8 Ways to Prevent Downtime and Still Save Money

downtime solutionsUnplanned downtime is the enemy and you’re responsible for eliminating even the possibility of a downtime situation…preferably without overspending your already tight budget.  So you’ve  implemented a maintenance strategy.  Those maintenance efforts seem costly; but, it turns out that it is even more costly if you do not follow the maintenance plan (or worse, have no plan).  You might get frustrated and wonder what else you can do.

First, as you go through this process, keep in mind the Law of Diminishing Returns – the maintenance effort needs to be just right, not too much, and not too little to maintain a balance of cost and production efficiency.

Here are some more ideas:

  • Install smart devices to monitor your equipment; with this mobile technology approach you can know about trouble brewing from anywhere, at any time, before it becomes a downtime disaster, and respond accordingly.
  • Establish clear priorities and make sure your team members know what they are. Better yet, have them participate in creating the priorities. They should also be looped in on the actual impact of downtime and what it will cost. This way no one wastes valuable time and resources on low priority efforts and everyone has a vested interest in preventing downtime.
  • Measure it (downtime) because if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. Invest in an automated system for tracking downtime, which pieces of equipment have frequent failures, when and why.
  • Find the Root Cause – After you’ve measured, you can manage it by uncovering the root cause of the down time. Repairing your equipment without understanding what caused it to stop is a frequent mistake, often causing more downtime and additional repairs to the SAME items. Now that’s an unnecessary budget-buster.
  • Repair industrial electronic equipment rather than replace. This is a big one, and the cost savings can be substantial, sometimes as much as 85% less than the cost of buying new equipment which will help your budget. Repair/reusing is also an excellent way for your plant to hit your “green goals” and be more environmentally friendly. Even old and obsolete industrial electronic equipment can often be repaired such as:
  • Printed Circuit Boards
  • Servo Drives
  • Servo Motors
  • Encoders
  • PLCs
  • HMIs
  • Monitors & Touchscreens
  • AC/DC/VFD Drives
  • Power Supplies
  • Test Equipment
  • Control your energy usage. Believe it or not, U.S. industry makes up about 30% of the energy usage in the country, more than any other segment including transportation. You can make a dent in your own budget too by clamping down on waste.  Some ways to do this: using “smart” energy monitoring systems to maximize efficiency; changing out your lighting for more energy efficient lighting; using variable frequency drives where possible, and sealing out drafts and dampness that can damage equipment faster. Consider getting an energy audit if you haven’t already. You can apply these savings elsewhere in plant and equipment maintenance.
  • Control the environmental effects on your equipment as much as possible – excessive heat, moisture and dirt are at the heart of many electronic equipment disasters ending in prolonged and repeated downtimes.
  • Invest in Training and stay up to date on the latest technology – Education and training is always money well spent and increases production and maintenance efficiency. And it can often cost very little by having experienced employees, managers, or vendors offer in-house training. Offer free lunch to attendees and you have a win-win.

Preventing unplanned downtime is a HUGE subject, and for good reason as it is the biggest cause of lost production time.  There is far more to the subject than I can cover here, but there is plenty of information to be found on this subject and plenty of very helpful consultants.

Have a systematic approach to maintenance, stay knowledgeable about and utilize best practices and technology, and focus on the priorities (keep your eye on the ball).  And finally, ditch your ego so you can take a team approach to solving problems and you will be on your way to reducing downtime and saving money.

About the Author: ACS Industrial Services is an independent industrial electronic repair center providing repairs for all types of industrial electronic equipment and most all manufacturers including power supply repairs, circuit boards, drives, servo motors, CNC equipment, encoders, monitors and touchscreens, test equipment, and much more.  Rush Service is available and Two Year Warranties cover most repairs.  The customer service team is available to answer your questions and help solve your industrial electronic repair problems. You can reach them by calling 800-605-6419 or going to www.acsindustrial.com.

5 Hacks for Packing a Box to Avoid Shipping Damage

shipping damageShipping damage disasters can be avoided, even accounting for the occasional overly aggressive delivery service.  Look at the bent base brackets on the pictured Xantrex power supply.  This is a prime example of shipping damage and we see this a lot.

Why the damage?  Do the delivery guys and gals really have it in for us?  Not really (well, maybe a few) but they have a lot to deliver and they aren’t always gentle so you need to pack appropriately.  Both delicate items and heavy items require special packaging to survive shipping.

Here are some important tricks for successful shipping no matter which carrier you use:

1.  BOX IT WELL : Choose the RIGHT BOX, not just any box will do.

  • Always choose heavy corrugated cardboard boxes that are not damaged. If you have the original box for what you are shipping, so much the better because it will have specially molded pieces inside to cradle your equipment properly.
  • If your item weighs more than 30 pounds you should use a double-walled box or you can double box the item with packing material in between the two boxes. The box should be large enough to allow for plenty of packing material. The heavier the item the heavier-duty the box needs to be.
  • If your shipment is over 50 lbs we recommend strapping it to a wood pallet instead of a boxing it. Then ship the item via truck.

2.  PACK and then PACK some more: Use A LOT of good packing material and pack the box tightly.

  • Use 3 inches of cushioning on all sides. Bubble wrap and foam are usually good choices (it would be difficult to use too much) for cushioning. Avoid using old newspaper and fabric, especially right up against electronic equipment.
  • Use anti-static sleeves or bubble wrap for printed circuit boards and other electronics, both industrial electronics and consumer types.
  • If you are shipping multiple items wrap each one separately covering all sides of the object.
  •  Completely fill the box so no empty space is left. You want to prevent movement because movement results in damage during shipping.

3.  SEAL IT UP GOOD:  Tape up Every Seam.

  • Use good, 2 inch wide pressure-sensitive shipping tape or 60-lb- grade water activated tape and seal every seam leaving no flaps flapping.
  • Don’t use cellophane tape, duct tape, masking tape, string or twine. They either fail or get hung up on the carrier’s automated processing equipment.

4.  LABEL IT WELL:  Fill it Out Fully & Neatly.

  • If you are hand writing the shipping label PRINT and be neat about it. Don’t leave any blanks – the shipper is not a mind reader or a hieroglyphic specialist.
  • Attach the label firmly to the outside of the box in a plastic sleeve . Don’t have a shipping sleeve? Use a Ziploc baggie and tape it to the box.
  • Put a second copy of the packing slip or label INSIDE the box too in case the outside label gets damaged or torn off.

5.  STRANGE BUT TRUE: A final tip to the wise shipper:  labels marked “Fragile”, “This End Up” or use of “UP” arrows are a fail!  Ironically, these are often ignored or seem to bring out the worst in some people.  Better to just pack your item very well, complete the shipping documents clearly and leave it looking rather plain.

Remember that the shipping world is an industrial one full of none-too-delicate automated equipment. They move an amazing amount of stuff around the country in practically a nanosecond – a Star Trek transporter would be just that much cooler.

If you have had some “interesting” shipping experiences (who hasn’t?) you will have fun reading this Popular Mechanics article where they experimented and compared shipping using three major U.S. carriers (you probably know which ones!) and recorded the results.  They may surprise you!  Check it out here:  http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/gadgets/tests/which-shipping-company-is-kindest-to-your-packages

 About the Author: ACS Industrial Services is an independent industrial electronic repair center providing services for printed circuit board repairs of all types and manufacturers, drive repairs, servo motor repairs, CNC equipment repairs, encoder repairs, monitor and touchscreen repairs, control and PLC repairs, test equipment repairs, and much more. The friendly and knowledgeable customer service team is available to answer your questions and help solve your industrial electronic repair concerns. RUSH service is available! You can reach them by calling 800-605-6419 or going to www.acsindustrial.com.