Your factory’s approach to maintenance is similar to setting up a row of dominoes. Each step you take toward keeping a machine running properly is another domino set up in the sequence. Over time, more and more actions equate to more and more dominoes, creating an entire maintenance sequence that goes all the way back to the beginning. And while setting up these dominoes might be easy enough, being careless even once has the potential to create a very serious chain reaction.
Let’s topple a domino and see what happens, just for fun.
A simple mistake
For the purposes of this example, we’ll look at a very simple oversight and track all the ripple effects that may spawn from it. Along the way, we’ll also note where the costs pile up.
The mistake? Forgetting to properly lubricate bearings on a piece of machinery. Let’s watch what happens in a worst-case scenario as the dominoes topple:
- First, the bearing itself will fail. This causes immediate downtime and incurs several costs right off the bat — namely, the cost of replacing the damaged bearing if that part isn’t immediately on hand.
- For as long as the machine is nonfunctional, you’re also losing potential revenue it may have generated. In addition to the revenue loss, this situation puts strain on your other machinery to pick up the slack as you attempt to mitigate the loss.
- A potential for damage to peripheral components also exists. Not lubricating a bearing may also cause friction damage to another part, requiring another cost to replace that part.
- Going beyond the machine itself, you need to consider quality control issues stemming from inconsistent machine operation. The bearing likely didn’t fail spontaneously, which means potentially dealing with inferior results while the machine was struggling to maintain function. Costs are incurred to correct defective products and in the form of general lost production capacity.
- If your in-house team can’t repair the damaged bearing, you may need to outsource the work. Here’s another cost that can be avoided with proper maintenance!
- You might even have liability costs to contend with if your maintenance is to blame for machinery failure. If a bearing failure injures a nearby operator, costs can range from workers’ compensation to injury payouts. It’s a worst-case scenario to be sure, but not unheard of.
The many compounding costs that can stem from a single maintenance oversight are astounding and can range even far beyond these examples. In any case, the cost of repairs will outweigh the cost of maintenance — making any unscheduled repair something you should strive to avoid.
How do mistakes happen?
The trouble with avoiding simple mistakes like the one illustrated here is that there are so many opportunities for them to occur. Improperly filling out a maintenance log, poor quality of maintenance, problems with automation, environmental stressors, and much more can all derail even the best maintenance plan.
Keeping mistakes to a minimum is imperative, and it starts with keen attention by maintenance techs. Routine, thorough, qualitative inspections of machinery; rigid maintenance practices; operator-driven reliability programs; and more promote accountability and transparency. Identifying common mistakes is the first step in preventing them.