In the United States today, as many manufacturers have entered post-crisis phases in their facilities, some have a much different business model than they did entering 2020. Others, such as those who manufacture medical supplies, craft supplies, and pet supplies, don’t look much different than they did at the beginning of the year, outside of a backlog of orders that they are doing their best to fill in a timely fashion.
Some manufacturers were surprised at how well their products did during crisis times earlier in the year. For example, LumenAID, a manufacturer of portable, solar-powered lanterns that double as a phone charger, has seen a huge uptick in sales. It seems with people preparing for times unknown, emergency supply manufacturers of this type can’t fill the shelves quickly enough. Other manufacturers were well aware of the need for their products, like office chairs, school supplies, and pet training products. The comforts of home for those stuck at home became the quick front-runners in sales, and suppliers with stored inventories were pleasantly surprised with their sales numbers.
Yet, for some manufacturing facilities, especially in the hardest-hit areas of the country, it wasn’t a lack of demand that shut down the product lines. It was the lack of production associates able to make it to the facility. Quarantine, public transportation being shut down, mandatory stay at home orders, and a lack of child care left some facilities looking much like a part of a ghost town. The most prepared of those production facilities put that time in the hands of their plant engineers and maintenance managers, and for good reason.
In an industry where it is often common for machines to run in 72-hour cycles or longer to meet production needs, the downtime came as a blessing in disguise to many engineers and mechanics. They strapped on their tool belts and began performing preventative maintenance that had been put off, in some cases, until the machinery refused to operate any longer. While many production associates were home by no choice of their own, skeleton crews of mechanics and engineers quietly worked behind the scenes to ensure that the production lines that these associates returned to were repaired, lubed, and ready to run for another 100,000 rotations.
While You Were Out…
Although we’re not positive what the “new” normal will look like, manufacturers are doing their best to get back to business as usual. One key element is ensuring that their facility can handle the workload, and well-maintained production lines are a fundamental part of that process. Even those production facilities that did not have to implement the Emergency Contingency Plan and were still able to run socially distanced production shifts were finding difficulty in getting the parts necessary to perform preventative maintenance on their production machinery.
Facilities with CMMS systems that handled their maintenance parts rooms were seeing just how much those systems did for them, possibly for the first time ever. These manufacturing facilities were able to perform preventative maintenance as normal, because of the reorder point set in the CMMS, ensuring that the parts to perform the maintenance were, indeed, stocked in the parts room. Due to the human element being removed by CMMS, the moment the last technician performed the PM and took the part off of the shelf, the system already issued a purchase order and had a replacement on the way.
Full Speed Ahead
As manufacturers are getting back into the swing of things, especially those fortunate enough to have orders that they need to fill, the appreciation for well-maintained machines is at an all-time high. With most of the country able to return to work, and production lines full of associates thankful to be back on the line, returning to a facility with newly maintained machinery is just another day in manufacturing. However, from the mechanics and engineers who worked solo overnight shifts to prepare for firing the production lines back up, there is a nearly audible sigh of relief when the conveyor belts start running.
Preventative maintenance was, in some facilities, the only items that could be completed during the height of the crisis, and production managers are reaping the benefits of those overhauls at the moment. In notoriously under-maintained facilities, the quietly operating, well-oiled machinery that is producing post-pandemic inventory is a sign of moving into stronger financial times.
As A Post-Crisis Model
If your production facility is running at a pre-pandemic rate, you’ve more than likely gotten back into the normal preventative maintenance schedule, less a few adjustments. For those facilities that don’t have the need to run full production shifts at this point, investing labor dollars into machine maintenance is a smart move. Although the need may not be there at the moment, when the orders do come in, the ability to perform full production runs without stopping because of unperformed routine maintenance will be one more way to stay competitive.
Well maintained machinery produces to specification, which reduces scrap and reworks exponentially. By producing a consistent and reliable product, your facility develops a reputation for quality, and that is priceless in post-crisis America. By ensuring that your production facility is adhering to a preventative maintenance schedule, you’re committing to running products that are manufactured to strict standards at a time when they’re more valued than ever. A CMMS is another tool in a manufacturer’s facility to ensure that they’re producing items that meet or exceed the expectations of their customers.
In addition, maintenance costs are decreased by 5-10 percent by having a preventative maintenance program in place in a manufacturing facility. It also decreases the time spent repairing machinery by 20-50 percent. In terms of looking out for the bottom line as manufacturing facilities try to push forward in uncertain economic times, a strong preventative maintenance program makes sense. In saving both time and money long term for manufacturing facilities, preventative maintenance can help manufacturers get a leg up in the post-crisis American economy.
Co-Founder and CEO of REDLIST. Raised in a construction environment, Talmage has been involved in heavy equipment since he was a toddler. He has degrees and extensive experience in civil, mechanical and industrial engineering. Talmage worked for several years as a field engineer with ExxonMobil servicing many of the largest industrial production facilities in the Country.