Plant Optimization – 5 Maintenance Manager Tips for Optimizing Production Assets

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How to get the most out of equipment and machinery

Companies invest large budgets in various equipment and machinery that become the backbone of a production or processing facility. To get the most out of these assets, they must be in perfect working order throughout their life cycle. It is in the best interest of the management team to achieve the ultimate goal of asset optimization and to get the most out of a plant’s capital resources. Here are five tips for optimizing production assets:

Tip #1 – Embrace change

Since the pandemic hit, service providers and consumers have quickly realized that adaptability is essential for the continued supply of essential public services. Manufacturers have had to embrace changes in respecting safety, product innovation and maintaining the supply chain. Industries have had to transform the way they work to continue to meet the needs of their customers. Plant asset management must remain optimal and productive while navigating through changes in operations.

The Water Quality Association, for example, noted that many members have become even busier than usual, given the increase in demand from residential consumers. In addition to minimizing equipment downtime, managing staff schedules has become equally essential to ensure factories are running at full capacity.

There is also a virtual component to embracing change. Networks and communication channels are now considered critical equipment, in addition to the more conventional assets of a manufacturing plant. The same traditional asset availability management and optimization practices apply to communications devices. Communication disruptions today can also be a catalyst for unplanned downtime.

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Tip #2 – Develop a proactive maintenance strategy

Unplanned downtime estimated to cost industrial manufacturers 50 billion dollars per year. In addition to operational losses, any interruption in the supply of essential public services can have a direct impact on the actual experience of consumers. To increase reliability and ensure asset optimization, facilities must move away from a reactive approach to maintenance.

At a high level, reactive maintenance refers to performing maintenance tasks on equipment only after a noticeable event has already occurred. Depending on the extent of the damage found, a reactive approach may result in a major repair, or worse, the complete replacement of the equipment. On the other hand, a proactive approach aims to maintain the equipment before any noticeable deterioration.

In practice, a proactive approach requires focusing on processes to collect and analyze relevant data. For example, investing in technology to digitally monitor water quality is becoming increasingly common. Real-time data on water quality and flow conditions allow maintenance teams to react instantly to patterns. Predictive maintenance becomes a viable maintenance strategy by taking historical data patterns that can illustrate future trends.

A proactive maintenance strategy aims to detect collective cases of deterioration that eventually lead to failure. A proactive approach to maintenance reduces equipment downtime by eliminating failure factors.

Tip #3 – Explore the tools available for asset optimization

While collecting massive amounts of data is a crucial step for asset optimization, it is by no means the end of the journey. To get the most out of their data, companies need to receive it in an easily digestible and usable form. The good news is that several tools available aim to make sense of all the available information.

The Internet of Things (IoT) has made communication between devices more seamless than ever. Interconnection between physically separate products has opened the doors to advanced software that brings everything together.

For example, computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) integrate all maintenance activities and assets into a central system. CMMS software allows teams to track upcoming maintenance activities and monitor the progress of ongoing tasks.

Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) is another program that takes a more holistic approach to asset management. It takes advantage of the devices’ ability to communicate to gather data about a machine’s conditions. By monitoring performance analytics, alongside information about the cost of an asset, companies can track the valuable work an asset is doing. In turn, a facility gains valuable insights to identify ways to optimize its assets.

Tip #4 – Identify the KPIs that matter

Facilities will typically develop initiatives to optimize the use of their assets. As with any other business venture, leadership teams need to have a way to quantify and describe success. Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are measures that define the criteria for effectiveness. They also highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the overall strategy.

An example of an indicator related to the efficiency of plant optimization is the measurement of operating cost savings. This metric can be used with investment costs for projects that lead to plant optimization. The result is a measure of return on investment. The same idea can be applied to measure returns from the acquisition of new assets that have increased the production capacity of the facility.

Another relevant KPI in asset optimization is the number of applicable sustainable practices in the end-to-end process. Durability generally has a reputation for incurring additional costs. However, its general idea is ultimately to use resources efficiently. Setting a goal for sustainable practices can improve the bottom line while literally helping to make the world a better place.

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Tip #5 – Promote a culture of continuous improvement

Plant optimization is not a one-time project that would instantly solve all of a facility’s wasteful practices. Rather, it is a long-term process of identifying opportunities for improvement. Management teams need to apply a broad view of the process, involving the right people. Getting support from all levels and departments of the company goes a long way in fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

For starters, it’s helpful for employees to be aware of all ongoing plant asset management initiatives. Training modules and knowledge sharing sessions can kick-start the process by spreading the word. With the availability of modern methods, training is no longer limited to classroom or instructor-led courses. Computer-based or virtual learning can reach a wider audience in a more flexible way.

Of course, providing training and acquiring learning are two different things. Depending on the level of detail in a session, some tracks may be more easily appreciated than others. It then becomes a balance between finding value in knowledge sharing and spending resources to communicate an initiative.

Conclusion

There will always be room for improving optimization practices in a society that depends on a finite amount of resources. When working with critical goods and services, asset optimization not only emphasizes the importance of being profitable, but also ensures that suppliers have the ability to meet consumer needs.

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