Modern-maintenance practices help processors keep plants up and running at peak efficiency.

In today’s society, we are strongly dependent on correct functions of technical systems, which have made us vulnerable to disturbances. According to the Journal of Quality in Maintenance Engineering, stakeholders’ requirements on these systems’ functions change over time due to technical development, varying operational environment, and changing laws and regulations. The stakeholders are individuals and groups that have both the means of bringing their requirements to attention and for taking action if their requirements are not fulfilled (e.g. customers, shareholders and authorities). Hence, in order to maintain a high level of stakeholder satisfaction throughout the systems’ entire life cycle, organizations responsible for these systems have to react to changes in requirements through improved maintenance and system evolution. Maintenance and continuous improvement are two complementary approaches that can be applied in order to ensure the safety and dependability of technical systems, and also to decrease the cost of operation throughout the system’s life.

In the context of the meat- or poultry-processing facility, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says plant maintenance means that all equipment and structures are examined frequently and carefully, and serviced or maintained according to the manufacturer’s instructions. It does not mean that repairs are made once things have gone wrong, failed or broken.

That said, equipment maintenance is absolutely critical. A separate budget is often required so that it can be carried out. It is intended that faults are found before they become critical and stop production or affect product quality. Of course — as is the nature of the beast — machinery will break down unexpectedly and need to be repaired. Today’s meat- and poultry-processing facilities are complex and highly automated. Therefore, sophisticated plant- and equipment-maintenance management systems are a must for profitable operations. Downtime means lost profitability. Maintaining lines and equipment — and the necessary supplies for that maintenance — helps to ensure maximum efficiency. Some processors utilize state-of-the-art maintenance software that offers preventive maintenance solutions to address computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) and enterprise asset management (EAM) needs in industrial plants.

The importance of lubrication

A report from Dow Corning claims billions of dollars are lost each year because of unnecessary repair work carried out on processing equipment that had not been sufficiently lubricated. The report details a host of measures that food-processing companies can take in order to avoid such expense. Mechanical wear in food factories, for example, is due to surface degradation including mechanical wear and fatigue — a high percentage of which is due to lubricant degradation and problems associated with related maintenance.

The food industry is especially vulnerable. Given the wet nature of much of the manufacturing process, the constant need for wash downs, and the dramatic temperature variations from freezers to ovens, the food industry must pay particular attention to the lubricants they use and the suppliers they choose to employ, the report says. The wrong lubricant, or the correct lubricant applied in the wrong manner, can halt plant operations. With so much at stake, making sure that the right lubricant is used at the right time is critical.

To recapture money lost through their own maintenance efforts, the report highlights how many companies are beginning to turn to outside consultants to implement Total Lubrication Management (TLM) programs. Consolidating lubricant purchases into a single, integrated program can enhance productivity by making it easier to automate preventive-maintenance routines, increase the efficiency of inventory management, and use a local product supply to reduce on-site inventory costs.

The suppliers best equipped to meet requirements for diverse lubricating solutions offer a complete line of industrial lubricants, not just a “wide range” of products. Foodgrade lubricants must perform the same technical functions as any other lubricant such as protection against wear, friction, corrosion and oxidation, as well as comply with food/health and safety regulations, the report says.

Maintenance professionals will also want to ensure the product line includes lubricants suited for extreme temperatures, especially fluids that will not degrade due to emulsification with water. Fluids for high-volume applications include hydraulic, compressor and vacuum pump, gearbox and chain, and multipurpose oils. Specialized industrial compounds such as greases, pastes, anti-friction coatings, and dispersions must be added to the mix. In addition, a wide range of base stocks is essential.

Synthetics provide excellent resistance to emulsification and last longer to extend maintenance intervals. Ultra-high purity mineral oils also resist emulsification and promote improved additive performance, which results in longer life than conventional mineral oils. The full-line supplier must also be able to draw on functional additive technologies including antioxidant, anti-wear, and extreme temperature additives.

Effective lubricant consolidation demands technical support from local representatives who know the right lubricants to use at the right time. Their expertise helps maintenance professionals avoid mistakes in lubricant selection and application that can shorten equipment life and stop production.

For example, with newer base oil and additive technology, H-1/foodgrade lubricants perform better than conventional, non-foodgrade products at competitive price level, the report says. Integrated oil analysis/monitoring provides important criteria that help determine when oil drain intervals can be extended, and prevents wasteful early change outs. At the same time, superior-performing lubricants of the highest quality can pay for themselves in many instances through extended drain intervals and longer life for plant machinery and equipment.

Less product use and less maintenance time means less cost, the report stresses. To gauge the condition of industrial lubricants in service, an integrated oil analysis program is essential to compare each lubricant with its own performance benchmarks.

Effective analysis tracks multiple critical wear-related characteristics of oil in service by comparing the results with previous reports, and notes the trends. As an essential part of a lubricant consolidation program, oil analysis helps identify contamination, lubricant degradation, and abnormal machine wear. Industry-accepted tests reveal the presence of metal particles, water and other contaminants.

The report also highlights how dedicated lubrication-management software is a powerful tool to schedule, supervise and record a consolidated, lubrication program. It exploits and complements oil analysis by collecting trend data and developing responsive lubrication schedules. By enabling maintenance managers and workers to schedule and record lubrication changes for specific equipment, lubrication software automates the lubrication management function.

Maintenance model

Maintenance practices and technologies have evolved to meet the needs of the changing industrial environment, says Jeffrey Lewis, president of QMS Consulting Inc., Hoffman Estates, Ill. The function has evolved from a community of reactive fixers to dedicated craftsmen to proactive professionals.

“Maintenance progress can be best demonstrated by its ability provides assurances for reliability,” he says. “The model for quality assurance, which meets the same requirements for equipment reliability, is demonstrated in the ISO 9001:2000 standard, through process-centeredness.”

Process-centered management is a system that manages organizational activities as a process, says Lewis.

“The process is managed through QMS, which is clear on PDCA as a process method. PDCA is Plan, Do, Check Act. Most modern-maintenance management activities are not linked to QMS, which have particular management characteristics.”

However, using these characteristics, says Lewis, transforms modern-maintenance practice into what may be the next generation of maintenance management.

“The structure of maintenance management as a process model is significant, as an international standard to adopt as a relevant standard or best practice for maintenance management’s thrust toward reliability,” he says. “Yet, in order to resolve elements of the process, the applicable definitions must be addressed in order to provide the basis for generating reliability.”

Maintenance can be defined as the degradation management of engineered materials (equipment and systems) to retain their performance within their designed operating parameters, says Lewis. Just as stress can accelerate deterioration of metals in a corrosive environment, operational stress moves equipment and systems toward failure. Limiting stresses within the operating environment maintains reliability.

The elements of maintenance that are relevant to PDCA are protecting components from stress, monitoring their condition, and undertaking component(s) replacement prior to the failure threshold level caused by stress excesses.

The components of this system are preventive maintenance (PM), condition monitoring (CM), and planned overhaul (PO). It is against this background that maintenance activities are identified, says Lewis. The maintenance attributes of PMs CMs and POs, is repeatable for equipment as it goes through its lifecycle.

The characteristics of Quality Management Systems (QMS) are as follows as it applies to maintenance:

The ‘Plan’ to achieve reliability is based within the context of PMs, CMs and OH at the component level, while defining through documentation, the human, economic and technical resources to achieve the reliability.

The ‘Do’ is the actual work instructions to be performed and the options at the point of execution for informing of the requirements and record keeping of its reliability status. The ‘Check’ is the means to identify whether the reliability requirements are being met within the context of the human, economic and technical resources.

The measurement of efficiency and effectiveness of the plan determines whether waste through errors or unwanted activity has occurred. It can track the use of resources to determine when they are beyond those proposed by the plan for reliability.

Condition monitoring techniques are also applied as relevant measurements toward assured reliability. These measurement parameters provide the trigger at the analysis stage to determine the component status for likely improvements toward reliability.

In addition, the utilization of Pareto Analysis based on formatting root causes by harsh environment, improper operation, recommended end of life or lack of maintenance, will resolve improvement issues required for efficient and effective maintenance management.

The ‘Act’ is any action taken as a result of checking to provide the feedback mechanisms to the Plan for adjusting any of the PMs, CMs, or POs to ultimately reach the reliability levels required with the context the stated resources.

The application of the PDCA process above contains the characteristics of all Quality Management Systems.

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Engineering perspective

“The moniker of ‘modern’ probably really refers to the advent of actually giving some forethought to system-maintenance problems in the design and manufacture of complex systems,” says Dr. Joseph Accetta, president and chief executive officer of Corrales, N.M.-based JSA Photonics Inc., a consulting engineering firm for design, manufacturing and systems integration of industrial automation components and systems. “Historically this has not been the case.”

There are at least two perspectives in this issue that need to be considered, one from the manufacturing side and one from the user’s maintenance side, says Accetta.

“To build in ‘maintainability’ is sometimes more expensive for the manufacturer to design and implement. If service is an integral part of a supplier’s revenue stream, then there are built-in reasons for not paying a lot of attention to maintainability,” he says. “There is a valid argument, of course, that the manufacturer is most familiar and most qualified to repair the system.”

From the end user’s point of view, says Accetta, production-line failures and attendant service calls are expensive.

“A major failure of a large, integrated production line, which uses lots of different types of automated equipment, will cost the producer millions of dollars in a short period of time,” he says. “So while equipment is becoming more complex, software more intensive and bugs sometimes harder to find, there is an inherent demand to be able to fix things yourself quickly and hence an attendant demand for field-maintainable equipment.”

Smart manufacturers are starting to listen, says Accetta.

“Not only are systems being designed to be more reparable at the field level, maintenance personnel are being given advanced training and being supplied with diagnostic software so that the two camps are starting to come together for the common good,” he says.