Red factory door

8 STEPS TO FOLLOW FOR PROPER SHUTDOWN OF YOUR MANUFACTURING LINE

We are all going through a difficult period. The COVID-19 pandemic affects our loved ones, work colleagues, and partners. The personal cost of these trying times is immense, as is the disruption to businesses in most industries. Restrictions have forced many of our customers and suppliers to suspend production indefinitely.

As many are likely experiencing production shutdowns, we wanted to offer guidance through a comprehensive checklist that will allow you to shut down your assembly and manufacturing lines optimally. How you shutdown your line can have a major impact on your capacity to restart production promptly. In an upcoming article, we will help you restart your machinery, taking the best steps and precautions.

1. END OF PRODUCTION SEQUENCE

When pausing a manufacturing line, it is crucial to allow the machine to empty itself of all the components. The end of the production sequence clears the manufacturing equipment without loading new products into the cycle. This cycle finishes components in a machine and automatically removes most of the glue, parts, liquid, and powder from the production path.

There are, however, certain elements that will not be automatically emptied until a later stage of the manufacturing processes. It may be necessary to remove these elements manually and thus completely empty the machine of any stray material that can complicate startup.

This first step is crucial. For instance, we had experience with a temporary equipment shutdown where oil was left inside certain containers. This oil froze and hardened during the production disruption. When we wanted to restart the line, the oil had become like a resin, gumming up the machine and requiring cleaning that was more labor-intensive and time-consuming than if it was completed at the time of the shutdown.

2. AIR PURGE

Once the machine is out of service, the next thing we recommend is to purge any air that may be present in the equipment. Machines often use compressed air to activate the different cylinders, and most machines have an air purge valve that allows for bleeding off any accumulated air. Why is it important? Because the air can crystallize and eventually wear out pneumatic components.

3. CLEANING OF THE MACHINE

Beyond clearing the line of product and residue, purging air, and cleaning filters, you should take the time to clean the machinery thoroughly during shutdown. Cleaning now will avoid unpleasant surprises at startup.

For example, in the previous example where a company left oil in their system, which froze, cleaning it was longer and more complex than just emptying it. During cleaning, they had to dismantle pipes and small components, resulting in broken parts because it was so “jammed”. It added an extra layer of unnecessary work and problems. Invest the time today, and you’ll save time in the long run.

4. PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE

Whether the shutdown affects all of your manufacturing lines or just a portion, we recommend you use the disruption as an opportunity to perform preventive maintenance on your equipment. The manufacturer’s operation and maintenance manual is the best source for guidance on how to care for your equipment and how to identify issues that need repair.

Dealing with repair needs today will help you to be better able to restart quickly. It is also advisable to ensure that you have critical parts and components that need frequent replacement beforehand. Lead times to supply your parts can be unpredictable, so we suggest that you make a list of parts that need changing and share it with your suppliers to anticipate when the product will be available.

Preventive maintenance implementation

5. ENVIRONMENTAL

More generally, we suggest that you keep the equipment in a stable environment, adequate in terms of temperature and ventilation. This will help avoid degrading your production line.

For example, in a medical clean room, if the machine is not in production, it may not be necessary to maintain PPM, particles per million, in the air at a level similar to that during production. However, keeping the temperature and humidity level stable is important so that the machine does not start to rust.

As for air compressors — especially air dryers and filters — we highly recommend that you change these components at shutdown so there will be no contamination or blockage of filters. If you have just recently replaced filters, then you may not need to change to new filters at the time of the shutdown process.

The main goal here is to avoid letting your machinery be dormant with dirty filters in place, as this could adversely affect the general functioning of your machine.

6. PROTECTION

When your equipment is in an industrial environment, certain activities such as cutting materials, welding, generate dust and debris. This poses the risk of generating contaminants and damaging all that is mechanical, such as seals. Accumulated metal shavings, for example, can cause internal damage and pose a risk to operators when the machine is switched back on after the shutdown period.

Normally, when the fans in the factory are running, dust or contaminants are filtered. At Orientech, when a machine is on physical hold at the customer’s request, we always cover it with plastic wrap to protect the machine and fragile components from contaminants. This simple step can save you from these problems at restart.

7. ELECTRICITY

We highly recommend you to start by making a backup of all of your machines, be it the PLC, the HMI, the robots, etc., as long as you have the power on the machine. You can either buy dedicated software to complete a full backup or offer remote access to your technology partner to perform a backup for you. If you don’t have the skilled workforce or equipment to properly backup your manufacturing systems, don’t hesitate to call your partner and determine the equipment manufacturer’s backup recommendations.

Next, we advise you to replace the batteries. There is a very specific procedure to change the batteries of robotics to ensure that programming does not get lost or altered.

When you have backed up everything and replaced the parts and batteries that are needed, you should determine if you should cut off the power source, or maintain power during shutdown. It may be preferable to cut off the power to avoid any power surge.

Electrical components must also be protected during dormancy. If there is dust, contaminants, oil, grease that go under the sensors, you will have issues when it comes time to start the machine again.

8. GET SUPPORT

In case you are not comfortable with restarting, or if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact your partner company. You may even be able to ask them to reboot with you, online, video or phone.

This crisis is unprecedented. Many factors are out of your hands, such as the duration of a shutdown period. It is key to focus on what you actually can control. The approach to maintaining your machine, assembly lines, and manufacturing premises, is something you have the ability to actively manage.

Follow these guidelines and make the right decision for your company’s future.

Checklist to help before shuting down the production line
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Engineer working next to automated line

IMPLEMENT A PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE STRATEGY TO ENHANCE PRODUCTION

Maintenance programs ensure the proper operation of your equipment without failure or unplanned shutdown. Preventive maintenance encompasses routine processes to ensure optimal equipment functioning. Conversely, reactive maintenance involves — as the name states — a reaction to a problem as it occurs. While some degree of reactive maintenance may be required, prudent planning can minimize the need for reactive measures. Poor or no planning results in missing maintenance intervals, which degrade equipment value and utility.

People and processes are the two critical success factors for your plan production, so an equipment maintenance process should begin with a high-performance team.

 

HOW TO BUILD A HIGH-PERFORMANCE MAINTENANCE TEAM

 

Building a maintenance team can be a long journey. As soon as possible, you should implement a dedicated team that understands the essential role of the maintenance department in executing the business strategy and achieving operational performance and safety objectives.

If not possible, we would recommend having at least the following profiles working together:

  • Technical team

An electromechanic on-site would be ideal because they can handle the electrical and mechanical sections of your equipment. They will understand the automation of assembly parts and will be better able to respond quickly in case of breakdown or a need for troubleshooting.

  • Procurement management team

Simplify the parts purchasing process and speed up maintenance-related procurement by creating documents dedicated to the purchase of critical items and a purchase order for all parts required for rapid response. The maintenance department should manage these functions.

 

10 STEPS TO CREATE AN EFFECTIVE PREVENTIVE MAINTENANCE SYSTEM

 

1. Start by creating a maintenance type for each equipment and establish how to optimize it.

For each machine:

    • Analyze applicable maintenance types
    • List existing techniques, qualified subcontractors and instrumentation
    • Estimate maintenance costs and compare to potential benefits
    • Analyze feasibility according to available resources.

 

2. Identify the tasks to be performed in preventive maintenance for each equipment.

Group them into action sections per cycle/calendar/ shift, and establish daily routines.

3. Keep a history of repairs by developing documents (i.e., forms) to manage interventions in the manner of a work order.

 

4. Identify cost and labor cost data to establish the repair record.

Compile data on response times and impact on production.

5. Create a master equipment file that lists all the critical data used by your organization and external stakeholders.

List essential parts and potential suppliers, incorporate photos and equipment development diagrams, and detail security information.

6. Choose the equipment that will be the subject of a preventative maintenance program.

Establish equipment selection criteria based on its importance and select a limited number of people to test and implement the preventive maintenance system.

7. Establish the required workloads for each daily preventive maintenance routine.

Create an annual calendar by taking into account working days, holidays, and vacations, and plan the various monthly or yearly maintenance routines according to the needs of the production.

8. Ensure the availability of ‘must-have’ parts to be kept in stock in the inventory and create a precise and easy to access catalog of parts in stock.

 

9. Evaluate the effectiveness of this program and adjust as needed.

Check response reports, compile repair history sheets, confirm availability of maintenance equipment, adjust maintenance intervals as required, and compile and evaluate results using reports, indices, and ratios.

10. Always install your equipment indoors, with a temperature of 10 ° C to 38 ° C and relative humidity of 30% to 80%.

Sprayed oxidants should be kept to a minimum, as they can cause rust on machine parts that are not made of stainless steel. Adequate lighting and a work area will facilitate the operation and maintenance of the equipment. The machine does not require any foundation or particular floor. A typical concrete factory floor is adequate because the machine is designed with leveling feet.

PROACTIVITY

 

Whatever your desire for preventive maintenance implementation within your team, a willingness to be proactive, rather than reactive, is needed to achieve the best results. Beyond an evolution in its corporate culture, it is mainly about anticipating needs and risks through a high-performance plan.

 

Today, there is a wealth of professionals and tools to put in place an effective preventive maintenance strategy. Do not hesitate to contact your equipment manufacturer to guide you if you need it. Our experience confirms that with sound risk management, your equipment will benefit from reduced downtime, increased production, reduced backlogs, and a safer workplace.

Download the checklist to avoid any non-planned shutdown of your lines and become proactive in your production management.

 

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Downtime in production

6 WAYS TO AVOID AUTOMATED ASSEMBLY LINE DOWNTIME

For any business, downtime is a scary but ever-looming threat to productivity, revenue, and growth. Today’s companies rely on technology, but few industries feel the sting of downtime more painfully that manufacturing. More than 80% of organizations have been impacted by at least one unplanned outage involving their machinery since 2015. The average organization has experienced two episodes during the past few years.

 

DOWNTIME IS COSTLY

 

Research has shown that most industrial plants lose a minimum of 5% of their productivity to downtime, and many can see production drop by 20%. Efficiency translates to revenue and success, and unscheduled downtime is a significant hurdle to the smooth operations required in today’s competitive global marketplace. Businesses should strive to limit unplanned downtime to 10% or less, keeping in line with the goal recommended by international standards.

Source: ISA.ORG – Article from Dave Crumrine and Doug Post (access the article by clicking here)

Slowdown causes can include operator error, maintenance or software failure, or last-minute changes to assembly parts, such as size or part color. Adjustments are often unavoidable but can have a ripple effect, creating a bottleneck for productive operations.

 

LAST-MINUTE CHANGES CREATE HURDLES

 

Assembly machines are carefully calibrated for the fastest and most accurate job. That’s why last-minute modifications lead to poor performance, equipment failure, and frustration from employees and management. Unscheduled shutdowns result in significant costs related to lost productivity and temporary emergency work.

To help avoid these problems, we developed a checklist of recommendations to follow for the maintenance of your automatic equipment. With this guide, you can better avert non-programmed stops.

 

BEST PRACTICES FOR AVOIDING UNSCHEDULED DOWNTIME IN YOUR PRODUCTION PROCESS

 

  • Avoid parts modifications, but also be prepared

In our experience, about 75% of our service calls are due to parts modification. When planning the assembly task and calibrating your machinery, think of potential changes, and run tests. This way, you’ll see how the machines will react and can make setup modifications if needed.

 

  • Ensure employees are properly trained

Invest the time to read and understand the equipment manual before noting a fault in the system or equipment and making a repair or partial replacement. Most errors are due to the misuse of tools or improper modification of the equipment. By training employees in the right use of machines and developing a culture of direct communication with the person responsible for automation, you can limit misuse.

 

  • Preventive maintenance keeps things moving with less interruption

Consider creating a maintenance schedule and workflow for each piece of equipment. Analyze applicable maintenance types, list existing techniques, identify qualified repair and maintenance vendors, and estimate maintenance costs. Use this information as a guide, so maintenance becomes less of a task and more a part of everyday operations.

Estimate the duration of the tasks or groups of tasks, identify for each job the responsible resource.

 

  • Understand maintenance key metrics

Audit your machinery using a simple and logical codification and identification system. This system will highlight if you are producing according to expected results on schedule and will help you achieve set objectives for quantity, quality, speed, cost, profitability, and more.

This system will make it possible to view downturns in production, plan future maintenance, and incorporate other services such as purchasing and quality control.

 

  • Develop operator trust, and use it as a failsafe

Your operators interact with your machinery daily. They are accustomed to listening and observing the machinery in operation. Employees recognize the various sounds and the appearance of machinery during regular operation and are best equipped to spot a potential problem. Familiarity allows them to develop multiple skills to recognize and to react quickly to abnormalities.

Many industries have noted that automating part of their assembly line has not necessarily resulted in downsizing. Indeed, many operational tasks, which involve mainly repetitive and routine tasks, have evolved to focus primarily on process troubleshooting, which is essential for limiting downtime.

 

  • Know your on-site ‘must-haves’

We had recently an example of a company that lost a phase on one of the transformers of the plant, so they lost electricity on the line. All the equipment stopped. And since the battery of their PLCs were not changed, the memory and saved settings for programming were erased. Since the model of the PLC was discontinued, it took some time for us to find this model and program it, only adding to manufacturing delays.

The considerable costs and delays of this incident could have been avoided if the customer correctly backed up the system and upgraded its PLC.

Ensuring “must-have” tools or parts are on-hand will enable you to replace easily in case of troubleshooting, avoiding delays if the supplier does not have the items in stock.

 

Optimize your production and minimize unexpected assembly lines disruption by following these simple steps. The consequences of downtime are expensive, complicate the lives of engineers and technicians, and can have serious business implications that spread to other parts of your operations.

Don’t wait until your production stops suddenly or slows down for no apparent reason. Download our ultimate checklist to avoid any non-planned shutdown of your lines and become proactive in your production management. Do you have any stories — triumphs or troubles — regarding downtime?  Share your experiences in the comments section.

 

Avoid downtime in production checklist

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