Have you ever stopped in at one of the many “10-minute” or “quick” oil change locations? If so, you’ve heard and seen the service technicians there execute a good, basic example of “precision maintenance.”
Above and below your car, they work down a list of very well established procedures—open the hood, check the fluid levels and call them off, open the oil pan bolt to drain the old oil, remove the old oil filter . . . and so on. Then, they install the new filter, reinstall the oil pan bolt, put in the correct amount of oil and, before long, you’re on your way.
The process is very scripted, almost automatic, and every step is communicated and acknowledged. The idea behind the process is that every technician “goes by the book” and does every step of every oil change in the same, predictable way, than every customer is going to have the same successful result.
Why do you need precision maintenance?
Good question. So what does “precision maintenance” mean for maintenance technicians who work with plastics processing machinery?
Simply put, it describes an approach where all of the maintenance actions that technicians perform are done in identical, precise, and repeatable ways, according to measurable, defined standards.
Precision maintenance was first developed by organizations that require the highest levels of equipment uptime and reliability, such as NASA or the U.S. Navy, and has since spread to many organizations whose equipment is mission critical.
Plastics processors need and benefit from precision maintenance because it can dramatically improve equipment reliability and uptime.
How does precision maintenance work?
The goal of precision maintenance is to enable maintenance technicians to “up their game”—and ultimately improve plastic processing equipment uptime—by routinely adhering to a defined set of maintenance specifications and measurements for all of their maintenance actions.
Think of it as a quality assurance process that explains, promotes, and enforces “best practices” on every job. When consistently used, precision maintenance eliminates maintenance “variances” that can cause equipment failure and downtime.
Typical requirements/standards for a precision maintenance program might include:
- Using the correct tools, in proper working condition and calibrated to complete tasks precisely
- Using quality, in-spec replacement parts
- Ensuring correct fits and tolerances, torques and tensions for all components
- Ensuring the presence of clean, contaminant-free lubrication in all equipment
- Ensuring that all equipment has a low level of total machine vibration
- Ensuring accurate shaft alignment and precise balancing of rotating parts
- Ensuring that proper equipment operating temperatures are maintained
- Ensuring that root causes of failures are identified and eliminated
- Systematically defining and applying all standards
To maintenance professionals, all of these requirements might seem obvious—except, perhaps, for the last one. Precision maintenance depends, as it says, on systematic definition and application of standards, with adherence and consistency defined through the use of common techniques and measurements. This is a vital point.
Let me explain further. No maintenance technician would ever say that he or she doesn’t know the difference between clean or dirty lubricant, that they can’t measure operating temperatures, or that they don’t know how to torque a fastener. However, in the absence of defined standards or measures for completing a job, people will do the same job differently.
This is where defining your standards comes in. As soon as you can create standards, all of your technicians can begin doing things the same way. Because defining all of the requirements and standards you might need takes time, start with a couple of the more common ones, such as ensuring clean lubrication and maintaining proper operating temperatures to get the ball rolling.
Start with the basics: Training maintenance personnel
Another of the key building blocks of a precision maintenance program is individual training in essential maintenance skills and techniques, including:
- Assembly skills
- Measuring and adjusting torques
- Measuring vibration
- Providing proper and adequate lubrication
- Ensuring proper fits, alignments, and balances upon assembly and at normal operating temperatures
- Understanding basic schematics
- Troubleshooting techniques and best practices
Of course, if you announce training like this, some of your maintenance colleagues and personnel are going to say that they “know” how to do these things. And, as noted above, that is always true to a point. But once you get underway, everyone is going to find out that “they didn’t know what they didn’t know”.
And that’s when your team might just get on board with you, recognizing the value of accurate and current knowledge of equipment, common tools and measurement methods, and common processes for performing and completing a task. You start with the basics, and work from there.
Identify the high-maintenance equipment
To start a precision maintenance effort, I would recommend you begin with “low-hanging fruit.”
If your plant and equipment are typical, there are always a few pieces of equipment – or a particular type – that tends to fail more often or need more frequent work.
Here are three steps you can take to prioritize equipment and get started with a precision maintenance program for your facility:
- Systematically evaluate, measure, and define key characteristics of the equipment and its problems.
- Use this information to put a plan together of the correct parts, tools, procedures, and standards.
- Then create a schedule by which you maintain, diagnose, and repair that equipment.
By following these three steps, you’re bound to identify issues you hadn’t considered. And then precision maintenance will begin to work for you, helping you restore that equipment to a level of performance you had not thought possible.
Checklists & Templates to Get Started
Conair offers free, downloadable routine maintenance checklists and detailed preventive maintenance templates, for most types of auxiliary equipment, including:
- Temperature Control Units
- Pump Tanks
Conair also offers turnkey maintenance programs, including comprehensive MachineHealth™ equipment assessments – everything a processor needs to maintain high uptime and optimal production!