What is efficiency? How can it be achieved? These two questions are common in most manufacturing plants. The questions seem simple enough but have plagued maintenance departments, production coordinators and supply chain supervisors for years. To answer these questions you must first figure out what efficiency means to your facility. There are three killers to efficiency that I run across at most manufacturers. Finding solutions for these areas might not completely bring order to a manufacturing plant, but it’s a good start.
Downtime can be one of the biggest killers to a facility and drive those in charge to the point of exhaustion. In a perfect world your equipment runs all the time. Sadly, we have come to realize that perfection is not attainable. What causes downtime? There are many factors; the first is inadequate power running through the plant. This could mean you have dirty power or not enough power to run the facility. It could also mean that there is too much power which can cause surges that knock out some of your equipment. Solutions to this issue can be as easy as having regulatory transformers or filters installed to keep the power constant. Secondly, dirty equipment can also cause unexpected downtime. Everything seems to be going smoothly until your biggest drive on your most productive line fails. Everything looks good from the outside but when was the last time you cleaned the inside of the unit? Preventative maintenance is very real and can save and enormous amount of time and money if you are willing to take the correct steps to implement a plan daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly. This is a necessity if your plant is in a dirty environment. Finally, downtime can be caused by human mishaps. Working on equipment you are not familiar with or touching your equipment with foreign objects can halt production. In an attempt to repair equipment on your own you can cause further damage, even when you are familiar with the equipment. This is especially true with electronics. When one unit fails it can cause a chain reaction of knocking out other equipment. The rule of thumb is to have the right professional handle the equipment; it can have you up and running quicker and without further failures.
Installing the wrong equipment is another way to ensure inefficiency in manufacturing. Are you using a lower horsepower drive because it saved you a few dollars despite what was recommended for the process? Piecing together a production line just to save a few bucks can be detrimental in the long run. Productivity can lag and expenses can increase greatly. Updating your equipment at the right time with the right voltage, horsepower, speed, torque and rpm can increase productivity and save money. Looking for solutions to production issues before they actually happen will allow you to make the right decisions when the problem presents itself. It’s important to spend the money now before something catastrophic occurs and everyone is pointing the finger at you. If you can think ahead like this the result will be fewer surprises. Expect the unexpected but be prepared when it happens. Though, this is easier said than done.
Have a clear defined goal and know who is responsible for things such as preventative maintenance, general maintenance, equipment choices and what to do in downtimes. Without this knowledge it can be devastating in times of need. Time spent trying to find who is at fault, is less time spent finding solutions. Have a mission as a department and follow through with that mission by delegating and outsourcing responsibilities to the appropriate people. Know who the final decision maker. Being knowledgeable will help alleviate those surprises that can cripple a production facility. Working the right plan and coming together as a team is vital to your success as a department. When everyone’s responsibilities are clearly defined it will make for a happier work environment which will motivate employees to take responsibility for their part. Fewer headaches mean more production.
Efficiency can be attained and maintained. It can be stressful figuring out the best processes and plans for your specific facility and industry, achieving a smooth running facility take planned effort. There is no better time than now to start the implementation of strategy for improving efficiency. Downtime, installing the wrong types of equipment and not working together can be avoided if you conquer the right methods and actions for accomplishing the common goal of keeping your facility operating with minimal failures and downtime. Think ahead, have a plan and work smarter these efforts will pay off in a much more efficient production.
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