Creating a Plant Maintenance Guide

Tips and Tricks for Creating a Plant Maintenance Guide

Keeping your plant in good working order is a difficult job. There are an endless number of tasks, both big and large, that need to be kept up with in order to avoid problems. Without a proper plan, your facility can quickly run into problems that can cause downtime and even make it unsafe to work in.

This simple plant maintenance guide will provide you with some of the most important aspects of keeping your facility running smoothly. It will also help you to create your own guide that can be used in your facility. While the tips and tricks provided are going to be helpful for virtually every type of manufacturing plant, they will often need to be tweaked in order to be successful in your specific situation.

Once you’ve created your own guide for your facility, make sure it is readily available to everyone on the maintenance team so they know what is expected of them, and how to properly maintain the entire facility.

“Maintenance has long been considered a necessary evil in operating plant instrumentation. With the right consideration however, maintenance, including verification, calibration and routine checks, can add real value through improved reliability, uptime and optimization of plant applications.” –  ABB 

Scheduling Maintenance

One of the most important things you will need to do is make a list of all the types of scheduled maintenance that needs to be done. This will, of course, be quite a long list but it will allow you to ensure you don’t miss any of these important tasks.

When making the list, keep in mind that this should only include things that have known maintenance requirements that occur after a set amount of time. You would not include things that will need maintenance eventually, but it is not known when. The following are some key examples of this type of maintenance:

  • Changing Lubricants – Like changing the oil in a car, many machines in your plant will need to have their oil or other lubrication products changed on a regular basis. Identify all the different areas where lubrication needs to be changed, and how often it needs to be done.
  • Light Bulbs – Most people wait until a light bulb burns out in their home, and that makes sense. In most plants, however, you will want to change them before this happens because if a bulb goes out it can cause safety problems. Determine the expected lifespan of the lights in your facility and then schedule to have them replaced as they near their expected end of life.
  • Belts – While belts today are made better than ever before, they will eventually wear out. If you don’t replace some belts before this happens, it can cause a lot of damage to the machinery when it breaks. With this in mind, you should put this on your schedule for preventative maintenance.

Of course, every plant will have a long list of these types of scheduled maintenance activities that need to be performed. Listing all of your items in your plant maintenance guide will help ensure you don’t overlook any of them. Many facilities like to put these items onto a calendar so that they can be confident that nothing will be missed.

Temperature Control

For many facilities, temperature control is a particularly difficult challenge. This is because there are often many machines that operate at very high temperatures, so it is almost impossible for air conditioners to keep up.

Because this is such a difficult task to manage, the maintenance area should focus a significant amount of planning and resources toward this goal. When the temperature outside gets high, and the plant is also generating a lot of heat, it can become extremely dangerous for the employees working inside. In addition, it may cause some machines to become damaged due to the high temperatures.

The following are some things that you need to keep in mind when maintaining a safe temperature within the facility at all times:

  • Air Movement – One of the best ways to keep the temperature in your facility at safe levels is by having a well thought out air movement plan. This is typically done with exhaust fans located high up in the facility where the hottest air will be. In addition, having openings to bring in fresh, cool air closer to the ground will help keep it well circulated.
  • Machinery Placement – As new machines are brought into the facility, you need to make sure you plan out where they will be based in part on the amount of heat they generate.
  • Heat Exhaust Planning – Any machines that are known to generate a lot of heat should have a heat exhaust plan put in place. Attempting to keep the heat contained and vented outside will help reduce the overall temperature of the facility.
  • Temporary Measures – Having the ability to place large fans or other cooling devices on an as-needed basis is a great way to keep the temperature down during the hottest days.

Heat management is an important part of any plant maintenance because it can impact everything in the facility. The maintenance department is the ideal area to handle this type of work as they will have detailed knowledge of the machines and cooling devices within the facility. Of course, they will also want to work with all the other departments to ensure their needs are met too.

Visual Safety & Hazard Communication

Another important component of any plant maintenance guide is going to be keeping the safety and hazard communication items in clear view. There are many different types of visual safety and hazard communication devices throughout most facilities. These things can be anything from signs to floor tape (which you can find here) and any number of other items.

Keeping these items easily visible and in good shape is extremely important. While some things can be done on a scheduled basis, you also want to make sure you are able to respond quickly at all times.

If, for example, you get a report that the labeling on containers that hold some potentially hazardous chemical have been scratched and aren’t easy to read anymore, you need to be able to replace it immediately. The best way to ensure this is a possibility is to have an industrial label printer (ex. LabelTac 4 PRO) on site that will allow you to create custom labels.

Make sure you take the time to inspect these items on a regular basis, and also encourage all the employees to report it when they see potential issues. If, for example, they see that the floor tape in one area is starting to peal up, they should let the maintenance department know so they can get it fixed or replaced right away.

Gathering Data

One major item that many plants don’t have their maintenance department do is data collection. Since the maintenance team is frequently interacting with every machine in every department, they will have access to a lot of data that can be very valuable.

Keeping track of things like how often a machine has problems, how long it takes to fix the problems, and what type of impact these issues cause can be extremely beneficial. In many cases the maintenance team will provide this data to other areas for analysis and determining if it makes sense to make adjustments or invest in new machinery.

Just keep in mind that all data can be potentially valuable, and in most cases it only takes a moment to collect. This type of data can often help to identify trends and make predictions that can help to avoid downtime and other issues. If your maintenance team is not collecting key data during their day to day tasks, it is a major opportunity that is being lost.

Custom Cleaning

Keeping your plant clean is one of the most important things that you can do to avoid problems and ensure everything is safe. The maintenance department will often be responsible for not only the day to day cleaning of the facility, but also responding quickly to immediate spills and other issues.

While cleaning can sound like a simple job that doesn’t need much explanation; that is actually quite far from the truth. In most plants there are many different types of hazardous materials and products that are used, and they may each require a specific approach to cleaning them. Even general cleaning in some machines and other dangerous areas can require special equipment and training.

Make sure your plant maintenance guide includes information on how to properly clean each area of the facility, and what types of products and equipment should be used. Providing each individual in the maintenance department with training on how to respond to spills and other potentially dangerous cleaning activities is also extremely important.

Keeping Your Plant Maintenance Guide Updated

If you are creating an internal plant maintenance guide for your facility, you will want to make sure you do all you can to keep it updated. As machines are added and removed, for example, you should make updates to reflect this in your guide. It can take some effort, but in the end it will result in ensuring your facility operates more efficiently and with fewer problems long into the future.

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