Equipment design, quality control, skilled labor — the list of essentials for efficient food manufacturing is
long. But many managers don’t fully consider one factor that arguably has as much
to do with production efficiency as any
other variable: equipment maintenance.
The food industry faces challenges that
make equipment maintenance uniquely
critical. With new food products coming
to market faster and more frequently than
ever before, CPG companies must constantly add or modify equipment; this imperative
strains maintenance staffs who must keep
equipment running despite the changes.
Also, food production technology continues to evolve. Nearly two-thirds of food
processing plants are more than 20 years
old — and the cost of keeping up with
production advancements is causing food
manufacturers to invest more in capital
equipment than nearly any other industry.
Lean manufacturing and other continuous improvement disciplines are finding
their way into more food manufacturing operations than ever before, placing
huge emphasis on machine maintenance.
Production standards and tolerances are
also impacted by external mandates, not
only from state and federal regulations but
also industry standards like the Global Food
Safety Initiative (GFSI) and FSSC 22000.
On the business side, large CPG companies insist on consistent quality across their
plants, large and small — while smaller
manufacturers need to keep up with their
competitors. Finally, production operations
are continually impacted by mergers and
acquisitions that force frequent changes in
Amid all these challenges, food manufacturers must keep their equipment running smoothly, efficiently, within tight standards, and without expensive downtime.
So important is maintenance to profitable
operation, in fact, that it helps to frame the
issue not simply as maintenance but as an
“equipment reliability program”— a term
that much better captures its true value.
An equipment reliability strategy is the
result of a series of steps that identify, pri-oritize, and execute those tasks needed to
keep a production facility operating at peak
efficiency at minimal cost. The first step is
to identify the critical equipment; while it
may appear that every machine is important, in all manufacturing operations there
are constraining machines that, if offline,
will cause major production slowdowns
or even stoppages. Equipment should be
ranked in order of criticality, with those at
the top receiving highest emphasis in terms
of upkeep, quality checks, failure analysis,
and repair or replacement parts.
Next is an evaluation of the existing
maintenance program. The evaluation
should identify all procedures, including parts programs, recordkeeping, and
workflows that support the maintenance
effort. Special emphasis should be placed
on work orders for the repair or replacement of key items that can bring down a
machine. Maintenance staff should check
these records each month; if failures to
these machines are still occurring, it could
be a sign that orders aren’t being placed or
addressed in a timely manner.
Once the inventory tasks are complete,
it’s time to consider a comprehensive main-
tenance approach. There are three primary
ways to approach equipment maintenance:
Run-to-Failure, Preventive Maintenance
and Predictive Maintenance. The first, Run-
if the cost of maintenance is greater than
the cost of unexpected failure. More often,
however, a combination of preventive and
predictive programs are warranted.
Preventive Maintenance (PM) represents
the time-directed approach to reliability. It
mandates inspection, diagnostics, service,
and parts replacement according to well-planned and timely schedules. Because PM
is schedule-based, it works especially well
in food manufacturing. For example, where
multiple processing lines are coupled with
packaging/filling lines that are run intermittently, there are natural opportunities for PM
when such lines are not in operation.
It’s important to note that because PM
calls for work to be done by schedule, it
may result in tasks that are executed where
wear has not occurred. Production is often
slowed due to drops in consumer demand
or other business reasons, yet maintenance
staffs continue to service equipment on
original schedules. Also, PM may take technicians away from equipment that is close
to, or experiencing failure.
Predictive Maintenance (PdM), in contrast
to PM, is the condition-directed approach.
It relies on sensors and asset performance
management software to identify maintenance issues before problems occur. PdM is
especially important in places where equipment downtime is unacceptable, where
risks to product quality are imminent, and
where replacement costs are high.
Predictive Maintenance also can result
Equipment Maintenance: Food
Manufacturing’s Secret Ingredient
By Heather Betts, Maintenance Site Manager for Advanced Technology Services