Rob Pedler, after-sales contracts manager at European Process Plant (EPP), looks at the importance of proactive equipment maintenance in a competitive market

Many bakery engineering managers fully understand that equipment routinely serviced on a pre-determined schedule outlasts that which is not. 

It means the total cost of ownership is reduced, as is the number of unplanned breakdowns. It also not only improves production efficiency and shelf-life but cuts costs and improves morale and customer relations.

Unfortunately, some take a more short-term view, with an ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ mindset. They rely heavily on their engineering staff to produce miracles in half the time needed for a proper repair, with parts hastily fixed.

This creates a cycle of breakdown and rushed, often unreliable repairs. Ultimately, the equipment becomes beyond economic repair and the whole line needs replacing, with the associated disruption to production, costs and stress.

Preventative maintenance enhances the lifespan of regularly used equipment and enables higher performance. It doesn’t require an extravagant spend to replace slightly worn parts, just careful adjustments to keep to the manufacturer’s original settings to ensure all the tolerances are aligned. As parts wear, the assembly will stay in tolerance longer and, of course, some parts will be changed as they approach their serviceable limits.

Without regular checks and adjustments the machine is running, but the tolerances will be out of alignment. Even worse, when hundreds of mini-stops are put into the production profile it greatly reduces production efficiencies without an obvious cause and then an extra person is needed to watch the line. Eventually all the tolerances will move out of acceptable margins, the equipment will stop but to restart the line the whole machine will need to be reset, losing at least another day’s production.

The performance of bakery equipment depends on many factors, from environment to ingredient quality. However, generally, well-maintained equipment performs better than poorly-maintained equipment, even to the point where it is not necessary to invest in an extra line to fulfil customers’ orders or use expensive overtime.

Bakery and food manufacturers that produce their products on a reliable schedule tend to have very good reputations. Businesses live or die based on their reputations and anything that can be done to enhance these is something that should always be considered.