Fixing a machine over and over again can be frustrating — yet the same piece of equipment often requires constant attention. What can you do as a maintenance supervisor when you have industrial repair needs that mean fixing the same machine repeatedly? Other industries can teach us about the industry we’re in if we open our eyes and look. So what can the farm industry teach us about reoccurring machine failure? You can sometimes fix the most frustrating problems by going back to basics.
- Oops, I missed. It’s easy to miss small parts and locations away from main production areas in maintenance routines. It’s easy to overlook little parts or out-of-sight places with moving parts that you need to inspect, clean, and lubricate. Make sure to inspect every machine area during routine maintenance.
- Don’t wait any longer. You may actually need to replace parts that you keep “maintaining” if you have to do more maintenance to keep things running. If you clean machines based on recommended procedures as well as oil and lube at all the right times and places — but your machine keeps breaking down — you likely need to replace a part. Do it now instead of waiting until later. One part operating improperly can create a chain reaction on other parts, motors, and hydraulics that rely on its operation.
- You aren’t fixing the problem. Machines are systems, and sometimes, when you make one piece run more efficiently, the entire system benefits. When you replace or fix one part, it can help the situation — but the machine might have multiple undetected problems. Fixing one issue of many could make other problems “disappear” for a while because the fix might compensate for other issues. But this is a ticking time bomb. A hydraulic engineering repair service professional might focus on repairing one pump or piston aspect, but that might only be a part of the problem. Bottom line: You should do a thorough inspection when a breakdown occurs to ensure you aren’t focused on a single issue when more might be at play.
- Electrical connections can be finicky. Connections can loosen or become dirty or damaged. Reconnecting wires that seem loose may temporarily create enough connection for the machine to run for a while, but issues beyond connection points may be causing problems.
- Run machines like you rent instead of own. If you run a machine consistently at maximum capacity, the machine is going to wear out faster. Improper training associated with machine handling can also be an issue with an impact on reliability. Someone who grinds gears, shuts down equipment improperly, or otherwise isn’t trained to use equipment appropriately can unknowingly cause equipment breakdowns. Another thing to check: You may need to recalibrate machines for different uses.
- Don’t wait too long. At the first sign of an issue, you should stop and identify the problem. Don’t push through until this last order or job is finished — or you could incur more damage. Losing pressure in hydraulic systems, overheating engines, and waiting too long to address issues can create more extensive damage and machine weakness. Waiting to fix a problem can come back to haunt you later.
- Watch for misalignments. Extra tension and spinning on the wrong threads can cause wear and tear that wouldn’t normally occur there. It’s easy to repeatedly make the same misalignment mistake on the same machine. A motor that’s been in service for a long time may have several areas where misalignment is impacting performance and causing breakdowns.
- Clean properly. Dust and dirt can impact sensitive parts. If you get a foreign object stuck in a moving part — even if it’s a small particle — it can impact performance. Every shutdown presents opportunities for cleaning, lubrication, filling, and more, so schedule accordingly.
It may sound simple, but it’s true: When you have the same machine breaking down repeatedly, you’ve likely not identified all the problems or the breakdown cause to begin with. Identify the right cause and fix all problems to prevent reoccurring breakdowns.