Baking and snack manufacturing companies may choose from several different philosophies to dictate how they handle maintenance within their plants. Facilities can be highly proactive and implement rigorous preventive maintenance (PM) programs on all of their equipment systems to avoid breakdowns and to maintain lines at their highest efficiencies. Or they can fall at the other end of the spectrum and be completely reactive, performing little to no PM and responding to malfunctions as they occur on lines. Most likely, they will fall somewhere between these extremes, but most plants are diligent in performing PM schedules to try to avoid equipment breakdowns that can lead to shutdowns in operations.
Nevertheless, maintenance shops can be an underappreciated and undermanned division within a plant. When things are running fine, most companies may not be concerned with day-to-day maintenance issues. If a facility is proactive and performing PM, the work will generally be scheduled around production. However, as soon as an equipment breakdown occurs, maintenance engineers need to be ready to spring into action.
Maintenance shops in many bakeries and snack manufacturing plants across the country are likely to be running with smaller staffs than in the past. “One of the trends I see is that bakers are cutting back on their internal staffs,” said Rob Zielsdorf, vice-president, parts and service, The Peerless Group, Sidney OH.
In some cases, maintenance shops rely on outside assistance.“A few bakeries have actually outsourced their maintenance function, and I know others that are supplementing their maintenance function with third-part companies or individuals,” Mr. Zielsdorf noted. “If they have a problem, they will call in an electrician, a welder or something along those lines. And they will keep a bare minimum skeleton staff to maintain what they can day to day.”
Steve Mull, service and parts manager, Reading Bakery Systems, Robesonia, PA, said that although plants run with smaller numbers of maintenance engineers, the comapnies continue to grow, and with growth, comes expansion.
A growing trend for baking facilities is to have lines running as efficiently as possible, according to Mr. Mull. “With the ever-rising utilities cost, everyone wants to try to be as green as possible,” he pointed out.
And maintenance staffs play a vital role to ensure lines are running at their optimum. “Lean maintenance is a proactive maintenance operation employing planned and scheduled maintenance of activities,” Mr. Mull said.
Bakeries are using strategies developed through applications of reliability, centered with maintenance-decision logic, and technicians are performing maintenance through the committed use of work-order or computermanaged maintenance systems, he said. “In the proactive maintenance operation, the prevention of equipment failures through preventive and predictive maintenance actions is the objective,” Mr. Mull added.
Planned maintenance involves the use of documented maintenance tasks that identify taskaction steps, labor-resource requirements, parts and materials requirements, time to perform and technical references. “Scheduled maintenance is the prioritization of the work — issuance of a work order, assignment of available labor resources, designation of the time period to perform the task coordinated with operations/ production, and breakout and staging of parts and materials,” he added.
Peerless understands that the pace of a bakery may not always allow the focus to be put on PM. Accordingly, it has devised a solution — the Peerless Preventive Maintenance Program (PPMP). This program allows bakeries to contract Peerless to perform key maintenance necessary for long-term, efficient operation.
“I think one of the smartest things a bakery can do is use original equipment manufacturers’ (OEMs) services,” Mr. Zielsdorf said. “The bakery will not need nearly as many of its own technicians if it does this. Even the big work can be outsourced to OEMs, and the training that can be provided to the bakery from the OEM is at a much higher level than they will receive from anybody else.”
As part of PPMP, Peerless sends a technician for a predetermined period of time to perform and discuss the PM process with the staff.“We are not just sitting in a class with them,” Mr. Zielsdorf said. “It is a hands-on process. We walk through the equipment and talk about what needs to be done and when and how to do it.”
Peerless’ factory-trained technicians not only perform PM on the baker’s equipment, but they also assess the performance of the machinery and the equipment around it, making suggestions to enhance the line.
Because there is quite a bit of turnover in bakeries, the training is continuous, Mr. Zielsdorf said. “It can happen anywhere from once a year to quarterly,” he added.
PPMP can be purchased at the time a bakery buys a piece of equipment from the supplier or any time thereafter. Although the program is different with each machine, it generally includes an opening session with the bakery to outline the process, a parts review at the bakery, training of operators and maintenance personnel as needed or requested, a hard copy report of maintenance completed and any issues observed, and follow-ups one week after a visit for questions.
Original equipment manufacturers have more detailed information on their components and commercial parts, and maintenance engineers and planners can use this information as well as recommended procedures to streamline their PM work orders, according to Mr. Mull. “A close technical relationship with OEMs and suppliers will result in cost-effective labor scheduling,” he added.
Reading is also always offering incentives to help companies deal with the day-in, day-out stress of maintenance issues, Mr. Mull noted. Plants also rely on OEMs to carry or to be able to support a component failure within a reasonable amount of time should that occur, he added.
Most companies do not have the money to keep large stocks of spare parts on hand, according to Mr. Mull. Most take their chances and buy fewer parts and rely heavily on OEMs as a source of recovery whenever a production line goes down. However, he said bakeries should have the most common components of failure in stock.
So what spare parts inventory should plants have on hand for PM and to avoid unnecessary downtimes? “It varies with every bakery, in every location, to every piece of equipment,” Mr. Zielsdorf said. “We can work with the bakery to determine the specific critical components that can keep equipment running. The best case is they have it in stock or have worked through consignment issues with suppliers so that the components are ready to go when the customer needs them.”
The majority of calls Peerless receives for parts is because the customer needs the parts immediately. “Bakeries are cutting back on their spending, which means they want to hold as little inventory as possible,” Mr. Zielsdorf observed. “Even common wear items for machinery they may not want to hold in stock, so they are looking to OEMs to have those on the shelf and readily available.”
Because some bakeries are tighter with spending dollars during the current economic downturn, he has noticed plants may order services instead of components. “Instead of replacing a piece of equipment, they may look at trying to fix what they have for the time being, even if they realize it is a short-term fix,” Mr. Zielsdorf explained. “They would rather spend a little less now because the dollar is tight.”
Because of this fact, he said Peerless’ technicians have basically been fully booked since the beginning of the year. Working with OEMs on everything from setting PM schedules to ordering parts can go a long way to ensure operations run smoothly.