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The role of maintenance and asset management in optimising plant performance

02 July 2013

The key drivers of manufacturing competitiveness and profitability are optimising output and efficiency while reducing operational costs. If efficient, reliable plant is key to success, then maintenance and asset management strategy is critical.

A best-in-class approach to optimising plant performance will align the strategies, goals and metrics of production and maintenance teams, fostering collaboration to aid effective prioritisation and decision-making.

Common objectives should be standardised around metrics including Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) and asset downtime. To maximise OEE and minimise downtime, plant must be well operated and maintained, with vital spares available when needed. This is brought firmly into focus by the fact that unplanned downtime can throw manufacturing schedule adherence into disarray – possibly missing a tight order deadline with the consequential loss of valuable customers.

It can be further complicated by issues of ageing plant and equipment. Continued challenging economic conditions have influenced a general reduction in capital investment with companies instead focused on driving existing assets over an extended lifespan, while working within reduced operating budgets. An effective maintenance and asset management strategy is absolutely critical to meeting these challenges while delivering on operational performance, service and overall profitability targets.

A best-in-class strategy focuses on proactive, condition-based maintenance management, allowing the fixing of potential production asset problems before they create unscheduled downtime. Making effective asset maintenance decisions requires employees to have the right data at the right time in the right format. This may include adopting condition monitoring techniques such as vibration analysis, thermographics, oil sampling and acoustic analysis to help monitor plant performance.

For example, scheduled maintenance to a motor whose energy usage has been identified as exceeding the level expected can help identify contributing factors and allow corrective action – illustrating how energy consumption data can inform operational decision-making and contribute to OEE.

Whatever approach is adopted, its goals and metrics should be closely aligned with those of production and procurement teams to ensure a consistent, collaborative approach to spares purchasing and management.

Meanwhile, a successful spares sourcing strategy will focus on total cost of ownership, rather than initial purchase cost, with factors such as component lifespan, criticality, reliability, reduced maintenance and service intervals all informing the purchasing decision.

Ultimately, the strategy should concentrate on ensuring availability of the most common and machine-specific spares. Stock value and stockkeeping units held should be minimised, with supplier numbers minimised to reduce the transactional costs associated with maintaining duplicate suppliers of the same component. The strategy should also focus on engineering spares standardisation, which can significantly reduce inventory and cash tied up in stock, while ensuring a consistent component standard is used across the asset base. Well managed, maintenance spares purchasing can generate major cost savings through demand reduction, reduced inventory, production and maintenance improvements.

Where the procurement and spares management process is large-scale or complicated, there is much to be said for outsourcing part or all of it to a specialist MRO partner like Brammer. This partner should offer procurement and supply chain management expertise, combined with value-adding services like condition monitoring, energy audits, drive system design and lubrication programmes, while freeing valuable in-house procurement, production and maintenance capacity to focus on improvement projects to increase production output and efficiency.