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    Seven Ways To Minimise Downtime

    Seven Ways To Minimise Downtime

    Downtime can be costly in more ways than one, but how do you keep it to a minimum?

    Seven Ways To Minimise Downtime

    Downtime can be costly in more ways than one, but how do you keep it to a minimum? An RS Components maintenance engineer shares lessons from one of our distribution centres.

    “It’s the knock-on effects of downtime, disappointing customers and damaging your reputation as a business,” says Karl Ralph, Controls Technician at the RS Components distribution centre in Corby, UK. “It’s all those indirect costs that add up.”

    Ralph is acutely aware of the impact that interruptions can have on business operations. He is responsible for a conveying system that runs across three floors in the automated warehouse and is part of a team dedicated to keeping stoppages to a minimum.

    Here Ralph shares seven ways to create a system that minimises downtime, particularly unplanned downtime, in your facilities.

    Karl Ralph Interview

    1. Identify your maintenance goal

    Downtime is a big issue for RS because our operations within the warehouse are a complete system. There are some smaller parts of the system that if they go down, they can be isolated, but with critical bits of the system, if they go down then the whole system goes down.

    If the system is down, then there’s a lot of people throughout the distribution centre that can’t do their job. This is a direct cost to the organisation. There are all the indirect costs that add up as well – so our focus is making sure the critical elements are well looked after.

    2. Build in predictive maintenance

    I’ve worked at places where there’s been no preventative maintenance, it’s all been unplanned downtime and you’re constantly caught in that cycle. At RS, we’re very proactive. We try to identify issues before they occur as unplanned downtime is extremely bad, but planned downtime is good.

    Our system supports this. As a team, we’ve got two shifts: an early shift and a late shift. The role of engineering support during operational hours is routine inspections and trying to identify any issues so that they can be rectified in the evening or at weekends.

    We have an agility-based maintenance system that generates work orders for us. These tell us what parts of the equipment we need to check to make sure nothing is missed and gives us a routine to do that.

    When the late shift come in, they have their job sheets as well and these are more in depth. In the early shift, our tasks are inspection really because the conveyor is running, but at night it’s all planned. The team do routine maintenance to specific parts of the system, including weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual servicing of the conveyor. This reduces the likelihood of it going down during operating hours.

    3. Measure and monitor the results

    Setting the system up is time consuming but it’s worth it.

    Establishing some form of monitoring your downtime is also good. It’s critical to know where your downtime is and be able to measure it. Then you can allocate the resources to rectify it and prove that you’re on the right track.

    At RS, we’re held accountable for downtime. Occasionally we do get it, but that’s monitored daily, and we like to keep it below five percent.

    There is computer-based software that will monitor downtime for certain equipment so the report is generated for us, but equally if you didn’t have that you could just have a paper-based system or an easy computer-based system to record your downtime.

    Karl Ralph Interview Image and Quote

    4. Don’t neglect easy wins

    A lot of what we do here is not high tech or expensive.

    For example, we have a thermal camera and we do thermal reports of electrical cabinets. The camera picks up on any hotspots that are in the cabinet, and then we can task out replacing the parts. Every couple of months we find something that needs to change before it gives us an issue.

    5. Know what you need available

    Some way of managing your critical spares is also key to minimising downtime. You need to make sure you have got the spares you need when you need them. At RS, we’ve got no excuse for not having the right parts!

    Standardisation of equipment can help with spares, so set up a specification for equipment ready for when you go into the procurement process. If you stick to one supplier or manufacturer then you have a much better chance of being able to support your process.

    6. Plan for future maintenance

    If you’re designing something new, think about how you’re going to monitor the downtime on it. And if there are any benefits to adding condition monitoring such vibration monitoring and temperature monitoring, integrate them at this stage as it can be less expensive to do that than retrofit them to a system.

    Don’t forget to design in access for maintenance. This is not always considered but if you can’t get easy access to repair or monitor something, then obviously that is going to increase your downtime – we have a couple of places in Corby that are difficult to get to.

    7. Learn from experience

    If we get unplanned downtime, which we do occasionally, then after the event we get together as a team and we learn from experience. What happened, why did it happen and what can we do in the future to stop it happening again?

    It’s not a finger pointing exercise, it’s to try and stop it happening again. This plays a big part keeping downtime to a minimum as well.