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Jan 1, 1996 12:00 AM

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Maintenance "is a task that restores and retains the ability to produce and/or improve equipment capability," states Joe Strader, president of Dynamic Solutions (Glasgow, KY). He should know. He's been in the maintenance business for 17 years.

If the first part of the definition didn't catch your attention, the last part, "improves capability," should because it means increasing productivity and reducing spoilage.

Maintenance programs can be one of four types. In run-to-failure maintenance, companies run equipment into the ground, allowing it to break down before doing maintenance. At this point, costs are high because damage is severe or irreversible. Also, costs increase since the shut-down wasn't planned, customer jobs are on the line and overtime by maintenance and equipment operators will be required. (Obviously, this type of non-maintenance program is best passed over for the second type.)

Preventive maintenance, the second program, covers procedures such as tightening belts and lubricating moving parts. It is scheduled regularly and documented. Periodic inspections take place during which equipment is viewed from the perspective of what's breaking and what can be done to keep it from breaking.

Anticipated or statistical maintenance includes detailed recordkeeping, statistical process control charts and equipment analysis. By using these measurements, equipment is repaired before it even goes out of tolerance.

Predictive maintenance involves procedures such as vibration analysis and infrared analysis, which are done independently so there is no shut-down of production lines. The goal is to improve the maintenance process, and the program cannot be implemented until types two and three are in place.

When deciding to implement maintenance programs, companies must bear the costs of training personnel and restoring equipment to its proper condition. "Maintenance programs that fail do so because firms are unwilling to employ the manpower to make them work," explains Strader. "They usually want to put the budget dollars toward something else. Often, maintenance managers come back from seminars, try to implement programs and find the organization won't commit people in that capacity all at once.

"It's not so much a question of money as people power. The best this to do is bite off little pieces--find one thing you know will work and do it. Document every nickel of savings and costs to show the amount that is saved. Then, analyze the cost savings as if the whole program was implemented. As the program runs, it can be evaluated. If one part isn't saving the amount anticipated, then drop it."

Printers can't expect to get involved in maintenance programs for the short haul because these programs take at least three years to fully implement. Basic objectives and goals must be established up-front and should be quantifiable and precise, specifying the target (what), quantity (how much) and time frame (when). For example, one objective could be to reduce losses by eliminating breakdowns, defects and accidents while enhancing profitability. Each department uses the objective to develop the specific what, how much and when. also, the current equipment breakdown situation must be known so there is something to measure progress against.

Another decision is whether to use a manual or computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)--more than 50 software packages are on the market. However, major problems with implementing CMMS will occur if shops lack a good manual system and records. Also, everyone performing maintenance must be PC literate.

In addition, printers must decide up-front whether to train inside personnel for maintenance work or hire outside contractors. Strader is familiar with both options. "The advantage of using outside contractors is that you can purchase instant expertise," he notes. "With staff workers, there is a learning curve. Once trained, however, having people available at the drop of a hat is a definite advantage. They can take action immediately when equipment starts making noise, which gets the decision-making process started quickly. As to cost savings, they roughly are the same--both big."

When looking for outside contractors, contact your peers throughout the country; most contractors use work-of-mouth versus advertising. When phoning contractors, ask for and check customer references, and find out which services are offered. Some provide training, periodic inspections, overhauls and equipment evaluations. In addition, some equipment manufacturers have maintenance workers, although it's best to ask for references.

Training inside people is an investment yielding multiple returns. Operators can be taught to perform daily inspections and simple repairs--not only learning maintenance techniques, but sharpening their operating skills as well.

Maintenance personnel are trained in technical, intricate procedures and modification techniques, some of which require a license. In the first stages of program implementation, shops rely heavily on these professionals until general inspection becomes part of operators' routines. This period may require overtime and/or outside contracting not only to accomplish what has been planned, but to keep operators from losing their enthusiasm about autonomous maintenance.

Training has to start with the basics--functions of the components, such as a belt, gear, relay or resistor. Then comes application. For instance, examine how a specific component works with another component.

Several sources of training information exist on various levels, starting with contractors and foundations, including the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation (GATF) in Pittsburgh. Also, shops can utilize on-the-job training, but it is slow because it takes four years to learn to run presses and four years to learn how to maintain them. The steps of the training process are as follows: trainees watch trainers, explain what the trainers did, do it themselves and teach trainers the process.

In addition, vendors and suppliers of parts host seminars, which are extremely focused and often available based on the quantity of parts purchased. Informal "over-the-shoulder" training occurs when printers contact a manufacturer's maintenance staff. Don't let them do anything without watching," Strader warns. "Take specific notes, such as step-by-step instructions, and take photographs. Combine the information into a maintenance manual later--it's the best training manual."

Last, self-directed training, including using magazines and manuals, should be available for reading on breaks while workers wait for customers or plates. There always is something new to be learned. Strader recommends Maintenance Technology, Engineering and Paper Age. Tool catalogs often include reference sections on how certain items work.

Installing a good maintenance program takes time, money and work. However, the payoff is maximum equipment effectiveness leading to profitability, longer equipment life cycles and increased productivity due to removing the variables in the process. Breakdowns, periodic speed losses and product defects are eliminated, and there is no lack of precision.

A solid maintenance program promotes safer working conditions--and that is well worth the effort.