Breakdown Maintenance and Unscheduled breakdowns

Breakdown Maintenance is referred to repair and maintenance work performed on a machine, production plant or component, be it mechanical or electrical after it has failed or broken-down unexpectedly. It is also referred to as maintenance or engineering work related to unforseen plant breakdowns. It is not a planned event and as such can cost the factory lost production and sales as well as other expenses such as out of budget maintenance costs including overtime, technician call outs and urgent delivery fees for spare parts or support.

Maintenance breakdowns can have many causes, some being the result of improper preventive and long term maintenance planning, lack of plant inspections, lack or incorrect evaluation of stresses and load cycles on machinery, faulty design and materials and in some cases neglect.

A proper maintenance plan, correct documentation, record keeping and maintenance execution at the correct intervals usually aids the maintenance or engineering department to eliminate the majority of unforseen breakdowns.

Unforseen plant breakdowns can be classified as a form of waste in the lean manufacturing system as they waste both time and resources . This indirectly costs the business financially as budgeted maintenance costs are used for unforseen costs and work as well as lost production which is lost revenue for the business. It is therefore important to eliminate or reduce breakdown maintenance to minimal levels to maximize production output and operational costs.

How to reduce Unscheduled breakdowns and reduce breakdown maintenance costs

Moving away from breakdown maintenance or reactive maintenance takes both time and a change in culture of the operations and engineering team. In many smaller businesses with little exposure to efficient planning and engineering practices, breakdown maintenance is the only maintenance “style” or system the team understands or has practiced. Changing this culture and method of work will take commitment from the highest levels of the business to the production and maintenance technicians that work in the factory every day.

A common starting point is to think about the airline industry, where preventive maintenance is the only maintenance system acceptable by the industry and the consumer. Would it be acceptable to wait until a wing component has failed to replace it? What would be the consequences? This is the type of thinking that needs to be introduced to the maintenance and the production teams, as they are the individuals that detect problems while the plant and machinery is in operation.

Another initial action would also be for the plant manager and maintenance manager to evaluate the unforseen breakdowns in the entire production plant, or depending on size the most business critical or breakdown prone area of the plant. An initial analysis can include the last three to six months of breakdowns and plant failures which resulted in production downtimeproduction downtime of more than one hour. Most minor issues should be able to be rectified within an hour in most cases. The area or machine with the largest share of production downtime hours should be the focus of the maintenance team. An interesting analysis which can be done in parallel is to quantify the actual cost of the unforseen breakdowns to the business in this area.

Once the priority area or plant item has been defined the following questions or items should be reviewed and rectified about the plant in question. This will help the area transition from a reactive breakdown maintenance approach to a preventive mode:

- Is the machine or plant item in question operating within its design capacity and load?

For example a conveyor belt may be running overloaded or with an incorrect belt for the application

- Is there a fault in the design of the machine or plant?

For example the conveyor was purchased from an economical source which has substandard bearings and large distance between the load bearing rolls

- Is there an engineering drawing for the machine or plant which has frequent breakdowns? Are all parts or components also correctly specified in the drawing

- Is there information about the plant and spare parts that will enable quick look up, ordering and cost budgeting for maintenance work?

For example well run maintenance departments will have a complete catalogue of all plant, machinery and spare parts which will have identifying component numbers, drawings, supplier or manufacturer, and pricing information including lead time.

- Is there a lubrication and inspection schedule for the plant or machine? In some cases a maintenance or production team member will be allocated inspection ownership of an area

- Are spare parts for this plant area or machine available in the parts store or workshop? Is it economical to purchase and store spare parts for this plant, do suppliers have maintenance support and spare parts services?

- Is the plant kept in a clean and good working order each day? Early wear on machine components is sometimes due to poor housekeeping standards

- Are auxiliary systems to plant in good working order?

For example generators and compressors need large cooling systems and fans to keep them from overheating during long working hours. These can also be temperature, humidity, pressure and speed controls.

- Is the maintenance history available for this plant or area? When was the last preventive maintenance carried out on the machine or plant?

- Does the maintenance staff knows how to maintain or fix the plant or machine, is specialists skills needed?

Reviewing and ensuring the correct solutions for the issues above are in place will better prepare the maintenance and engineering team to first improve the reliability of the plant and machine in focus, and then enable a more preventive maintenance routine to be established. In our experience this can also be a a large task or even project, depending on the state of the plant and size. It is best to select a small high priority area first to realistically achieve sustainable results.

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