One of the most challenging areas of any manufacturing facility is maintaining the machines that power production as well as other vital equipment, because the health of the equipment is entwined with both the business’s productivity and its asset return on investment (ROI.) Daily, your maintenance staff is juggling the upkeep and repair needs – both planned and unplanned – of multiple pieces of equipment and systems, against the limits of available time and resources. Staying ahead of the repair cycle can be challenging – and that’s where maintenance tracking and management software can help.
The issues and obligations that concern a metalcasting business’s maintenance department can impact several other areas of the business — including the operators, scheduling staff, and the corporate and support team. Technology supports manufacturing in a myriad of ways; Helping with the critical (and overlooked) cost center of maintenance is just one of these.
More than just helping to manage costs, the right software can reduce maintenance expenses in the long-term while increasing asset life and improving productivity.
Not only can information technology improve how maintenance is handled within your business; it also can improve communication between Maintenance and other departments, leading to improved productivity output. Additionally, using technology to house the collective knowledge of your staff will eliminate silos of knowledge within the Maintenance department, preparing the business to handle any unforeseen staffing changes.
While it’s no surprise that proactive and preventative maintenance strategies will capture small service issues before they morph into large, costly repairs, maintenance departments are still an overlooked opportunity as technology is not a first thought for departmental improvement. Technology can help answer the critical questions — "Do we have what we need to fix 'it'?" "How long will it take?", and "What will it cost?" There’s a technological route for getting answers to these questions!
Program options for reliability and more — There are several options available of helpful maintenance software for metalcasting, programs that can help to improve both the reliability and availability of production equipment while allowing cost transparency.
Stand-alone maintenance tracking software (CMMS) can help with everything from tool-crib management to last maintenance date for equipment. With CMMS, improvements can be expected in inventory control, managing work requests, access to historical equipment information, standardizing best practices, and reporting KPIs. Designed for pro-active planning, CMMS is a huge improvement over random pieces of paper with scribbled notes about dates due, parts needed, etc.
The next level up is to adopt integrated systems, such as an enterprise resource planning (ERP) software platform that includes built-in maintenance software, for additional transparency and tracking benefits to improve the efficiency of the organization. When you "on-line" the maintenance portion of your ERP, the business insights available to you can be exponential.
What is the value of gaining insights that tell you how much time your equipment spends being idle or down, versus operating and contributing to the business productivity? Would it be valuable to categorize equipment costs by emergency, general, or preventative? Could a key-performance indicators (KPI) dashboard on production hours-lost improve the understanding of your staff?
Looking beyond the executive level, using maintenance software that’s built into your ERP can positively impact multiple departments in the enterprise, and improve the organizational bottom line:
• An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Project Management set-up and scheduling within an ERP allows a maintenance team to plan for regularly scheduled maintenance work through planned preventative maintenance, before that work impacts the production. This may include scheduling the software to set reminders for required maintenance, such as safety inspections of machines. (Some ERP options also include predictive analysis with trend graphing.) Fewer equipment malfunctions will lead to a reduction in workplace injuries.
• Harness technology to keep Maintenance up-to-date on service needs. Maintenance service requests by designated users can be allowed within the ERP, or downtime work orders can be auto-created for individual equipment. By using the software in this way, both Maintenance and Production have real-time access to production information – identifying equipment conflicts between Production Scheduling and Maintenance before they happen.
• Everything in its place. Preventative maintenance information shifts the necessity of ordering parts from Maintenance for last-minute needs back to Purchasing on planned maintenance. Keep separate inventories; track stocked versus non-stocked; order repair parts. Parts ordered for maintenance are used for maintenance.
• Information at your fingertips. Waiting until the end of a shift to catch up on paperwork becomes a thing of the past as browser-based ERP allows information access and input anywhere, anytime – even from the shop floor where it powers real-time communication, including letting staff know their next work order assignment. Use the software to note special skills of individual team members, so they can be assigned where they are needed most. Balance out the Maintenance team’s workloads using a dashboard for quick reference. Be ready for your next compliance audit with easy-to-access records and on-the-fly reports.
• Knowing your costs is a critical manufacturing mantra. Maintenance is part of business costs. Review what maintenance requirements are costing in equipment expenses, or in preventative maintenance costs, categorized annually or by a defined period. Cost options include production, material issues, and Accounts Payable invoices. Actual maintenance costs can be accumulated into your work order for real-time insights.
Working smarter through technology — In the current economic climate, many foundries and diecasters are working at capacity. Downtime for preventable causes is simply unacceptable. When that production need is coupled to the many benefits of working smarter through technology, maintenance should be viewed as the first opportunity to improve productivity.
Cost efficiency is critical to good business. An unappreciated benefit of using maintenance technology is scheduling. Scheduling labor requirements based on data readily available in the system allows a business to deploy its workforce (people resources) more efficiently, cutting down on unnecessary overtime.
Additionally, using technology like CMMS or ERP means that Purchasing, the department in charge of keeping costs under control, handles pre-planned orders for Maintenance. These two factors alone showcase how costs can be positively improved through the strategic implementation of technology!
Maintenance is costing you money. Specifically, not keeping the best possible records of maintenance needs, especially preventative maintenance, is reducing productivity and decreasing asset performance life. Let technology help you with that.
Aaron Stovall is a Special Projects Coordinator with B&L Information Systems, developers of metalcasting-specific ERP programming. Contact him at [email protected]