Jeff Dearduff sounds off about what gets under his skin while on the production line, but suggests that a check of “some its parts” can alleviate some of that unnecessary frustration.

The Some of its Parts

You know what really ticks me off? What gets under my skin? Well, lots of things, but there’s one that really gets me. That’s when the production line breaks down and the maintenance crew rushes to bring in the spare parts only to find out they don’t fit.

All too often, it’s not because the maintenance crew pulled the wrong item from stock, but rather, it’s because the part was ordered incorrectly. Sure, the piece arrived sometime ago and the packing slip got its initials from somebody who placed it on the shelf without checking it was the right size.

It really doesn’t matter if the part is that 10-cent o-ring that only fits one place, or the $3,000 shaft that holds a key section of the plant together. A mistake as little as 1/16 in. can cause hours of additional downtime and double your expenses.

Some of you might say “we” don’t have this problem, but do you truly have a system, or are you just lucky?

Preventing incorrect parts is not complicated. It boils down to awareness of the issue, knowledge of the specifications and, finally, repetitiveness of the practices.

Like with most problems, acknowledging that this situation can occur is the easiest to get a grip on. When you admit you might have issues and you take steps to solve them, you then become more aware of the risks you can eliminate. When you don’t think any issues exist, you open yourself up for trouble.

Since you are not likely the one who orders and checks all of the spare parts for your plant, you first need to develop a program that makes everyone in your department aware of the critical nature of accuracy, and the risks associated with being sloppy in this area. Everyone in your shop, from the maintenance mechanics to the parts clerk or purchaser, needs to be on their game when it comes to specifying and ordering parts for stock or a future repair.

The second step is learning what the specifications are and how to confirm that they are correct. A shaft can never be measured for its diameter with a tape measure, but how many times have you witnessed someone lay a tape on edge across the end of a shaft, close one eye, hold their tongue just right, then shout out a diameter to write down? If you measure a shaft this way and come out with a 3-in. diameter result, and then order a shaft made to those specs, you run the possibility that it will not fit the 2 15/16-in. pillow block bearings that are actually on the line.

Everything from motors to bearings to solenoids has detailed specifications that need to be considered when reordering. For instance, an equipment manufacturer may have installed a 1,200-rpm electric motor on a certain application. However, what happens if you incorrectly assume it’s a standard 1,800-rpm motor when you reorder? When it comes in, it will be put in storage, and you won’t realize it’s the wrong size until the day you need it put into service.

In many bakeries, this incorrect motor issue is an easy problem to solve on the fly, and it gives the MacGyvers of our industry a moment to shine. However, at the end of the day, it is just one more problem that can be avoided with a little bit of effort and attention to detail.

To avoid this situation in the future, more than one person needs to be involved in the process. This is when everyone must stress the need to pay attention to every detail at all times. When sending someone out to get nameplate data or measurements, don’t hesitate to spend the extra time to explain what is needed and how important the accuracy of the information is. Eventually, your crew members will get the message and start to develop a keen sense of detail.

And don’t be afraid to challenge them. If something doesn’t sound quite right, have another crew member double check it, or check it yourself.

When you are up against the wall during a breakdown, the last thing you need is the wrong part in your hand. When that happens, you’re either waiting for the right part to show up, you’re modifying what you have or you’re creating something new. All the while, the production line is not producing any product, and the company is paying production workers to stand idle.

Breakdowns will happen. We all know that. The difference between the typical maintenance crew and a World Class Maintenance Team is simply attention to detail.

Take a look around your plant and check to see if the “some of its parts” adds up to what you exactly need when a production line needs to be repaired. Then when something breaks, it will only tick you off a little bit.   
By Jeff Deardfuff