“With Our Current Maintenance Practices, We Can’t Commence Any Expansion Activities”(Lesson 9)

If the reliability of your existing production machines is hindering daily production outputs when you embark on expansion activities, this is likely to place immense pressure on your whole operation. New machines rarely start up perfectly first time, even though that’s always the primary objective.

You must accept that there’s always some packaging or product variable that wasn’t identified until first testing through a new machine; or, even worse, you’ve identified a fundamental design flaw in the machine that wasn’t originally foreseen during the design and purchasing phase of the project.

So, you always plan for the worst and manage the situation towards the best possible outcome; in short, prepare for unforeseen issues that can hinder or influence the outcome to some extent.

Depending on what staff resources you have on site that are available to tackle any unforeseen challenges, there will be immense pressure on you and these resources if they are frequently and constantly being dragged off to attend to recurring issues in existing machines as well.

Whatever time is being consumed addressing existing issues, as a rule, you can expect any major new kit of equipment to double this time utilisation—even if the new equipment starts up relatively smoothly with only a few minor challenges.

A smooth start-up should initially be celebrated in moderation (as you don’t want to inadvertently unleash the Murphy’s law of complacency). Any initial “smoother start-up” provides you with a great opportunity for immediately getting on top of maintenance procedures, changeover and set-up sheets, and training procedures—all in an effort to consolidate all the good work and achievements realised to date.

Unfortunately, the more common outcome is to unleash several of “Murphy’s laws” simultaneously. I should know, as I keep a list of Murphy’s more common laws posted on my wall next to my project instructions—just to remind me to “never take anything for granted” or “check my calculations, re-check them and then triple check them, just for good measure.”

These days all of my engineering computer models try to calculate and cross-check every critical calculation through two and sometimes three different calculation methods to ensure the same result is being concluded.