Achieving near-zero downtime with preventative maintenance and condition monitoring

Few things eat into manufacturing profitability as significantly as unplanned downtime incidents. Lost sales, machine start-up cost, premium-priced parts and idle labour are just some of the true downtime costs that start to build up the second the machine stops working. Add to this the cost of reputational damage and the interruption of supply to customers and it soon makes sense to implement all means possible to avoiding downtime.

Increasingly, manufacturing plants are adopting new ways of optimizing productivity by reducing or getting as close to zero downtime as possible.
Preventative maintenance and condition monitoring procedures are designed to avoid breakdowns entirely and are gaining more ground recently because of the reliability and accuracy of machine data and measurement instrumentation.
Advances in software development, network integrity, test and measurement technologies have all contributed to reducing cost and complexity in this area of production management.

Gathering machine data over time will help plan and foresee downtime much more accurately, allowing operations managers and IT to predict failures before they occur and plan maintenance schedules and part replacements while machines are offline. 

A preventative maintenance program will usually compose of up to 5 key areas, covering equipment, measurement, inspection, data management and action protocols. 
The cost and complexity of the program will always depend on the critical nature and cost of the machinery and or downtime impact.
Instruments for condition monitoring will look for variances in acoustics, vibrations, thermal output, motor current signatures and other areas, which help determine maintenance schedules and reactive steps needed to keep machinery running optimally. 
Upskilling full-time operators or maintenance staff for inspection or tackling emergency outage incidents can be costly, so outsourcing maintenance contracts to a third party with up-to the minute skills, tools and resources, will reduce labour and overhead costs.

At Power and Water Corporation’s Hudson Creek System Control facility, a service agreement with SAGE Automation meant the client had access to the industry’s very latest equipment, controls and documentation, significantly reducing their downtime risk and securing continuous generation and distribution of power across the Northern Territory.

This is only one example of how third party services, geared to provide for a broad range of industries can benefit industrial operations. To find out more about the advantages of having a Service Level Agreement, download this free whitepaper

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