Trick or treat? Unplanned downtime:
a real-life horror story

It is normal for kids to love a scary Halloween. They want to explore the boundaries of their own fears: a way to learn about them. We also like to push our process and equipment for the best results and learn from it. In Operations the focus is often on capacity(output). The adrenaline rushes through your veins when you get the job done although the planning was tight, right? But sometimes the result of the ability means that a ‘trick’ was performed, instead of having realized production ‘treat’! Knowing the difference is key when you want to avoid a real-life horror story: unplanned downtime…

Choices: Capacity vs. Reliability?

We all know that reliable machinery results in optimum machine availability and therefore high output (capacity). So focusing on both capacity and reliability to be optimal should not be a conflict of interest. However, some short-term operational actions to work at full capacity can actually adversely affect the long-term reliability of the equipment. For example when preventive maintenance is postponed or when certain (temporary) adjustments are made to the equipment that accelerate wear of parts(while this is not being monitored).

At worst this takes you on a downward spiral where you don’t have any time for preventive maintenance because your technicians are too busy with reactive maintenance. If this continues long enough, you may even find yourself having to go through cultural shift before getting the plant running optimally again. How come? It can be addictive for a technician to be that glorious firefighter in the field: to be the only person who can solve this extremely pressing problem of unplanned downtime.

One reason we consume horror is to experience stimulation. Exposure to terrifying acts, or even the anticipation of those acts, can stimulate us — both mentally and physically — in opposing ways: negatively (in the form of fear or anxiety) or positively (in the form of excitement or joy).” – Yang,H. & Zhang, K., 2021, ‘The Psychology Behind Why We Love (or Hate) Horror’

Troubleshooting support

However, even the best organized and cared for plants occasionally face unplanned downtime occasionally. If so, you are happy to have a partner who truly actually cares about your Operational Excellence. And in case you overlooked our new slogan: we do! That’s why you can count on our troubleshooting support: we have all the in-house disciplines to support you quickly with technical advise. We can usually help you quickly resolve everything over the phone, by asking questions and using our specific knowledge and experience on site. Even if it is software related we can do a lot for you on site without having to visit. Read more about our remote support options here. And if necessary, we have engineers on stand-by whoare ready to travel.

But even if you have the most skilled support onsite, you still need to have all the parts that are needed to fix the problem readily available. Otherwise you will enter the scariest scenario of all: the length of your unplanned downtime depends on the pace of specific component manufacturers. In the current global situation with material and delivery time challenges, this is not a risk anyone should take.

Risk Reduction

A strategic spare stock is something we can recommend, advise about and provide with. We strongly focus on automation and digitization for a reason: as engineers we believe in data-driven learning, prioritization and decision making. For this we have developed the Selmers Plant Management System (SPMS). With SPMS you can monitor and analyze the actual condition of your machinery and therefore evaluate their reliability and the maintenance work to be performed.

The analog version would be to book us from time to time to do the evaluation for you, of which we have a blog coming soon. But of course this does not include all the process data that SPMS would collect to establish connections with how operations were performed. And when you think about both expenses and climate impact, these trips could better be minimized.

In our experience it is optimal to use a combination of having SPMS for continuous improvement and to support your daily work, and a periodical technical visit that is obviously required less frequent in combination. And the fact that you then started collecting data with context makes it an earlier option for you to perform historical analysis for the necessary improvements needed for the business and technology to remain competitive.

A Learning Curve

Of course, the education of all people that work with the machinery(and its digital tools such as SPMS) is the very basis of the reliability of your machine park. We believe that learning never stops: never underestimate the power of repeating and refreshing the in-depth knowledge of the process itself. If it’s embedded enough, you’ll make those one-time right decisions even in that heat of the moment split second. And well, wouldn’t that be the biggest rush of all!

Contact Global Services to get your strategic stock and troubleshooting support, or to book a technical visit or training. Contact Sales to find out more about fitting digitization options for your site.

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