The importance of maximizing machine availability in today’s context
In March 2020, almost the entire world went on lockdown in an attempt to flatten the COVID-19 curve, which has dramatically affected the automotive industry. In addition to the much talked about demand and supply shocks that they have experienced, the pandemic has made consumer behavior more unpredictable, with rising unemployment, market uncertainty and companies implementing new telecommuting policies. With such market volatility, automotive companies have to gain agility and flexibility in responding to temporary micro-trends by either producing in small batches or adjusting their product mixes. For example, experts have predicted that consumers will be more in favor of private transport, in the form of more compact and affordable cars during this health crisis.
In return, OEMs and Tier 1 vehicle interior manufacturers have to help their customers satisfy these complex consumer demands by ensuring that their cutting room is working at full speed, with minimal disruption and machine downtime. As profit margins are inevitably shrinking during the crisis, automotive seat manufacturers should focus on reducing costs in the cutting room, which all boils down to maintenance. Machine downtime is usually identified as a key factor in causing shortage of cut parts. But it also has hidden costs, such as delaying entire projects, premature discarding of equipment, an increased scrap rate, machine overuse, and not meeting consumer demand. And then there’s the worst case scenario – some breakdowns are so drastic that companies have to outsource a part of the cutting room process to other suppliers , which can be extremely costly and time-consuming.
Is your cutting room maintenance program up to par ?
Rethinking maintenance in the time of COVID-19
The ongoing pandemic has redefined the workplace – especially for factories where production lines have to be re-organized to follow new social-distancing rules . With more rotating shifts involving fewer operators, round-the-clock maintenance is going to be more challenging as information gets lost from one shift to another, and machines are used more frequently. Companies can tackle this issue by implementing Industry 4.0-compliant technology that connects all equipment, operators and managers, so they can get data from every stage of the cutting process to detect technical problems and slowdowns, and forecast machine downtime and schedule a visit accordingly.
According to an article by ARC Advisory Group, predictive maintenance has proven to be the most effective in comparison to other methods such as run to failure, preventive, reactive and condition-based . It also states that predictive maintenance (PdM) only costs half as much as preventive maintenance (PM), because companies only schedule visits when needed with PdM, just when there are warning signs of problems that might occur in the future. Predictive maintenance calls for more rigor in terms of data collection and analysis, but ultimately, it helps companies avoid reactive maintenance and reduce risks. While it should make up the bulk of your maintenance program, there can be other elements as well, such as a little bit of preventive maintenance and the utilization of OEE metrics. Here is a checklist of questions to see if your maintenance program is ready for the future.