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Back to Basics: Maintenance Plans and Tips for Pallet Recyclers
Machinery and pallet repair gurus outline the basics of a once per month repair program designed to fill in the gaps of your regular service routine.
By Clarence Leising & Dick Burns
Date Posted: 1/1/2012
While it may seem like a boring aspect of the pallet business, plant maintenance is a must if you want to prevent downtime and keep production humming. Setting up effective maintenance programs can help you get the most out of both your machinery and people. When we ran a pallet shop together we tried some unusual approaches that paid big dividends.
††††††††††† It all started with setting up a regular maintenance routine that would not conflict with regular production schedules. We came in one Saturday a month and dumped all the oil in the compressors and changed the oil in anything that might ever need an oil change. The only exception was the fork lifts, which were the responsibility of the vehicle maintenance staff. Anything else that ran in the building whether it was a saw, dismantler, or materials handling equipment got maintained during four hours on a Saturday.†
††††††††††† Selecting reliable staff to assist is a must if you want to make sure it is done right. A good idea is to have the weekend maintenance team put a little tag on everything that is serviced. The tag should have the date of when it was maintained and what was done to it.†
††††††††††† The usual weekend maintenance program involved changing oil and air filters in air compressors, greasing the lines and underneath the conveyor belts throughout the building, blow out any sawdust in the bandsaw, applying grease to all moving parts on the bandsaw, and checking the tire pressure on the bandsaw. It is very important that the tires on the bandsaw are kept properly inflated because it can cause the saw to perform poorly.
††††††††††† Refer to product documentation or labeling for recommended pressure for your machine. A typical target pressure for your saw wheels is 50psi. Generally, under inflation is far more problematic than over inflation. Your tires should be solidly firm with a crown along the center of the tread.
††††††††††† Although you can attach a tire gauge to the bandsaw so that employees will perform their own checks, my experience is that they wonít do it unless you harp on it. And they will still ďforgetĒ most of the time. One of the purposes of the Saturday maintenance routine is to ensure that all equipment is properly maintained even if your staff fails to follow proper maintenance protocols during operation.
††††††††††† The only time we involved the maintenance people in the plant was when a major break down occurred. Generally, when a normal maintenance issue or event caused a work stoppage, we all jumped in to fix the problem. Everybody on the line knew it was in their own best interest to get production back up as quickly and safely as possible because they were paid on a piece-rate basis. Each minute the production was down, it cost us all money. You didnít go outside to smoke a cigarette and wait for the maintenance crew to fix the problem. If a bearing went down on a conveyor some guy was taking it off, somebody else was on the phone looking for a replacement part, and some other team member was getting in the car to pick up the part.
††††††††††† One important way to save time is to have an adequate supply of replacement parts on hand. A good rule of thumb is to order two of any normal wear part the first time it breaks. You know it is going to break sooner or later because most wear parts have a limited life. It wasnít a big parts department. But bearings, belts, gears and other parts that wear out were kept on hand as well as grease and other maintenance products. Having mission critical backups available reduces downtime. For example, we always had a back up system if an air compressor blew up. If we didnít have enough air then we were going to go rent additional equipment. The goal was to have everything back up and running as quickly as possible.
††††††††††† When it came to fork lift maintenance, the drivers were responsible for daily routine maintenance. The driver would blow out the unit every morning. Believe it or not, radiators use twice as much gas if you donít blow them out daily. When a radiator is clogged, a fork lift will suck up gas and cost you money. Also, the driver would come in early to check the oil and conduct a quick visual inspection. You may want to provide employees with a checklist of maintenance activities to ensure that they cover all the basics. Some shops require employees to sign a maintenance log or some other step that ensures employees remember to do maintenance activities.
††††††††††† When you install a new piece of machinery, you should talk to other companies that run this type of equipment. Find out where the problems are and what parts will wear out. Make a list of necessary repair parts and work to obtain an inventory of the most likely to fail parts. While these steps may all seem like common sense, you would be surprised how big problems arise at pallet shops because workers and even managers ignore these little details.