Why is our maintenance strategy so difficult?

April 13, 2008
MRO Q&A is a monthly problem-solving column for maintenance, repair and operational issues.
Welcome to MRO Q&A. This is the first of what will be monthly columns addressing maintenance, repair and operational issues in food plants. We’ve assembled a panel of plant operations experts to answer any question you have on plant-floor issues. To pose a question, go to www.FoodProcessing.com/ClarionKC.

Why is it so hard to execute our Operational/Maintenance Strategy when all the components seem to be right on target?

To pose a question for answering online or in this column, go to www.FoodProcessing.com/ClarionKC. This column is sponsored by Clarion lubricating oils and greases, white oil and syntheticbased products designed for a broad range of applications in four categories: Food Grade, Technical, Environmental and Synthetic.

The question speaks to the problem. Strategic plans are created to blend the current business environment with the mission and vision of the organization. This blending allows the company to refocus the organization on current issues that impact the achievement of its goals.

After evaluating the information, getting these top-line components right is the easy part of the cycle. Execution of a plan requires aligning the plant operating systems to the business environment. This implies that we will do some things differently. Identifying the activities we are not going to do is just as important as introducing the new activities we must do.

An organization must have the self-discipline to free up resources. Rebalancing work loads is the key to communicating that the new goals are important to everyone.

What are the current environment, challenges and opportunities facing aseptic processing of food products?

Over the past five decades, aseptic processing has made its mark on the food processing industry, proving that it can be a unique provider of a wide variety of high-quality food products.

tip of the month
Don’t overlook the effect your working environment has on lubricants. Citrus acids, salts, alcohols and other food components and byproducts can all affect the condition of and shorten the life of your lubricants.

While the American consumer was not quick to accept dairy products as shelf-stable items in the home, the foodservice industry has been able to utilize this technology to improve its delivery of quality foods at a lower price point to a broader base of foodservice clients. Once this potential was realized, major marketing efforts have shown the consumer that high-quality prepared meals can be a normal part of their regular at-home meal preparation.

The newer challenge is what form will these meals take? Will the in-home meals be prepared by the home chef by blending various packages of aseptic ingredients? Or will the complete meal be manufactured and purchased as a fully finished product under some unique branding process? Regardless of the answer, the challenge will require food companies to modify the role of their R&D organizations. And the real challenge is to expand the knowledge of that home chef.

What are the primary advantages of including a lubricant audit as part of our regular maintenance audit program?

Three primary advantages quickly come to mind when you consolidate your lubricant audit into your overall Plant Maintenance Audit Program. First, lubricant audits are a good predictor of potential maintenance problems. Second, they can provide important recommendations regarding food safety. Finally, when used correctly they can provide the information necessary to properly leverage your lubricant costs.

As anyone who has operated an old jalopy knows, once you need to add a quart of oil at every gas stop it is only a matter of time before you experience a major operational breakdown. As with any other audit system, this audit should begin by reviewing equipment manuals to establish the recommended lubricant usage level for each piece of operational equipment. Once this baseline is in place, the audit team needs to focus on operational/maintenance records, which will identify frequency of use and the current volume used per application. By monitoring this data, the auditors can see when usage begins to run higher than recommended. Then preventive measures can be scheduled to avert untimely major breakdowns.

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