Process and Operations

MRO Q&A: What is your method for stopping line downtime?

MRO Q&A is a Food Processing series addressing maintenance, repair and operational issues in food plants.

Q. What is your method for stopping line downtime? By this I mean putting out so-called fires. What have you found to be an easier method for setting up PMs, per machine, etc.?

A. Over the last three decades, food processing, packaging and warehousing functions have become highly automated and complex operations. In an effort to continuously improve the total system, whole "sub-units of operation" have been upgraded and in some cases totally replaced by newer "state-of-the-art" sub-systems. Recent studies have shown that while these newer sub-systems have provided major improvements in their sub-system operation, the failure to update or properly integrate,these changes into a revised functional specification has resulted in minor interruption to the overall operations.

In some cases it was discovered that functional requirements had changed without adequately addressing this change within the mechanical system. This caused the line operational personnel to experience additional line downtime due to "operator error" or "undefined interruptions." To properly address these issues, maintenance and engineering teams must be required to update functional requirements with operational teams on a regularly defined basis to ensure that the automated operation is performing the task required in a manner expected.

This coordination of functional requirements with functional specifications is becoming the single greatest improvement in line downtime. Teams for this review usually consist of engineering members who understand the programming requirements of the integrated system, maintenance members who understand the mechanical and electrical operation of the various sub systems, and operational members who understand the safety and quality issues associated with the operations. Together this team can provide the system tuning that will ensure the highest level of system performance and regularly review and update the requirements for PM within the total operation.