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Recipe for uptime and cost control

03 June 2021

With downtime in the food processing sector estimated to cost on average £180,000 per hour, machinery must be maintained in a way that minimises both downtime and costs. Chris van den Belt summarises the challenges and how an Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system can address them

Research for the Ultimo 2020 EAM Trend Report showed that the biggest concerns for asset managers in the food sector are uptime, followed by cost control and health, safety and the environment (HSE).

While improvements in asset uptime may increase productivity, they should not be achieved by excessive spending on maintenance. An appropriate balance, through careful cost control, is needed. Even where considerable effort is made to maintain assets, a lack of strategy, organisation or well-founded decision-making can reduce effectiveness.

Making sense of data

Lack of data on which to base sound maintenance plans and decisions is another basic problem. At the same time, increasing levels of digitalisation are generating large amounts of useful operational data that is not being used to improve maintenance and uptime. The speed, efficiency and effectiveness of maintenance work can also be limited by failure to take advantage of mobile technology and remote connectivity solutions.

Risks to maintaining cost control begin with lack of information, along with the use of outdated methods such as spreadsheets or, worse still, paper-based systems for tracking maintenance-related data. These approaches lead to inconsistencies and error that translate into poor cost control and extra downtime. Digitisation of data and documentation is fundamentally important, as it makes information easier to use and share. Securing accurate digital records and documents is especially helpful in the areas relating to HSE and food safety compliance. Amongst its functions, an EAM system can produce instant reports and meet auditing needs. By enforcing and documenting compliance with food safety legislation such as IFS Food 6.1, the software minimises the risks.

Securing accurate digital records and documents is especially helpful in the areas relating to HSE and food safety compliance

Businesses often have no reliable way of measuring the performance of their assets and are therefore unable to identify those which are performing poorly. They may lack insight into such essential factors as the hours worked by machines, the causes of equipment failure and the time spent on specific maintenance tasks. Without data of this kind, it is virtually impossible to improve and streamline processes.

Data should be treated as a vital asset, but its full value can only be realised if the right data is captured, made accessible and analysed to produce actionable information. An EAM provides the framework for recording, sharing, analysing and utilising data in relation to maintenance optimisation.     

Simplifying maintenance

With numerous distinct maintenance strategies to choose from an EAM system will help to identify the best option for each situation. Across an organisation, the optimum solution may be a blend of more than one of these strategies: Reactive maintenance; Scheduled preventive maintenance; Usage-based maintenance; Condition-based maintenance; Predictive maintenance

Cloud-based EAM systems give easy access to information and functions for every user, via desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone. Use of mobile devices allows them to connect with assets, oversee maintenance and make records, via the IoT, wherever they may be. Pre-set procedures and checklists ensure that everyone follows the same process every time, so minimising the risk of errors and enforcing best practice. Automatic notifications prompt the relevant managers to review and sign off jobs.

Improving control

EAM systems, in conjunction with mobile and connected solutions have a major role to play in future-proofing assets and businesses. With holistic, consistent processes, applied across organisations and sites, assets are set for high productivity with minimal downtime and long life. By simplifying and streamlining maintenance, and helping to control and reduce costs, they make businesses healthier and more resilient in the face of future pressures. Their flexibility equips companies to meet changes in demand or circumstances with an agile response.

Chris van den Belt is team leader product management, Ultimo Software Solutions