Fintech Industrial Abrasives, we take great pride in offering unrivaled customer and technical support. We provide manufacturing facilities across many different industries with premium-quality abrasive products and the information they need to ensure top performance every time. If you have any questions, we’re here to help. To speak with an abrasive technician, please contact us by filling out a contact form or calling (888) 223-8768.

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