As many countries mark the sobering milestone of a full year of pandemic restrictions, it seems apt to step back and reflect on some of the less obvious effects COVID-19 has had on the food production industry. Twelve months of disruption, ever-changing regulations and economic uncertainty have sent far reaching ripples across the sector, leading many manufacturers to scale back capital investment on production lines. This change in strategy has placed renewed focus on effective equipment maintenance and aftermarket services that can help enhance the performance of existing equipment, avoid unexpected shutdowns and mitigate the impact of fluctuating market conditions on businesses. Here, Raj Singh, Group Aftermarket & Services Manager at tna, explains the rising importance of preventative maintenance systems – how new developments in aftermarket service offerings are supporting manufactures’ maintenance plans, and the benefits smarter servicing strategies can bring in terms of increased uptime and optimized efficiencies.
Sizing up maintenance strategies: Corrective, proactive or preventative?
Even among experienced industry professionals, the distinction between different types of maintenance strategies can be hard to pin down. Arguably the most basic form is corrective maintenance, which means service intervention is carried out only when a machine has developed an issue. Representing almost the opposite approach, proactive maintenance focuses on taking action early to mitigate system factors that cause wear and tear to equipment, with the goal of extending its operating life. Preventative maintenance is different again from both of these strategies, and centres around the regular, planned monitoring of equipment, regardless of current operational status, to reduce the risk of sudden stoppages or unexpected faults. While a little more complex and time-consuming than corrective maintenance, in the long run a preventative approach can result in significant cost savings and invaluable improvements in the efficiency and safety of production lines.
Serving the right support: The importance of aftermarket services
At its best, aftermarket service includes everything producers need to keep their equipment running smoothly – from the timely supply and management of spare parts, to operator training, advice on best practice and modernisation, and other value-added services. Any producer looking to adopt a preventative maintenance strategy must also ensure their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) provides a comprehensive, 360° aftermarket service offering, because even with the most sophisticated schedule, unplanned downtime cannot be avoided completely. With the pressures of the pandemic still very much a reality, it is especially important that producers choose an OEM that can proactively support their operations – with both routine servicing and a view to improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Advanced aftermarket provision, including digital services capable of operating effectively, even under tight coronavirus restrictions, are therefore becoming a critical tool for getting equipment back online quickly, simply and safely.
Putting it together: 3 smart ways to combine preventative maintenance and aftermarket service for complete manufacturing resilience
- Training, expert advice and strategy development
The core of any preventative maintenance approach is the establishment of regular, strategically scheduled equipment checks. Establishing which factors to monitor during these inspections, how often they need to be conducted and by whom, requires the OEM to provide comprehensive training to food producers. Aftermarket services, like training sessions and workshops, are then vital for ensuring operators gain the knowledge they need to create a preventative maintenance schedule, optimise equipment processes and reduce dependency on expert engineers to resolve simple issues. Open communication and customer service availability is also crucial in making sure food producers can get in contact with equipment providers quickly should they need expert advice or to report more serious faults. Online customer portals offering 24/7 assistance are therefore an important aspect of aftermarket provision.
- Replacement parts and stock management
For preventative maintenance to be effective, producers need to keep a supply of essential materials close to hand, be they specialist lubricants or specific spare parts only available from the equipment manufacturer. Given its vital importance to the smooth running of production lines, spare parts provision and advice on stock keeping best practice should be included as standard as part of a high-quality aftermarket service offering. Ensuring the right stock of genuine spare parts are readily available lets producers avoid costly shutdowns while essential parts are ordered and sourced, and can also save a significant amount of storage space – freeing up more room to expand lines and profit margins.
- Data analysis, repairs and modernisation
A high-value preventative maintenance strategy hinges on the regular and comprehensive logging of equipment statuses after each scheduled system check. This data can be used in combination with digital aftermarket services, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), digital twins and machine learning, to proactively monitor producers’ servicing needs and assess whether repairs or replacements are required.
This technology-focused approach aligns with another commonly used maintenance strategy, which uses data monitoring to continually assess the condition of equipment during operation, calculate the probability of it developing any faults and take action to prevent those failures through regular corrective maintenance. Defined as ‘predictive maintenance’, this method is often used in conjunction with preventative servicing plans, though the two approaches rely on subtly differing principles. For example, in predictive maintenance the frequency of interventions is based on equipment condition and performance data, whereas preventative maintenance calls for inspections according to a pre-determined schedule, usually based on the machine’s lifecycle rather than its current condition.
The COVID-19 crisis has made it difficult to conduct field service in-person, but by harnessing advanced digital tools, like remote repair programmes enabled by augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR) technology, OEMs like tna have been able to provide essential repair services quickly and safely – wherever they are needed. The best aftermarket service providers also help their customers stay abreast of rapid technological developments and remain at the forefront of their respective industries through regular tune-ups and advice on when to upgrade machinery.
Reimaging repairs: Predicting developments in maintenance and aftermarket service
As the world enters the post-COVID era, the accelerated adoption of remote-based services and technologies like Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI), during the pandemic is likely to leave its mark. As in so many areas, the crisis has brought irreversible shifts in the way producers and OEMs use digitally-focused predictive and preventative maintenance strategies, helping them move from emerging trends to industry standards in a matter of months. With OEMs now far better equipped to provide smart, efficient repair services, tna predicts the focus will shift even more to preventative maintenance, data gathering and line optimisation, helping food producers keep their operations agile and resilient to whatever new challenges the future may bring.
An end-to-end solutions provider
tna is dedicated to providing a 360° aftermarket service that harnesses the power of remote monitoring, machine learning and AI to provide the fast, smart support our customers need to succeed in today’s market. From our new digital customer portal, producers can access traditional services, such as spare part requests, as well as a comprehensive library of training resources and our new Remote Assist feature for quick support delivered safely by one of our in-house expert technicians. To know more about our aftermarket services, contact your tna regional resource here: https://www.tnasolutions.com/support/your-support-team/