Machinery maintenance consists of the upkeep and repair of mechanical assets, either proactively or reactively
Mechanics, technicians, and millwrights are involved in an organization’s machinery maintenance
A single mechanical failure can disrupt entire processes and result in costly downtime
Numerous industries utilize machinery maintenance to meet their operational needs
What is machinery maintenance?
Machinery maintenance is the means by which mechanical assets in a facility are kept in working order. This includes regular servicing of equipment, routine checks, repair work, and replacement of worn or nonfunctional parts. Assets include both heavy duty industrial equipment and simple hand-operated machines.
Maintenance of machinery is frequently handled reactively (e.g. after a breakdown) though it may also be done proactively, as with preventive and predictive maintenance. Preventive maintenance keeps assets in good repair through regular scheduled service; predictive maintenance relies on equipment monitoring to detect problems before they result in a breakdown.
Types of machinery maintenance workers
In most industrial settings, there are a few different types of personnel who are involved in the maintenance process.
Among the duties of a machinery mechanic is keeping industrial machinery fully operational by performing necessary maintenance. They maintain and repair various forms of equipment, including conveyor systems, packaging equipment, production machinery, and so forth. Machinery mechanics typically aren’t involved in advanced diagnostics. If they perform any type of diagnostic work it’s by visual inspection.
A technician differs from a mechanic in that they focus more on the diagnostic side of maintenance. They examine equipment using computers and instrumentation to determine why it’s malfunctioning, then prescribe a solution to the problem. They might perform the repairs themselves, or a mechanic might be assigned to the task.
Millwrights have a wider occupational focus than machinery mechanics. While they do repairs and perform maintenance work, they also install, assemble, dismantle, and move assets within the facility.
Example of machinery maintenance
Automotive parts manufacturing uses many automated machines in order to make steel car parts. For instance, auto body parts manufacturing processes use stamping presses, welding machines, and conveyor systems to convert steel into 3D vehicle doors, chassis, and engine parts.
Each of these machines needs to be perfectly calibrated to perform its function at precisely the right moment in precisely the right way. If one machine doesn’t perform its task correctly, it can easily disrupt the entire manufacturing process. As such, a single system failure will result in costly downtime as the problem is detected and corrected.
Since a brief downtime can result in significant losses due to halted productivity, routine maintenance is regularly performed in order to make sure each asset performs as needed. Preventive maintenance also helps automotive parts manufacturers by resolving potential issues before they result in an expensive-to-fix breakdown.
Industries that utilize machinery maintenance
Any industry that relies on heavy equipment uses machinery maintenance. A few notable examples include the following:
- Plastics product manufacturing: Injection molds, extrusion machines, blow molding machines, plastic granulators, vacuum forming machines, trim presses, and other plastics molding equipment require regular maintenance.
- Automotive manufacturing: Automotive parts manufacturers and motor vehicle assembly processes use a wide variety of automated equipment. Robotic welders, conveyor systems, frame and toggle clamps, shot pin cylinders, and pneumatic grippers frequently require maintenance.
- Refineries: Machinery maintenance is performed on furnaces, boilers, heat exchangers, tanks, reactors, compressors, and pumps.
- Food production: Conveyor systems, cookers, ovens, fryers, filling machines, pumps, decorating equipment, and other machines are integral to industrial food production, as are various forms of storage and packing equipment.
- Steel mills: Steel mills maintain blast furnaces, electronic arc furnaces, casters, reels, lathes, rollers, and other types of heavy equipment.
- Apparel production: The apparel industry makes use of a wide range of sewing machines, electronic cutters, knitting machines, and pressing machines.
Machinery maintenance certifications and training
Training in machinery maintenance is available through a wide array of trade schools, community colleges, and universities. The courses provided by these training programs are designed to prepare individuals to perform all types of maintenance on industrial machinery. Evidence of having mastered the course material in these programs consists of either a degree or certificate.
In addition to earning a certificate through a training program, further certification is provided by the Society for Maintenance & Reliability Professionals (SMRP) via an examination. Machinery maintenance personnel who pass the exam receive the Certified Maintenance & Reliability Professional (CMRP) certification.
This certification program is accredited by ANSI (the American National Standards Institute), and it measures machinery maintenance professionals’ understanding of business, equipment reliability, organization, leadership, work management, and manufacturing process reliability.
Machinery maintenance news and resources
- Manufacturingtomorrow.com: Informative articles on recent developments in operations and maintenance, best practices, and new technologies relevant to machinery maintenance.
- Plantservices.com: Plant Services produces numerous articles on the topics of maintenance and reliability. They also deliver daily newsletters to subscribers.