Involving Operators In The Maintenance Process

Every company is faced with the challenge of having too many things to do and too few resources to do them. Unfortunately, an important activity that often suffers from this lack of resources is equipment maintenance, or more specifically, preventive maintenance.

Columns From: 10/2/2006 Modern Machine Shop,

Every company is faced with the challenge of having too many things to do and too few resources to do them. Unfortunately, an important activity that often suffers from this lack of resources is equipment maintenance, or more specifically, preventive maintenance. We know that preventive maintenance is necessary and reduces breakdowns that often occur at the worst possible times. Yet, if we don’t allocate resources for preventive maintenance tasks, they keep getting pushed back or cancelled altogether.

In past columns, I've discussed the value of the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) concept as a means of spreading the responsibility for machine maintenance among a number of departments within an organization. TPM stresses a long-term approach to keeping equipment up and running to its full potential. To accomplish this, TPM relies on machine operators to identify the need for maintenance early on.

However, if machine operators are to be part of this effort, it has to be clear to them about what they need to do and when they need to do it. A checklist, combined with visual controls, can be an effective means of both communicating what is expected of operators and enhancing their role in keeping the equipment up and running.

To begin compiling the operator checklist, consider simple tasks that the operator can perform on a daily basis. The tasks should not be too time consuming and should focus on areas that present the best opportunities for identifying existing or potential problems. Looking at a machine’s maintenance history is a good starting point for identifying the tasks with the best potential for yielding positive results.
Once the tasks have been identified, the desired condition related to each task should be clearly spelled out. These desired conditions must be easy to recognize “on the spot.” For example, temperature and pressure reading, proper fluid level, airflow intensity and the cleanliness of a filter all are conditions that any machine operator can observe and readily evaluate.

Some typical tasks, along with their desired conditions, are shown on the checklist in Figure 1.

Operator Machine Start up Checklist
No Task Condition
1 Check Coolant Level Level should be between min & max lines
2 Check Coolant Level Ribbons on guard should be moving
3 Check Coolant Level Pressure should be in green zone on gauge
4 & 5 Check Coolant Level sdf

Once the checklist is developed, each task should be tied to the specific location on the machine where the task is to be performed. This can best be accomplished by putting numbers on the machine at each task location. For example, a very visible label marked with the number “1” can be placed next to the window that covers a fluid level indicator. This communicates the need to go to location 1 and check the cooling fluid level. A label marked with the number “2” can be placed near the fans that are providing air flow. This communicates the need to go to location 2 and check air flow. In a similar manner, numbered labels can be placed on all areas of the machine that require a check to be performed.

Once the numbered labels have been placed on the machine, it is a good idea to take pictures of the devices to be checked and their corresponding labels. These pictures can become part of the checklist and provide additional instruction to the operator.

This type of visual system can enhance operator involvement in the machine maintenance process. The more an operator can participate in this preventative process, the more time a maintenance technician can devote to other complex maintenance issues.

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