Going from one or two shifts to a three shift production schedule is good for the company, it means that we are increasing our production so we are selling more products. However, this is not an easy transition for our maintenance department and must be carefully planned to avoid negative effects on our equipment reliability.
Just a few weeks after I started working for a company, we implemented this transition and it was very hard to adapt the old practices to this new situation.
Usually, when the company works in one or two shifts, the remaining shift is used by maintenance people to take care of all pending repair work and start fresh the following day. When properly conducted, this could be effective and keep the plant running. The problem is that the plant relies more in this practice in detriment of preventive and predictive maintenance. Since this method works, the situation usually never changes.
When this time is not available anymore, things can get very difficult.
Here’s the main issues I saw during the adaptation process:
1- Develop or improve your preventive maintenance strategy
As I mentioned earlier, when there is no time for corrective maintenance during the night, preventive maintenance takes more relevance and it should be carefully planned and designed. As you already know, this is difficult to achieve from one day to another.
Ideally you should work on improving your preventive maintenance strategy even when the plant is working in one or two shifts. If that wasn’t the case, at least you should start working on your preventive maintenance strategy when the company start thinking about moving to a 24 hour scheme.
2- Plan your resources in advance.
As the plant works 24 hours a day, most of the essential maintenance activities would be performed during the weekend, so your department will suffer an increase in their expenses, especially in manpower. The amount of work planned for weekends will depend heavily on the nature of your equipment and facilities, but you can expect heavy workloads on weekends.
Regarding this, one important thing is manpower availability. In most countries overtime during the weekend is voluntary. The problem is that vital work will depend on people’s willingness to work during weekends and for sure the available human resources will vary every weekend. This is a serious problem and you should start thinking in a 24/7 rotation scheme for maintenance people. There are several systems to do this, always with an increase in the total number of people.
All these issues have to be addressed and negotiated during the planning meetings when the management is analysing the pros and cons of the extra shift. In this way, your budget increase will be included as a cost of the transition. If you start talking about this when the 3rd shift is already running it would be very difficult to implement these changes or even get the budget increased.
Believe me, this will cause you big headaches if you don’t take actions in advance.
3- Maximize your department’s efficiency using advance maintenance techniques
One of the keys to maximize your department’s efficiency is to start using predictive maintenance and non-destructive inspection techniques to use production time to perform maintenance inspections and increase the control over your assets. This may include:
- Infrared cameras to check electric cabinets, motors, etc.
- Vibration analysis, can be installed permanently for large and costly assets, but there is also manual equipment to check bearings and electric motors
- Ultrasonic detectors, used mainly to detect compressed air leaks. Nevertheless, we discovered that we could use them to detect worn out bearings located under the conveyor’s floor, which is really useful
- Oil analysis could be another useful technique in some cases.
4- Take advantage of every line stop
After the transition, time is precious so any time when the production line stops should be used to perform maintenance work. The most common times are during production breaks and lunchtime, but you can be prepared for unexpected stops due to other causes (logistic, quality issues, etc.).
To take advantage of these periods you need to analyse your maintenance plans and identify quick tasks that can be done with the line stopped. Lubrication is the typical case, provided we have an easy access to the area, but you can also replace seals, purge systems, calibrate sensors, etc. The only condition is that the task doesn’t incur too much risk of having problems at the time of work resumes.
My next post will talk about the four remaining points related to chronic problems, impact, training issues, maintenance plans optimization and more. Don’t miss out!
Thanks for reading