Predicting The Future Of Maintenance In F&B Plants

Monday, June 3rd, 2019

How can plant managers budget for maintenance and ensure optimum efficiency for all processes?


Paper To Glass

In terms of research and development, food and beverage is a leading industry because of its use of new, innovative technology. However, when it comes to maintenance, many companies find themselves keeping paper records. While regulation and compliance requirements historically drove these companies to work with paper, advancements in digital tools mean this is no longer the case.

Unfortunately, once paper-based systems are in place, they can be difficult to eradicate. Companies become stuck in their ways, which leads them to ignore the significant cost savings, efficiencies and competitive advantages electronic systems can provide.

The most important driving force for a company’s success is its employees. Today’s maintenance engineers have the computing knowledge to make the switch to digital. Providing them with a familiar interface that quickly connects employees across the organisation allows staff to work faster and smarter, increasing productivity. Electronic records also eliminate time-consuming and error-prone data entries that are necessary with paper-based systems.

While staff are the most important factor of any company’s success, the biggest cost of manual maintenance comes from people. Human errors that occur during manual record-keeping can result in redundant actions, rework and audits. Electronic records also eliminate the costs associated with printing, reviewing and retrieving paper documents.

Giving maintenance staff access to electronic devices on the factory floor allows them to input data faster and gives them more time to spend completing maintenance tasks. Having a digital record of the machinery that regularly needs work also means that engineers have easy access to the data when it is time for the next round of maintenance.


Preventative Maintenance

Unplanned outages seem to occur at the worst possible moment, whether it be during high season or large batch production. These outages often lead to waste, as the product being made at the time of the outage often must be disposed of. If it doesn’t lead to wasted product, outages will most certainly cause varying degrees of downtime, which not only causes lost production but can lead to orders being cancelled and contracts being lost if deliveries are not made on time.

By considering potential problems on the production line, plant managers can reduce disruptions and help secure long-term competitiveness. All food and beverage manufacturers have periods where they produce much smaller volumes as compared to the high season. This is the ideal time to be carrying out maintenance. If a plant manager knows that their motor is likely to need repair every year, they can carry out the work during quiet periods, minimising the amount of downtime and lost production.

Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) is a versatile measurement for production efficiency. It takes into consideration three factors: availability, performance and quality. Availability is reduced by equipment failure, setup and adjustment; performance is reduced by idling, minor stops and reduced speed; and quality is reduced by process defects and start-up losses. Improving these factors will majorly impact efficiency—carrying out preventative maintenance helps improve all three by reducing equipment failure, stoppages and defects.


Doing More With Downtime

While line downtime is currently an unavoidable part of production, digitalisation may allow this to be minimised in the future. In the meantime, plant managers can make the most of planned downtime by reviewing performance data and making effective plans.

Most food processing plants include some form of conveyor system to move food through the production line effectively. The importance of these systems means that they are always operational. Electric motors are used throughout the conveyor system, yet because motors can be difficult to access and see into, a motor’s health is typically not known, and they are run until they stop. As a motor’s health deteriorates, performance drops significantly and there are several consequences such as elevated vibration levels and temperature.

Using a smart sensor on motors to monitor and assess the component’s health allows F&B plant managers to make an informed assessment. This data can then be used to identify when a motor needs maintenance and schedule it accordingly. To establish an informed maintenance schedule, plant managers should also use periods of planned downtime to review historic performance data and identify any patterns or trends.


Contributed by Here Gernut van Laak, Group Automation Solutions Leader of ABB’s Food and Beverage Program.


Check these articles out:

Eliminating Trace Allergens In Industrial Baking

Consoveyo Completes Conveyor System Installation For JTC Food Hub @ Senoko

2020 Vision: Four Emerging Packaging Trends And X-Ray Applications

Dassault Systèmes And SATS Create World’s First Virtual Kitchen For In-Flight Catering Production

The Value Of Blockchain Technology For The F&B Industry In Asia