An essential part of the work of those involved in production planning and scheduling is the collection of information. It is acquired through various channels, not only from one department. No one needs to be convinced about the necessity of data exchange with procurement, production or technology. It may seem that the maintenance department plays a less important role in the whole process. However, the absence of grounds to this statement may be confirmed by any planner who has forgotten to include planned maintenance at least once in their plan. The consequences of such an oversight are quite obvious: in the best-case scenario, the effort spent on scheduling goes to waste. In the worst-case scenario, the machine will break down due to a lack of preventive maintenance, and the consequences, particularly financial ones, are easy to imagine.
Production planning in practice vs. production variability
Working as a production planning specialist, I have faced similar challenges more than once. I was fortunate that most machine maintenance was periodic. A yellow sticky note stuck to the monitor reminded me of the monthly downtime. Of course, it wasn’t a perfect system: there were many machines and the mischievous notes liked to disappear. The real problem appeared when new machines were purchased. The Maintenance Department informed me about the manufacturer’s requirements and the need to apply a resourced maintenance management strategy to the new stock. Calculating when maintenance would be required after 1,000 components had been produced was a challenge, especially as the high variability of production had to be taken into account. At the time, that problem seemed impossible to solve. But was it?
You’ll hear about how to prepare for a project to streamline and automate production planning in episode 2 of the podcast https://www.eqsystem.pl/podcast/.
APS serving maintenance
The main characteristic of the APS system is its ability to reflect the real production process, so it can easily cope with situations such as the one I referred to above. The APS system, by means of logical expressions, describes “events”, which makes it possible to reserve the time needed to perform maintenance or calibration of the device/machine. Production reality is often much more complicated than it appears. For a fully reliable representation of production technology, it is rarely enough to use a single parameter defining the process. Therefore, the functionality of making many coexisting parameters, triggering different or the same events, is indispensable. An ideal example of its use can be a situation in which, in addition to a large maintenance after the production of 500 items, a calibration is needed after another 100 products. Then, the system must reserve a shorter or longer period depending on the event. The situation will be similar if the standard maintenance is carried out every 10,000 cycles. Keep in mind that when changing the raw material from A to B, an additional inspection of the tools (e.g. a cutting saw) is required to avoid damage to the material.
Production scheduling: why so important?
The number of maintenance staff is limited by both capacity and competence. Thus, it represents one more process constraint that must be taken into account. Effective maintenance scheduling then plays an even more important role. In this case, in addition to the usual queuing of machines, it becomes necessary to monitor the workload of maintenance teams and to schedule work just as precisely as with other resources. In this way, we avoid a situation in which a specialist is assigned to do many jobs at the same time. The plan developed in this way becomes simultaneously an input for internal analyses and preparations of Maintenance for further activities.
Additionally, from a business point of view, it should be important for us that downtime does not fall at a time when maintenance teams are not available (at work). This would result in interrupted tasks and waiting for employees to show up at the company. We are talking, for example, about a situation in which an outsourcing company carrying out specialised maintenance works only during designated hours (e.g. 8 am to 4 pm). Subsequent production tasks must be planned in such a way that maintenance or calibration falls within a specific time frame, with maximum utilisation of the machine concerned.
Maintenance and production planning
Such constraints focus only on a fragment of the process, which is the cooperation of maintenance and production planning teams. Of course, this does not exhaust the topic, as each industry encounters different, characteristic features. It is also worth returning to the case from the beginning of the article. In the situation I referred to, there were many machines under analysis (with different maintenance/overhaul planning rules). The company planner, adding information from Procurement, current production progress, new orders and technological changes, had to decide on the shape of the current production schedule. He performed the analysis in a limited time and under its pressure and with the use of many data, which meant that the probability of his error increased. This resulted in unpleasant (and costly) consequences that could have been avoided.
Production management: the essence of computerisation
When I was involved in production planning and scheduling, I used to dream about a situation in which I would be able to check whether the plan I had developed took all the constraints into account. Now, thanks to getting to know the full concept of the APS system, I know that it is not only possible, but it also gives us a chance to obtain many different variants of the plan in a few minutes, keeping all the rules.
These examples are only some of the possibilities offered by work organisation at the interface between maintenance and production planning. CMMSs are also an important part of support in work organisation. It should be remembered, however, that truly measurable effects will be exerted only when all available tools work together, providing the user with complete information to make the final decision. That is why a well-tailored and well-thought-out concept of computerisation of the entire enterprise is so important.
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