Pro Tip: Don’t have enough mechanics to keep your bakery operation running at peak performance? Can’t find any skilled mechanics to work for you? Here are more than a half dozen ways to fine tune everything and avoid costly downtime.
In the past few years, I was asked where to find good mechanics. The commercial bakery world was growing, and everyone was on the hunt for a good engineer. Now, I’m simply asked where to find mechanics. Some bakers tell me they are struggling to just get applicants, so take care of those you still have.
So, what’s a maintenance manager or scheduler to do when there is more work than resources.
My suggestion? Get more forks, not a bigger plate.
For most operations, the equipment can be very specific to the products produced, thus it’s very hard to simply look in the Yellow Pages and find local support. (Note for the younger generation: the Yellow Pages was a book filled with service providers and the equivalent of today’s Google search for the same.)
While you might not be able to find local technicians to come fix or service your packaging equipment, oven or mixer, you can find valuable resources and plenty of them.
Here is a list of examples for how you can divide out work and multiply your resources to win at this never-ending resource dilemma:
Use local electricians for running conduit, installing sensors, cleaning electrical panels, replacing cords, installing new lights, or replacing or upgrading drives.
Find a highly rated local plumber for running air and water pipes or repairing leaking systems.
Try using a machine shop for replacing bad shafts, bearings, gearboxes or aligning couplings.
Use sheet metal shops for replacing or repairing damaged power transmission guards or equipment covers.
Local air compressor, boiler, refrigeration and HVAC companies can take other responsibility for managing oil filter changes and tuning. Many times, they will also offer affordable annual service contracts.
Inkjet and laser date code printers are almost always better supported under third-party service contracts.
Overall, this list is just the tip of the iceberg when considering the possibilities for solving the labor shortage for mechanics.
For example, oven burner mixers can be contracted out for annual inspection, cleaning and tuning. Painting and cleaning of silos, building exterior/interior, plant lighting, roof maintenance, gutters and stack cleaning are just of a few of the overlooked options that can be outsourced.
Lastly, consider negotiating service contracts into your next capital equipment purchase. This is a potential way to ensure your investment continues to run efficiently and last beyond the depreciation date.
Even though you may see an increase in the cost for outsourcing some of these services, you should know that the cost of not performing this work will normally lead to an unexpected downtime event or even higher cost once the damage is done.
Countless times, I’ve seen nagging issues that have plagued a plant that later get properly fixed once an outside contractor is held accountable to “make things right” the first time or come back and try again for free.
Unfortunately, these resource constraints are here to stay until we get back to filling the blue-collar pipeline with workers.
Finally, build and protect your relationships with local service providers.
Rowdy Brixey is founder and president of Brixey Engineering Inc.
You can connect with him at LinkedIn.