When They Need it Now
July 1, 2011
by Shane Whitaker
Because of high temperatures and humidity, bakeries present harsh environments, and these conditions can accelerate break downs of mechanical and electrical systems. However, unscheduled downtime is the bane of a bakery’s existence; therefore, maintenance staff and line operators must do everything within their powers to prevent such conditions.
To keep equipment systems operating optimally, bakeries must perform preventive maintenance to ensure systems remain in good working order. They must monitor wear parts that require scheduled replacement and closely watch all systems for potential failures. To avoid extended shutdowns if a malfunction occurs, bakeries need to stock spare parts. Each bakery has its own philosophy or strategy on how to manage maintenance and spare parts, according to Mark Every, vice-president of parts and service, AMF Bakery Systems, Richmond, VA. These plans typically require two objectives: managing risk and ensuring optimal performance of systems, he said.
Mark Priar, director of spare parts at Reading Bakery Systems, Robesonia, PA, added, “To best manage spare parts, bakeries need to work with the OEM to identify the critical spares that will shut them down for extended periods of time.”
Bakeries often consider four factors when stocking spare parts, according to Mr. Every. First is working capital, or the amount they want to invest in parts inventory. Second is the criticality of the part, or the importance of the part to operation of the equipment. “If this part fails, does it shut my system down?” he asked.
Third is probability of failure. While a part may be crucial to a line’s operation, if it has an extremely low liklihood of failure, then it is less of a priority to stock a replacement.
“The fourth dimension is the lead time of the replacement,” Mr. Every added. “If a component has a potential for failure that could lead to a shut down, but you can get it within an hour, that is a much different risk profile than something that has a 3-week lead time.”
Tim Kent, PE, marketing director of Raque Food Systems, Louisville, KY, suggested bakeries keep on hand any part with a long lead time for delivery. “Complicated electrical items not only can have long delivery times but also are likely to no longer be available,” he said.
Mr. Kent also recommended that bakeries consider stocking assemblies such as motors, gearboxes or dough forming heads that can be replaced within minutes or repaired offline later.
All high-usage components should be examined, he added. “For example, if a particular cycle-stop switch is normally used multiple times every day, then it is more likely to need immediate replacement than other buttons that are rarely used. Machinery parts that users actually contact such as knobs and door switches should be kept in inventory.
“Lastly, all elastomeric parts should be considered as likely candidates to be stocked,” he continued. “Fluid sealing components such as O-rings or lip seals can fail without notice if they are not replaced regularly. Soft parts like urethane belting are relatively inexpensive when compared with the profits lost waiting their replacement.”
In fact, Mr. Kent said that perhaps the greatest assistance an OEM can provide is to clearly describe replacement parts and show where they go in the machinery. “This gives the bakery an opportunity to have local suppliers maintain the inventory on the suppliers’ shelves,” he added. “Moreover, standard replacement parts like bearing inserts can be cross-referenced so that the bakery does not have to depend upon a specific manufacturer for a generic component.”
This can lead to major savings for companies because they are able to purchase greater quantities from a single supplier and they also are able to reduce their inventories.
Joe Spaugy, service manager, RTB/Shaffer, Urbana, OH, said the company breaks its spare parts list into what it believes are “must have” and “should have” items. “The must-haves consist of high-wear items that are going to be needed on a frequent basis, and parts that, if they fail, will cause immediate breakdown and/or have a long lead time such as motors and bearings,” he explained.
As for knowing which parts to keep on hand, Mr. Priar said, “Older bakeries know through experience; newer bakeries rely on us.”
Working with the OEM can provide benefits to best maintain systems. “First of all, we understand the equipment and have the history and analysis to ensure we can support our customer’s needs,” Mr. Every said. “Additionally, we are a 1-stop shop needed to maintain their AMF equipment.”
AMF, Reading and many other OEMs integrate all parts and service documentation so they can pull up specific drawings to offer technical support and identify the necessary parts.
In addition, OEMs often assign inside customer service representatives to specific plants who can build a one-on-one relationships with the plant. “They will know the plant’s philosophy, trends, what it is doing and if there are any new projects it may be trying,” he explained. “That ongoing relationship helps us understand how we can better meet the plant’s needs for parts and maintenance.”
Mr. Priar said many of Reading’s longtime T.L. Green customers recognize what parts have wear issues and have set inventories accordingly. However, loss of experience has become one concern for many bakeries as their older maintenance staff retires and with them goes their experience. To that end, more bakeries now rely on Reading to provide service. And in addition to providing maintenance training at the time of purchase, Reading also can train new maintenance personnel on how to properly care for its systems.
An OEM’s support for spare parts generally begins before a new line is even commissioned. “At the initial purchase of the equipment, we work with our customers on our recommended spare parts list to ship with the equipment, so they have all the parts they need,” Mr. Every said.
Raque also provides a recommended spare parts list with every system delivered. “The customer receives a spreadsheet that details almost every replaceable part,” Mr. Kent said. “Within the list, items that are considered as critical to production are made obvious so that the customer may minimize its onsite inventory.”
OEMs generally will partner with their customers for ongoing maintenance to ensure optimal performance of systems. “We work with them on preventive maintenance schedules and provide them with the specific parts they need, when they need them,” Mr. Every said. “We can bundle these parts and ship them as a kit, so users have them prior to shutdown and they don’t deplete their plant’s inventory. Often, we couple that with a service visit to train the staff and to ensure they are doing the proper maintenance to optimize the bakery’s product quality and equipment performance and longevity.”
Equipment manufacturers also get involved in emergency response. “Despite our best intentions and detailed planning, there are situations where something unexpected and unforeseen happens and a plant has an issue that impacts production,” he added. “And at that time, it’s all hands on deck at AMF. We understand the urgency and partner with the baker to find a solution and to get them back up to speed as quickly as possible.”
AMF also provides parts upgrade solutions. “On older vintage equipment, opportunities exist to upgrade parts, components and assemblies to optimize and maximize their performance and safety,” Mr. Every said.
Reading as well upgrades older equipment such as ovens with newer electrical and PLC systems. Bakeries can send back entire machines to have them rebuilt, Mr. Priar said, noting a recent trend where some companies have been sending in the head portion of sheeting lines to have them rebuilt to save on maintenance. He said the company can generally rebuild this piece and have it back in the bakery in five to seven days.
“Bakeries must be proactive and try to have the proper parts on the shelf because downtime is so expensive,” Mr. Priar observed. “They know the wear parts, and they keep those on hand. Sure, some are expensive, but not as expensive as downtime can be.”