Preventive maintenance is truly the holy grail for production flows – that is how important it is. In this blog article, I will describe why you should always be one step ahead with the maintenance of your production lines. I will also share a few tips and tricks on how to avoid unexpected breakdowns using a come-in-handy checklist for preventive maintenance.
What is preventive maintenance?
First of all, let us sort out what preventive maintenance actually is. Preventive maintenance can be described as a planned systematic inspection and maintenance of already installed equipment to avoid errors or breakdowns. When it comes to production lines, it usually involves machine and conveyors as well as robots and automation.
Why preventive maintenance for production lines is important
Now you may think: the more robots and automation in a production flow, the less need for maintenance. And this is somewhat true. However, preventive maintenance is still necessary to identify misalignments in advance – before there even are defects or deviations in your production lines. If your equipment is kept in good condition, chances are higher that you will avoid unexpected breakdowns and, never the less, the consequences that follow.
Ignoring preventive maintenance can lead to negative consequences
Unexpected breakdown can cause significant economic losses and damages to your entire production. When equipment is not properly aligned, the quality of the handling of products is lowered, putting them at risk of getting damaged as they are transported throughout the production line. Product damage is both time-consuming and impacts production efficiency as well as profitability. When the production doesn’t reach set targets because of product damage, batches have to be rescheduled. This may involve late deliveries and not being able to meet customer demands. Worst case, it leads to unhappy customers, which in turn, leads to brand damage and lost sales. Moreover, discarded scrap has an adverse impact on the environment.
The advantages of preventive maintenance for production lines
To sum it up, as a production manager you have a lot to win by carrying out preventive maintenance: optimized production flows, minimised risk for unplanned stops, improved line availability, increased likelihood of reaching a higher Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) as well as throughput, less wearing of equipment, reduced cost, reduced product damage, reduced noise levels, minimised risk of negative impact on the environment due to discarded scrap, safer production as well as safer working environment for staff – the list goes on!
Checklist for carrying out preventive maintenance correctly
As a production manager, you obviously carry a big responsibility for running your production as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Of course, the more experience of mechanical and project related issues you and your operators have, the more likely you are to carry out inspections correctly and address as well as correct potential problems. To help you further and ease the multiple steps of preventive maintenance, I have compiled a checklist with a few tips and tricks that might come in handy when it is time for inspection of your conveyor systems.
- Start off by examining visible surfaces and components. Are the conveyor belts and chains intact? Can you see any damages to slide rails, guides, shafts, bearings, sprockets, brackets or side guards? Changing slide rails in time prevents damages on profiles and chains, reduces friction, minimizes tensile force as well as stick-slip, and reduces noise levels. Changing chains in time prevents the chains from breaking, lowers friction, minimizes tensile force and running noise. Changing guides in time protects the hooks in the return chains and reduces rattle. Make sure to address potential damages and replace worn out components wherever necessary.
- Do the conveyor belts maintain their desired paths? If a conveyor belt has not been correctly cut and joined, which is sometimes the case when delivered from the factory, it may result in miss-tracking. Conveyor belts should always be centered on the conveyor bed, in the middle of the rollers. Make sure conveyor beds are not out of level or square. Also, check and adjust rollers so that they are parallel with each other and perpendicular to the belt.
- Are the conveyor belts running properly with products? A conveyor belt can run perfectly fine without products, but once the products, especially heavy weight ones, are placed on the conveyor belt, it can start to move sideways. If the conveyor belt skids against a fixed point, heat from friction may occur and, worst case, the conveyor belt starts melting (if made of plastic materials). Therefore, always make sure to adjust the conveyor belts both with and without products.
- Are the conveyor belts and chains clean? Cleanliness is always crucial, but some conveyor belts are more sensitive to hygiene than others, especially belts transporting food. It is extremely important to sanitize the chains and belts as well as all components that regularly come in contact with the products. This will prevent bacteria from accumulating in possible irregularities and cracks. Dirt and pollutants entering belts can lead to contamination of the products. By cleaning belts, chains and components in time, it is possible to avoid contamination and also minimize undesired friction and stick-slip. Hence, check for any damages and make sure your conveyor is flawless and clean.
How often should I inspect of my production lines?
How often you should inspect your production lines depends on a number of factors such as application, production environment, the type of products being transported on the conveyors, the stress on the conveyors, repeatability of machines and components and how often your production lines are running. Some products require extreme production environments (such as extremely high or low temperatures), are extremely heavy (such as automotive products) or contain hazardous chemicals. Consequently, these put certain demands on the production lines as well as on the frequency of inspections.
Technology providing info about conveyor status and wear indications
As concluded, in a flow-based production facility, any downtime of any step in the process will disrupt the entire fulfillment engine of your production flow. Therefore, your conveyor lines need to be geared for preventive maintenance. Technology that provides information about conveyor status and wear indications can help you reduce unplanned downtime. The ability to monitor the overall flow of a facility in real time is a powerful tool for efficiency and uptime.
Make life easy
Of course, FlexLink can help you optimize your production flows. Materials, design, wear and operator convenience are key factors in our product development, maximizing the uptime of our systems. We are also developing new features for predictive maintenance that will reduce unexpected downtime even further.
We carry out preventive maintenance as well as service inspections. Or do you have your own maintenance personnel? We offer training programs that are both practical as well as theoretical. We can visit your production site and hold the training close to your installations, or we can offer training at your local FlexLink office – you decide!
I hope you found this blog article useful and helpful. What do you think is the biggest pain points when it comes to preventive maintenance? Or for that part, what you think are the main advantages? Let me know in the comments!