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The Importance of Preventive Maintenance for Your Material Handling Equipment

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Your material handling equipment is an integral part of your operations. To produce high-quality products, get them to your customers on time and keep your bottom line healthy, you need these tools to function properly.

Reactive maintenance is one strategy for taking care of your equipment, but it's not the most cost-effective method and can cause reliability and safety issues. Instead, you should use preventive maintenance to ensure that your operations always run smoothly.

Preventive maintenance involves regularly inspecting equipment, systematically conducting maintenance tasks and correcting issues as soon as you discover them, rather than waiting until they become major failures. This type of maintenance process has many benefits for businesses and their customers. Working with a professional provider of preventive maintenance services, such as Cherry's Industrial Equipment, is one of the best ways to avoid equipment failures and keep your machinery functioning optimally.

The Importance of Preventive Maintenance for Your Material Handling Equipment

Preventive maintenance for material handling equipment is important for your business for many reasons. It's a smart business decision and can save you money, but it's also an essential part of creating a safe work environment.

Safer Workplace Conditions

Preventive maintenance is essential for creating and sustaining a safe workplace. In fact, it's part of guidelines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, and various laws and regulations.

Unoccupied forklift inside of a warehouse.

When you fail to maintain your equipment properly, it might malfunction or even suffer a catastrophic failure. When these events occur, workers using the machinery, as well as those in the surrounding area, could get injured. The tools themselves may cause injuries, and if the equipment to carry and store materials fails, the items it's supporting may fall and injure workers.

Faulty equipment can also cause damage to the products you provide to customers. If parts fail when the customer is using the product, they could get injured as well.

According to OSHA, preventive maintenance is a type of hazard control that prevents injuries. Regulations from OSHA mandate employers put a preventive-maintenance system in place for safety equipment to avoid hazards malfunctioning non-safety equipment could cause.

OSHA describes several basic aspects of Preventative Maintenance (PM) processes that include written instructions for periodic inspections of safety equipment and documentation of inspections. PM for non-safety equipment should ensure it adheres to relevant performance standards.

Some of the OSHA rules are general, while others apply to specific types of equipment or industries. For example, the administrative rules require workers to keep areas clean and as dry as possible. Mandatory preventive maintenance also applies to specific types of machinery such as overhead and gantry cranes. OSHA requires maintenance work to follow the crane manufacturer's recommendations and involves moving the crane to away from all operating cranes, turning off all controllers and placing the emergency switch in the open and locked position.

The organization also provides guidelines to help companies stay in compliance with these rules. It recommends facilities integrate preventive maintenance into various steps of the hazard-prevention process.

More Reliable Equipment

Without preventive maintenance, the reliability of your equipment and, in turn, your overall operations will suffer. PM helps you stay ahead of equipment issues and take control of the operations of your business.

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Equipment failures can shut down part of your plant or even your entire facility. Operations will cease until you can fix the equipment issue. Preventive maintenance helps you catch potential problems before they become major failures, whereas corrective maintenance relies on fixing issues after they've already caused disruptions.

With a PM system in place, you can perform maintenance tasks and fix potential problems on your terms. You can choose to address the issue at a time when you don't need to use the equipment in question, such as at night, on the weekend or during another time when activity is slow. You can also shut down small parts of your operations one at a time, so your business never has to come to a complete stop.

If you rely on corrective maintenance, you have no control over when you perform maintenance activities. Equipment could go down anytime, and chances are it won't fail at a time that's convenient for you. These failures will also likely take longer to fix than conducting PM activities would have.

If essential equipment fails, your company could experience a substantial drop in productivity. You may not be able to resume operations until you repair the damage, which could take an extensive amount of time. If you can't fulfill your customers' orders on time, you could lose revenue, as well as client trust. Not meeting deadlines will make your business seem unreliable.

These problems might also put you behind schedule, impacting your company into the future well beyond the time needed to fix the initial problem.

Reduced Operating Costs

Not performing regular maintenance can cause equipment costs to rise, perhaps even enough to put the future of your company in jeopardy. It might seem PM is more expensive because you'll have more regular maintenance expenses, but using this strategy will save you money in the long run.

Routine maintenance is a relatively small investment for a large long-term return and protection from mechanical failures that could result in lost revenue. It's smart business sense to invest in your assets rather than letting them deteriorate over time, especially if those assets are central to how you operate your business.

If you implement a PM plan, you'll avoid the revenue loss associated with extensive downtime, as well as the harm it can cause your reputation. Equipment failures can also damage other nearby equipment, materials and products, extending the impacts of the event, increasing its costs and potentially putting you even further behind schedule. Recent research has shown unplanned downtime results in approximately $50 billion in costs for industrial manufacturers each year.

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Keeping your material handling equipment in good working order affects more than just the tools themselves. It also helps you keep your customers happy, improve your bottom line, avoid setbacks and losses and, ultimately, run a more successful business.

Benefits of Regular Preventive Maintenance

Making material handling equipment preventive maintenance part of your business' operations can benefit your company in a range of different ways. It can also create benefits for your customers, employees, suppliers and other stakeholders. Here are some of the benefits you'll see if you implement a preventive maintenance strategy for your material handling tools at your company.

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  • Avoiding equipment failure: Implementing PM processes can help you avoid equipment failure. Some companies run machinery to failure, which results in more disruptive breakdowns and more costly repairs than if they had used a PM strategy. With PM, your equipment stays in better condition for longer, and you have the opportunity to fix problems before they become significant issues.
  • Optimal equipment operation: Not only does preventive maintenance help you avoid major equipment failures, but it can also help your equipment function better every day. PM keeps your material handling tools in prime condition and ensures they're operating optimally, even if you're using older equipment. With tools that function optimally, your workers can get more done faster, making your company more productive and efficient overall. Gear that's in good condition can also operate longer and more effectively with less electricity or fuel. Because well-maintained machinery uses electricity more efficiently, your energy costs will be lower.
  • Extended equipment life: PM strategies help you take care of your equipment properly by ensuring you conduct regular maintenance, like greasing parts, as often as needed and fix minor issues before they cause more extensive damage. Maintaining your gear in this way helps extend the life of your equipment. Because you won't need to replace items as often, you'll save money on equipment purchasing and avoid disruptions caused by removing old devices and replacing them with new ones. You'll also save time because you won't have to train employees how to use new tools as often.
  • Reduced expenses: Although it requires regular small investments in maintenance activities and minor repairs, implementing PM will lead to lower costs in the long run. Repairing an apparatus is often more cost-effective than replacing it, and maintaining it properly will result in less damage that needs to be fixed. You'll also save money because your equipment will last longer and will cost less to operate.
  • Maximum machine resale or trade-in value: PM can help ensure if you ever want to sell a piece of equipment or trade it in for a newer model, you'll get the maximum value possible from the sale or trade-in. With a PM system in place, your assets will be in better condition and will be worth more. This increased value will help you improve your bottom line and provide you with more funding to upgrade to even better equipment.
  • Safety improvements: As mentioned earlier, improved safety is one of the primary benefits of preventive maintenance. An effective PM process reduces workplace safety risk and reduces potential hazards to customers due to faulty parts. This enhanced safety will make your company a more desirable place to work and will improve your reputation among customers. You'll have a healthier, happier and, therefore, more productive workforce and be able to provide your products to customers with confidence.
  • Increased reliability and predictability: Because preventive maintenance helps prevent equipment breakdowns, safety incidents and more, it reduces downtime and helps you stay on schedule. Having to put your processes on hold can cause you to miss deadlines, which will lead to unsatisfied customers. If you're late too often, your customers will begin to see you as unreliable, which could potentially cause them to take their business elsewhere. PM also adds more predictability to your day-to-day operations, allowing you to plan ahead and make sure you're always prepared to meet demand.
  • Increased productivity: When your tools work optimally, you can get more done. Smart maintenance plans can increase your company's productivity, while poorly planned maintenance strategies can hinder it. Research suggests poor maintenance plans result in a 5 to 20 percent decrease in a plant’s overall productive capacity.
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  • Efficient use of resources: Having a PM plan in place helps you use your resources more efficiently, saving you money and allowing you to get more done. You'll be able to budget the time you spend on maintenance and repairs more effectively and can decide to perform maintenance activities at times that will cause minimal disruption to your operations. Rather than have to drop whatever they're doing and focus on making emergency repairs, employees will know the maintenance schedule ahead of time, which allows them to plan appropriately and put more energy into other tasks.
  • Improved customer satisfaction: Preventive maintenance helps you provide consistently high-quality products to your customers on time. Fulfilling your customers' requests and meeting or exceeding their expectations will lead to more satisfied customers who are more likely to continue doing business with you.
  • Improved bottom line: Ultimately, preventive maintenance can help you improve your bottom line by reducing your expenses and increasing your revenue. A successful PM process results in savings on equipment, maintenance and energy. It also increases your company's productivity and enables you to get your products to customers faster, which makes them want to keep purchasing from you.

Preventive Maintenance Checklist

When creating a preventive maintenance plan, you should first take stock of your company's assets and review the maintenance procedures you've used in the past. This step will help you when determining how to approach PM and give you insight into what procedures have worked for you and what you need to change. Make sure you get a clear picture of your material handling equipment and its condition.

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Once you know what you're working with, you'll want to make sure you know what you want to achieve through PM. Setting clear goals and establishing ways to measure your progress toward them can help you evaluate the effectiveness of your PM strategy. You might set objectives such as a specific reduction in the number of equipment failures or a certain number of days without safety incidents.

If you've been collecting data on your equipment's operation and your maintenance activities, you'll be a step ahead in creating a PM plan. This information will help you to formulate your plan. If you don't have much data, set up a way to collect it. You might use sensors or Internet of Things (IoT) devices to monitor equipment performance, or have workers manually log information. Some companies use computerized maintenance management systems to keep tabs on all maintenance-related data. However you choose to collect it, this information will inform your PM strategy moving forward.

Moving behind these fundamental material handling preventive maintenance tips, many preventive maintenance schedules include certain activities. This material handling preventive maintenance checklist describes these common, yet important, items.

  • Cleaning the equipment and the surrounding area: Perhaps the most fundamental of all preventive maintenance activities is keeping your material handling equipment and the area around it clean. Keeping your devices clear of dirt, dust and other debris and your workplace free of clutter will make it easier to spot potential issues. It's also an important part of taking care of your machinery, since excessive buildup of dust, moisture and other contaminants can cause damage, and a cluttered workplace makes it more difficult to operate a device safely. OSHA also requires you to maintain a clean work area.
  • Greasing all points: Applying the proper type of lubricant to all points on a regular basis reduces wear and prevents rust and corrosion. It's an essential part of maintaining your machinery and prolonging its service life. Following proper lubrication procedures is crucial. In fact, 40 to 50 percent of all bearing failures occur because of improper lubrication.
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  • Verifying all buttons and gauges are functioning correctly: Another fundamental PM task is ensuring all buttons and gauges are working correctly. Malfunctioning buttons can make it more difficult or impossible to use machinery effectively. If the button serves a safety purpose, it's especially crucial that it works correctly. You also need to make sure all gauges are working correctly. Faulty gauges can provide you with inaccurate information, which might cause you to use equipment inefficiently or miss a potential mechanical issue.
  • Checking fluid levels: To keep your machinery in good condition and functioning properly, you need to ensure fluids are always at adequate levels. Every PM schedule should involve checking fluid levels on all equipment, including forklifts and overhead cranes. Fluids to check for include fuel, oil, brake fluid, hydraulic fluid and engine coolant.
  • Checking filters: You should also regularly check all filters, including air filters, fuel filters and hydraulic filters, so you can replace them if needed. Filters keep unwanted substances out of your machinery. If left unchecked, these substances can eventually cause damage that can reduce your devices' efficiency and even cause them to break down. You don't need to replace filters every time you check them, but you should change them out on a regular basis. Cherry's Industrial Equipment will replace your return oil filters every six months as part of our six-month maintenance plan.
Up close view of a clean oil filter.
  • Checking and tightening all bolts: Something as small as a loose bolt can cause serious damage to your machinery. Loose bolts can cause equipment to break down or function improperly or unsafely. Preventive maintenance should include regular checking of all bolts and tightening them as necessary. Regular impacts of using equipment, such as vibration, can cause bolts to loosen over time, as can over- or under-tightening them.
  • Checking all hoses and fittings for evidence of wear or abrasions: As part of our 12-month plan, we check all hoses and fittings in your material handling equipment for signs of wear and abrasions. These components can wear down over time, even with use under normal circumstances. Replacing them before they give out keeps your instruments functioning optimally and prevents more damage from occurring.
  • Documentation of all maintenance actions: Your PM processes should include documenting all maintenance actions you take, along with equipment performance data. Keep track of how often you service machinery, how long it took to fix the problem and potential causes. This tracking will help you stay on schedule with your maintenance and provide you with the information you can use to improve your PM plan as you go.

Preventive Maintenance You Can Count on From Cherry's Industrial Equipment

Cherry's Industrial Equipment offers preventive maintenance services tailored to each client's unique needs. Experienced technicians conduct all maintenance activities. Our standard maintenance programs are as follows:

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  • Six-week maintenance includes greasing all points, checking all buttons and gauges are functioning correctly, checking fluid levels and checking filters.
  • Six-month maintenance includes all the services in the six-week plan, changing the return oil filter and checking and tightening all bolts.
  • 12-month maintenance includes all the services in the six-week and six-month programs, checking hoses and fittings for wear, changing filters, changing hydraulic filters and conducting a full machine overview.

Our preventive maintenance programs take the hard work out of keeping your material handling tools in top condition, while providing you with all the benefits, including enhanced safety and reliability, reduced expenses, improved customer satisfaction and more. To learn more about preventive maintenance services and how they can benefit you, contact us by filling out this short online form or give us a call at 877-350-2748.