Like cats and dogs, the production manager and the maintenance manager constantly feud for machine time in many plastic injection molding plants. Unfortunately, production usually wins because it generates revenue and maintenance is considered overhead. Routine maintenance on molding machines is sacrificed on the altar of profit.
Of course, if maintenance is delayed too long… well, you know what happens. And when the molding machines break down, so does profit. So it would behoove plant managers to view maintenance as a profit stream, and not overhead. How so? A well-maintained, fast-running machine may save seconds of cycle time and add mightily to your bottom line. And, really, there are only four iron-clad maintenance tasks, that, if followed religiously, will ensure your machines stay “happy” and profitable:
1. Assign one person on your team to visually checking each machine in your plant daily. This one tip, all by itself, can save you thousands of dollars in maintenance costs by catching problems before they become show-stoppers. Suggestion: Assign a different person for each day of the week. That way, every one on the team is trained in this protocol with the added benefit of multiple pairs of eyes checking out every machine.
2. Set aside four to five hours each quarter for a maintenance “break” for each machine. Think of it as a vacation. Give your machine a little TLC and, just like a weary employee, it will come back online, tanned, rested and ready.
3. Each machine needs an annual checkup. One full day of maintenance is all that’s necessary to give your machines a thorough “physical” to nip potential problems in the bud, make adjustments and replace worn parts.
4. Take advantage of every available training opportunity from your machine manufacturer. They are in the best position to teach you how to keep it running smoothly — and profitably.
Ok, now that we have taken care of the Big 4 (see above), let’s look at some “Bonus Points” suggestions:
- Check your oil filter every day, to ensure that it’s clean. True, machines have sensors to alert you when a filter change is needed, but you shouldn’t rely on them — just like you shouldn’t wait to check the oil in a car until the “check oil” light comes on. And, also just like in a car, changing the oil and filter on a regular basis is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to keep your machine humming.
- Conduct a daily visual inspection of all machine safety gauges—electrical, mechanical and hydraulic. The life you save may be your own!
- Inspect machine hoses on a weekly basis. If a hose ruptures, the machine will shut down and you will have a very unprofitable mess.
- Run your hand along the hose to find the start of any bubble or crack. If you feel one — or see one — don’t even think about it: replace it immediately.
- Inspect machine cylinders weekly. Look for leakage. Make sure that the cylinder rod is going straight up and down, and is operating in parallel with all the other components
- Make sure your incoming power lines are tightly connected to the main breaker of the machine.
Loose power lines could lead to a fire.