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Clear strategies and processes fundamental to effective maintenance

The correct implementation of SKF’s Asset Efficiency Optimisation (AEO) plan combined with Proactive Reliability Maintenance (PRM) hardware and software will assist companies in realising a return on their investment by reducing Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF), extending equipment life, improving uptime, plant availability, production and profitability.

It is essential for companies to identify key business goals and set associated performance targets in order to remain competitive and profitable. “The overall objective in this effort should be to create a strategy aligned to business goals and then follow a well-defined process to drive down Total Cost of Ownership whilst maintaining or even increasing production time,” suggests SKF Asset Reliability Consultant, Greg Sassen.

Maintenance is usually seen as a necessary cost of doing business. No maintenance results in equipment failure, unplanned downtime and a drop in production levels,” continues Sassen. “However, one train of thought suggests that manufacturers could make a return on their investment in maintenance and even that maintenance should be seen as a profit centre.”

Implementing maintenance as a key part of overall strategy can improve profits by reducing the scourge of machine downtime. For maximum effect, maintenance should work in partnership with other elements of the business including engineering and production, to pinpoint how a reliability-focused maintenance process can deliver specific business goals.

Sassen recommends an integrated strategy and technology approach. “A strategy will ensure these programmes are implemented cohesively throughout a plant. SKF offers a new generation of integrated approaches that take the needs of the entire organisation into account. Once implemented, these strategies enable maintenance requirements to be analysed, assessed and managed simultaneously, raising uptime and productivity and improving the bottom line.”

“Investigation of maintenance procedures is a good starting point,” recommends Sassen. “Factory maintenance has historically been done reactively, linked to set time intervals, and machine or component failure, giving little control of production assets (people and machines) and drags productivity down”.

A more proactive, holistic approach offers better asset control, minimised unexpected downtime and boosted productivity. This is the basis of SKF’s AEO plan, a work management process structure that delivers maximum efficiency and effectiveness from activities focused on the overall business aim of the plant. The plan takes account of top-level business forecasting and system-wide analysis. It is a shift away from the reactive approach, to a selective mix of scheduled, proactive, predictive and reactive maintenance. It has in-built sustainability and provides rapid results and payback on investment.

A strategic tool like AEO helps a company to manage its assets more effectively – ensuring smooth running and minimum downtime across the entire plant. It boosts profitability by increasing output for the same cost, or maintaining output for less cost. There are four integrated elements to an AEO programme: maintenance strategy, work identification, work control, and work execution.

The maintenance strategy sets business goals and objectives, assesses plant criticality and risk, and defines the most important issues and priorities to ensure an effective maintenance plan that is tailored to the needs of the business and can be easily communicated throughout the organisation.

The second element is the identification of work, where critical plant information is gathered by relevant CBM equipment and analysed, allowing informed decisions to be made and the corrective maintenance operations to be carried out.

The third element, work control, involves detailed planning and scheduling of maintenance activity, taking into account timescales, man-hours, data feedback, and competence levels. Effective planning at this stage will fully optimise resources and plant efficiency.

The final element, work execution, sees all this planning and preparation carried out. Feedback is collected via post-maintenance testing and fed back into the maintenance system to ensure constant ‘fine tuning’ of the maintenance plan and a maximum return on investment.

PRM and asset care are closely linked. Maintenance is carried out under normal operating conditions which means that any potential faults or failures are detected and acted upon at an early stage avoiding the risk of major damage or downtime. This careful monitoring and measuring brings into play the three elements necessary for success; culture, process and technology.

Culture needs to stabilise as it is this complete understanding and adoption of PRM across the business that will enable accepted processes to alter and new technology to be implemented. New monitoring and analysis tools are only effective with trained operators or technicians.

In terms of process and technology stages, data collected by operators or technicians is uploaded onto shared software for analysis and to develop improvements. Only by understanding the causes and consequences of change can the benefits of the supporting technology be fully realised. Short term effects are better run equipment, less occasions for repair and a lower energy bill with longer term gains centred on a more transparent cultural environment, with regular interdepartmental collaboration.

SKF in the UK and Ireland has 16 strategically placed locations, which includes nine manufacturing sites (three bearings and six machined seals). The number of employees was 984, and there are over 400 distributor locations. www.skf.co.uk

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