Automation keeps expanding, and there is no end in sight. This should result in better products, faster deliveries, and lesser cost. However the fast pace of change requires a new maintenance approach. In many cases, new technology has not produced the promised results, because of the obsolete maintenance mindset.
Remember the old days? we had selector switches, relays, and linkages. Today, HMI, PLCs, and electronic probes have replaced these components. In reality, these advancements have made the maintenance of the equipment much more complicated. As automation technology keeps reaching new heights, it also introduces different types of component failures that cause downtime. These are called random failures, and the most difficult task for any maintenance department is how to deal with these breakdowns. As the name implies we have very little knowledge of when a random failure would occur.
For example it is difficult to detect an electronic card failure. Granted, the new technology is more reliable and precise; however, failures occur without warnings. The traditional time-based maintenance (PMs) worked great for age-related failures such as: guides rails and mechanical devices, however; it has very little success on random failures. Nevertheless the same, traditional preventative maintenance is used today as it was being used decades ago. This is because; companies have not introduced or do not know how to implement new maintenance strategies.
Foundries must take off their blindfolds and develop a new strategy for asset management, and make it a mandatory process until it becomes a new mindset. The fact is that as market conditions change, companies quickly introduce new financial forecast and sales strategies. However, very few have developed a new program for maintaining their highly automated assets.
Failures are just like diseases: as a new disease enters our world, medical researchers immediately develop new medications to prevent, eliminate or reduce the consequence of the disease. In the same manner the new technology era requires an all-inclusive maintenance program that focuses on elimination, prevention and consequence reduction of failures. This is called the maintenance reliability program.