THE CONNECTION BETWEEN MAINTENANCE AND PRODUCTION
By: John Rushton, MS Industrial Engineering, BS Mechanical Engineering and John Ballantyne, BS Mining Engineering
The emphasis in a mine or plant is almost always on production. Production is what pays the bills and makes fortunes, however, there has to be maintenance support to keep equipment doing its job.
To most production people, equipment maintenance is a necessary evil. Maintenance is not glamorous work, and often gets neglected when praise is being thrown around. It is easy to recognize higher production, greater capacities, faster cycle times or increased loads. But who cares if an engine is replaced in 12 hours instead of 48? The answer is that everyone from the hourly employee to the general manager should care: downtime can influence profit more than occasional production increases, and downtime occurs on a regular basis.
Mine and plant equipment needs constant maintenance work. Parts need lubrication, components need to be replaced, electrical problems need to be repaired and any other number of problems addressed. Any repair work the maintenance department does to equipment will result in downtime, will take away from production and will cost money. These maintenance costs cannot be avoided. However, they can be minimized through proper maintenance practices.
Communication between departments is crucial, and must include Operations cooperating with Maintenance. Traditionally, Operations resists surrendering equipment to Maintenance if the equipment can still produce. The rationale is that every ton that can be moved today is money in the bank. The problem with this kind of thinking relates to probability and statistics: the longer equipment goes without maintenance work, the higher the probability of equipment failure. When the failure does occur, the problems are so escalated that the equipment remains down much longer than if Maintenance had been allowed to take it down. Many mining operations have come to an early demise because of poor maintenance practices. The operating cost of many plants is high for the same reason. This has become the industry standard because substandard levels of performance are acceptable, and people have forgotten the direct impact maintenance has on production.
We encourage you to think about how maintenance impacts your production and bottom line. Then make the necessary maintenance changes and watch your production and profit increase.