Unplanned downtime costs manufacturers billions of dollars annually. Nearly half of these incidents are caused by equipment failure traditionally addressed through reactive maintenance programs. Manufacturers need to increase efficiency by controlling, monitoring and centralizing all aspects to their processes.

In this article, we will look at the maintenance strategies used by discrete and process manufacturing facilities to reduce unplanned maintenance activities and improve productivity. But before we discuss their maintenance strategies, let’s get a better understanding of the differences between discrete and process manufacturing.

Discrete manufacturing

Almost every item sold in stores is an example of discrete manufacturing. It is the manufacturing of finished products that are distinct items capable of being easily counted or seen. Laptops, airplanes, smartphones are examples. It could also include component parts, including nuts, bolts, and brackets.

Process manufacturing

Process manufacturing, also referred to as continuous manufacturing, is a production line that operates 24/7. The aim of this production flow is to manufacture, produce, or process materials uninterrupted. It’s used across industries, including oil refining, power generation, and wastewater treatment.

Maintenance in a discrete manufacturing environment

Manufacturing is an essential component of gross domestic product. In the US alone it was $2.33 trillion in the year 2018. The machines that are used in most of these industries are custom made and costly. A breakdown in any single unit can lead to huge losses for an organization, making maintenance very important and beneficial. There are various challenges managers face while maintaining a discrete manufacturing facility, including:

  • Unreliable data
  • Unorganized inventory
  • Piled-up work orders
  • Unplanned and costly repairs

The role of a maintenance manager is to overcome these challenges. Now let’s see how maintenance managers can address these challenges.

Predictive maintenance

Manufacturers now predict the condition of equipment by performing continuous equipment condition monitoring. The ultimate goal of any manufacturer is to ensure cost-effective maintenance. To do so it’s important to perform maintenance before the company faces production loses.

Rather than just recording the current status of machinery, PdM makes it possible to forecast the machine’s future condition. Key to this innovation is the use of algorithms that combine data on the current condition of the machine, service life models, and sometimes parameters from the production ecosystem, such as surrounding temperatures, humidity, or service plans. This approach then uses principles of statistical process control to predict at what point maintenance will be needed.

A study by Roland Berger, VDMA and Deutsche Messe AG reveals that 81% of successful companies are currently devoting time and resources to this topic, while 40% already believe that mastering PdM will be particularly important for future business.

Digital transformation

Manufacturing companies know that digital transformation is essential for profitable growth. Adding digital capabilities to maintenance presents excellent opportunities for manufacturers to conduct maintenance. “Smart” machines are able to establish their own maintenance schedule or even initiate their replacement at the right time to prevent costly outages.

Using computerized maintenance management software (also known as facility management software) helps organizations reduce the number of hard copies of data. Also, these maintenance management solutions have mobile capabilities, allowing technicians to access maintenance-related information anytime, anywhere.

Spare parts are essential to conducting maintenance operations. CMMS software recognizes this and offers ways to automate the purchasing. Bar code and quick response code capabilities provide opportunities to improve cataloging, preventing misordering or mismanagement, which in turn reduces inventory, unnecessary deliveries, and downtime.

Maintenance in a process manufacturing environment

Special considerations are needed while planning maintenance in plants that necessarily operate around the clock. Let us consider chemical plants: much of the maintenance work here can only be done while the plant is shut down. Usually, such shutdowns are expensive. When the plant has to be shut down because of emergency maintenance, costs are even higher because most in-process products are lost. How can maintenance managers streamline their maintenance program in the process manufacturing environment?

Comprehensive asset intelligence

Knowing the history of the equipment, and having immediate access to that information, is a vital element of effective maintenance in process industries. Consider the polymer process, for example. If the reactor agitator goes down, the polymer can harden inside the reactor. If the polymer hardens, it can take up to two to three days to have the reactor cleaned. All of this will ultimately result in higher maintenance and cleaning costs.

However, with the help of the Internet of Things (IoT), we can add wireless sensors to machines and then the data from these sensors can be interpreted and analyzed, to help users save energy, improve reliability, and increase output. By 2020, healthcare and process industries are projected to invest $15B each in IoT.

Condition monitoring

It is an innovative technique used to monitor the condition of equipment to give an advanced warning of failure. It revolves around predictive maintenance principles, which is a proactive way of fixing assets before they breakdown. Equipment condition monitoring has recently gained increased significance as companies are focusing more on asset utilization and increasing productivity.

Studies have proven that a well-implemented maintenance strategy that utilizes condition monitoring can reduce maintenance costs by 30-40%, increases the lifespan of equipment, and provide accurate KPIs. Maintenance managers need to pre-define a physical measurement which will then indicate the deterioration of the asset. Any upward or downward trend can be monitored easily and taken as an indication that a problem exists.

Next steps

Not having a proper maintenance strategy can have a large, detrimental impact on the bottom line, and companies are always looking for new ways to improve. The key is finding new sources of data that can be leveraged into more efficient maintenance schedules. Thanks to new technologies, maintenance departments have more ways to monitor equipment, and some equipment can even monitor itself. Implementing a CMMS is the first step to getting all this new data into one place, where it can be kept safe and accessible. Check out Reapon for more insights.

Once a reliable system in place, you can start to leverage it.

About The Author

Jonathan Davis

Jonathan has been covering asset management, maintenance software, and SaaS solutions since joining Hippo CMMS. Prior to that, he wrote for textbooks and video games.
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