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Matt Alexander, Volm Companies

Maintenance Matters

Second only to product quality, a packer’s primary priority should be maximizing their packing line’s up-time. Buying quality packaging equipment is just the first step in ensuring one’s packing line stays up and running. Since a packing line that fails costs time, money and resources, proactive packers stay on top of routine packing line maintenance.

Servicing and maintaining one’s packing line often falls low in packers’ long to-do lists, which means most packing line upgrades and fixes are a result of crisis and occur at the worst possible time. It doesn’t have to be this way. Regardless of brand and age, virtually any equipment can be reliable if one keeps it well maintained.

Routine inspection and maintenance can make a huge difference in maximizing up-time. Every wearable part should be inspected on a regular, scheduled basis; all lubrication points should be oiled/lubricated as per operating manual recommendations; and all critical parts (parts which, if they break, will put the whole machine out of commission) should be routinely checked for signs of damage.

No matter how skilled and trained your on-site maintenance staff, consider bringing in your equipment manufacturer’s technicians, both to routinely service equipment and to fix packing line problems when they arise. If your on-site maintenance team does attempt to service or fix your equipment (only when absolutely necessary and only if they are specifically trained in packing line maintenance), ensure the parts they use are manufacturer specific rather than generic.

Some manufacturers now offer scheduled preventative maintenance programs. Not only does this type of program increase convenience to the customer, it can save enormous dollars by maximizing up-time and minimizing damage to equipment caused when parts wear out or break. In some cases, this form of preventative maintenance can be packed in an extended service contract, somewhat like an extended equipment warranty.

If you’re operating older equipment or equipment manufactured overseas, your dealer may not have replacement parts on hand. Since waiting for ordered parts to arrive can set you back days or even weeks, packers should consider maintaining a kit of properly inventoried spare parts on hand at all times. A kit should include all parts that acquire wear (such as pneumatic valves and belts) and all critical parts.

More and more, proactive packers are measuring and logging their packing lines’ Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE). OEE should also be calculated for each individual piece of equipment, as follows: equipment availability x efficiency x quality. As the saying goes: ‘You can’t improve what you don’t measure.’ It’s worth your while: OEE improvement directly translates to money in the bank.

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