Poorly maintained equipment puts bakeries at risk for breakdowns, quality problems and high waste. In fact, bakeries can have up to 30% waste because equipment is not properly maintained.

That’s one of the conclusions reached by Kirk O’Donnell, PhD, vice-president, education at AIB International, Manhattan, KS, during a presentation on “Improving Yield and Reducing Waste through Equipment Maintenance and Planning” earlier this year.

To allow bakeries and snack manufacturers to be profitable, maintenance must have production equipment in tiptop shape, he said.

Dr. O’Donnell pointed out that there are three kinds of maintenance: negative, break-even and preventive. Negative maintenance is not well-thought-out, and its costs are high. “It’s like a time bomb — we know we are going to have a disaster but not sure when,” he said.

With a break-even programs, maintenance workers are only seen when something happen.

But the place where bakeries should strive to have is preventive, or predictive, maintenance programs, in which maintenance staff is always working. It has the lowest cost on production and involves teamwork, according to Dr. O’Donnell. Maintenance needs to collaborate with production operators to eliminate downtime.

Management by walk around, Dr. O’Donnell noted, also is extremely valuable. “You’ve got to be on the plant floor and talking to people,” he said.

Managers must look for telltale signs of poorly maintained equipment. “If you see tape or bailing wire, they are not giving the equipment the care that it needs,” Dr. O’Donnell said

Giving mechanics more tools helps them to make better decisions. “Some companies don’t like to invest in maintenance because it increases cost overhead,” he said. “But if you invest properly, you are going to be happy that you did.”

For example, clear chain guards allow for the chains to be observed and staff can more easily see if a chain needs tightening.

“Trust your instincts,” Dr. O’Donnell said. “If something doesn’t look right, sound right or smell right, then probably it isn’t right.”