Improve efficiency and profitability with a preventive maintenance program for your heating equipment.

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One of the main goals of preventive maintenance is to avert breakdowns and failures before they occur.

Happy New Year! I hope you don’t mind me asking, “What is your New Year’s resolution?”

You didn’t make one, or you need help coming up with one?

If so, I recommend a business resolution that will help your company, your customers and – last but not least – you.

The resolution is simple.

I, (Insert Your Name), resolve to review or develop a preventive maintenance program for the equipment I am responsible for at the place of my employment, and then execute the program for the benefit of my company, our customers and myself.

Now, before you you take the plunge and make a commitment, make sure you understand what preventive maintenance (PM) is and its potential results. If you understand how a formalized PM program can reap benefits for your company, your customers and you, I am confident you will want to start this project right away.

What Is It?

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Adjusting the exhaust blower for the proper rate and making sure all filters are clean are two ways to reduce the energy consumption of your oven.

Simply put, preventive maintenance is a schedule of planned actions with the goal of preventing breakdowns and failures before they occur. PM tasks include visual inspections of moving components, scheduled cleanings and regular lubrication.

Even if the equipment manufacturer did not provide a written program, you should not have much trouble establishing a preventive maintenance program. With a little effort, you will find numerous articles on how to maintain your equipment, what to maintain on your equipment, and when to perform maintenance. What sometimes gets overlooked is the “why”: why it is important to invest time and money in this area. Looking at the “why” will help those controlling the purse strings of your organization understand how the costs associated with an established preventive maintenance program can be compared with the long-term benefits and related savings.

Much of the information in this article can be applied to any industrial equipment; however, the emphasis is on process heating equipment. Some of the long-term benefits of a preventive program include:

  • Improved system reliability with decreased downtime.
  • Better spare parts inventory management with decreased cost of replacement.
  • More consistent quality.
  • Improved energy efficiency and a safer work environment.
  • Higher customer satisfaction, retention and increased profitability.

A closer look at each of these potential benefits will help show how PM results in long-term savings and payback.

Improved System Reliability with Decreased Downtime. One of the main goals of preventive maintenance is to avert breakdowns and failures before they occur. Maintenance and inspections planned outside of normal work hours do not negatively impact production. However, unscheduled equipment breakdowns typically will result in substantial costs due to lost production time, late product deliveries to customers, and expedited services and parts expenses to get the equipment operational again.

Better Spare Parts Inventory Management with Decreased Cost of Replacement. Companies with established preventive maintenance programs can better anticipate what parts they need and when they will need them. Depending on the equipment and the products manufactured, you may still want to stock long-lead or critical components. However, most companies with an effective PM program eventually find that they do not need to keep nonessential components in stock. Stocking less spare parts increases inventory turns and improves cash flow.

Often, the routine inspections that are a part of an effective PM program uncover components that need to be replaced in the near future. For instance, the inspection can detect a motor that is beginning to vibrate a little more than usual, which can indicate the bearings might need to be replaced. If performance changes such as this are noticed early enough, the maintenance department can purchase the required components without paying expediting charges. As an added benefit, they often are then able to schedule maintenance during regularly scheduled work hours (no overtime costs).

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Preventive maintenance tasks include visually inspecting moving components, performing scheduled cleanings and lubricating moving and rotating parts.

More Consistent Quality. Equipment that is operating optimally will provide more consistent and higher quality parts. Over time, the temperature accuracy of process ovens as well as the temperature uniformity throughout the work chamber can deteriorate. Parts not processed at the correct temperature may not meet the expectations or requirements of your customers. Most often, part failures are not discovered with the very first part, so entire batches may need to be recalled or reinspected. This is costly and can permanently damage business relationships.

Performing regular uniformity surveys will allow you to maintain control over your process and the quality of your parts. It will give your sales department the confidence it needs to make the next big sale.

Improved Energy Efficiency and a Safer Work Environment. Adjusting the exhaust blower for the proper rate, making sure all filters are clean, and checking to ensure that all gaskets are sealing properly are all huge energy savers. For instance, in a gas-fired oven, a properly adjusted and cleaned burner can reduce gas consumption by as much as 5 to 15 percent when compared to a burner that has not been maintained.

Depending on the application, an oven that is not cleaned can actually be a potential safety concern. A buildup of residual combustible materials released during the heat cycle can ignite, which is obviously something to avoid no matter the cost.

Higher Customer Satisfaction, Retention and Increased Profitability. Effective preventive maintenance and attention to the above items helps keep current customers happy and helps improve profitability. It is well known that it costs more to find new customers than to retain current customers. If you keep current customers happy, the sales department will have more time to secure new business at the proper sell price. Equipment that is well maintained will last longer and have a higher resale value.

Why You Should Act

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Over time, the temperature accuracy and uniformity of industrial process ovens can deteriorate. Equipment that is operating optimally due to proper preventive maintenance will provide more consistent, higher quality parts.

You can see from the items outlined how it will help your company and your customers, but how will it help you?

If you are the person who takes the initiative to develop or dust off an existing preventive maintenance program, you will be recognized as an employee who cares about the company and has ideas on how to help the company and its customers. What a great item to bring up in your next performance review!

In most companies, profitability directly impacts employee benefits. The more profitable a company is, the more money it has to be invested in facility improvements, new equipment and tools, better wage increases and larger profit sharing contributions. So not only will it benefit you, it will benefit your coworkers as well.

So now that you have a better understanding of how maintaining your equipment benefits all parties, do you have time to do this yourself? If not, contact the manufacturer of the equipment or another reputable oven manufacturer to see how they might be able to help you. If you consider your time and lack of expertise, you may be able to easily justify the expense of having an expert service technician visit your facility on a regular basis to train you or to help you maintain your equipment.

Like any New Year’s resolution, now is the time to start. Don’t wait: Discuss this with your manager to obtain support and direction. Start putting together your preventive maintenance program today for a more profitable tomorrow.