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Computerized Maintenance Programs Keep Costs Low, Efficiency High

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by Clarence Totleben
Plant Manager
APCO Packaging

In contract manufacturing, one of the keys to controlling cost and on-time delivery is keeping the machinery running without a hitch. A critical element in assuring that machinery is performing optimally is performing predictive and preventative maintenance. A computerized maintenance program, also known as CMP, can help those responsible for maintenance effectively manage this process.

Tom Piha, operations manager for APCO Packaging, explained the difference between preventive and predictive maintenance. "With predictive maintenance, we do a maintenance task based on the manufacturer's recommendations that a particular part will last for a certain number of hours. This is based on the manufacturer's experience."

This kind of maintenance is done in anticipation of the lifetime of a part, to replace it before it wears out and impacts the machine's performance. "Preventive maintenance is related to tasks that assure reliability, including lubrication, inspection and general maintenance," Piha said.

"While the manufacturer has a knowledge base concerning the lifetime of a machine and its parts, we might use it differently," Piha said. "We learn from our experience in the field. We might need to exceed the manufacturer's recommendations."

Using a sophisticated database program, the manufacturer's recommendations and actual field experience are combined to produce a schedule for maintaining machines at peak performance.
"We enter all our pieces of equipment into the database," Piha said. "Then we enter what tasks are necessary, and which have been performed. The program alerts us to tasks that need to be done."

Piha said that using predictive and preventive maintenance, guided by the CMP, APCO has managed to extend replacement of equipment beyond expectations by as much as 30-45 percent. This reduces the cost of manufacturing, a saving passed on to the client.

"Any time you do predictive and preventive maintenance, rather than breakdown maintenance, you save money," Piha said. "There is no interference with the production schedule, and no need for overtime to meet deadlines."

Piha recommended that when working with a contract manufacturer, there are three questions you want to ask related to equipment maintenance:

  1. Does your company have an active preventive and predictive maintenance program?
  2. Is it computer-based?
  3. What is your company's record on reliability and on-time delivery?