There’s a philosophy in the field of facility maintenance known as “running to fail,” or RTF. Essentially, it means operating your equipment to the point of failure, with little in the way of preventive maintenance or planned downtime.
We’ve already written about why this is a bad idea, and how a program of preventive maintenance can help reduce downtime, expenses, and other waste. Building on those basics, it’s time to put the knowledge into practice with effective maintenance planning and scheduling.
An organized regime of maintenance planning and scheduling will bring new levels of stability and control to your facility’s operations. You’ll no longer find yourself constantly “fighting fires.” That is, instead of reacting to problems as they happen, scrambling to find a solution or track down an expensive, probably impossible-to-find replacement part, you can stop potential problems before they happen with proper maintenance planning and scheduling.
If you’re not already planning and scheduling maintenance of your equipment, there’s no better time to start than now. As a facilities manager, you should have equipment manuals that will provide the necessary information for maintaining each piece of machinery in your workplace (or you can find them online). Recommendations for monitoring, maintaining, and repairing equipment are usually provided by the manufacturer, and you’ll be able to construct a schedule to conduct preventive maintenance based on several different metrics.
Whether you’re giving a machine a tune-up after a certain date, amount of running hours, or miles driven, maintenance planning and scheduling will keep your equipment functioning in optimal condition.
Downtime is expensive no matter when it occurs, but planned downtime to repair minor problems is certainly preferable to a disastrous unplanned shutdown. Meet with your Maintenance and Production teams to coordinate when this downtime will occur and how to make the most of it.
A well-implemented computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) is the lifeblood of most modern plants and facilities. CMMS software places vast amounts of data at your fingertips and will allow you to create a set of well-thought-out, standardized procedures for maintenance planning and scheduling.
Remember the “fire fighting” we discussed earlier? A work-request submission system can be used to gather and analyze data on all the critical, unplanned repair work currently flowing in. Once it’s analyzed, you’ll have a more informed understanding of your equipment’s recurring problems. You can then start creating preventive maintenance orders to handle these issues before they become “fires.”
For example, let’s say you’ve been changing a vital key bearing every seven or eight months. Since you’re not properly planning and scheduling maintenance, every time the part fails you find yourself in emergency mode. Production is shut down until you can locate the part and replace it, resulting in expensive downtime that could have easily been avoided.
Instead, use your CMMS program to schedule this replacement for every six months. Routine maintenance like this may be laborious in the short term, but it’s well worth it in the long haul.
If you really want to expand your efforts and unlock the next level of efficiency, you might consider hiring a specialist: the Planner / Scheduler. They’ll be your permanent Maintenance representative in Production meetings, coordinating maintenance work with production downtime to maximize the potential of your newly-formed plans and schedules.
In addition to more effective coordination between your teams, a dedicated specialist will be devoted to the maintenance team’s workload full-time, planning and scheduling accordingly while freeing you to focus on other important issues. You may be able to handle maintenance planning and scheduling on your own, but the best way to address an issue is to have someone focused on it, dedicated to it, and responsible for it. You don’t have to go it alone.
Whether you’re using a CMMS program, an outside specialist, or even reading this blog, there are countless resources out there to aid in the pursuit of an efficient, productive, and well-maintained facility.