We are now getting to the heart of peak season, which means that for many retailers and distributors, the wave of holiday orders that will make for a successful year is just around the corner. Are your systems ready to ensure the smooth flow of goods the way you designed them to do? Maybe not, if you have not done proper maintenance on those systems.
We have witnessed firsthand this year what happens when supply chains go wrong. Among the causes of bottlenecks and shortages were system breakdowns. One infamous example was a lack of proper maintenance at one of the nation’s largest manufacturing plants for baby formula. A lack of preventive maintenance resulted in contamination that forced an extended plant closure, causing well-publicized product shortages and outright anger from parents, politicians, and consumer groups.
In some cases, companies skip maintenance to save money. All of us do this to some degree in our everyday lives. We delay car oil changes. We ignore the leaky faucet until we can’t stand the dripping any longer. We can usually get away with delaying maintenance at home, but when customers are making buying decisions based on the service they receive, saving a little now could be quite costly in the long run.
Many facilities perform reactive maintenance rather than preventive maintenance. But waiting for something to break results in system shutdowns until repairs can be made. Good preventive maintenance allows for that work to be done when it’s most convenient and not at times when you need those systems to be running at full tilt.
The ongoing labor shortage is another excuse often given for neglecting maintenance. Good workers are hard to find these days, and that includes the technicians needed to keep automated material handling and manufacturing equipment running. If you cannot find the right in-house techs, there are outside experts who can help. You can find them at equipment dealers and manufacturers that offer maintenance contracts for the systems they sell. Such maintenance contracts should simply be considered operating expenses and part of the long-term investment in the systems.
These days, some of the more sophisticated systems can even evaluate themselves, diagnosing potential problems before they happen, sending alerts and information on wear, improper tension, possible power failures, and more. In effect, these systems allow technology to care for the technology.
We need our automated systems more than ever. Be kind to them.