Maintenance crew and plant maintenance in automation


The diversity of the maintenance function is very large. Various types of maintenance staff are required to perform each of these functions. The type of the workers ranges from highly skilled to unskilled covering inspectors, mechanics, electricians, cleaners, plumbers, carpenters, painters to ordinary laborers. The organization must try to define each function of maintenance and to spell out its responsibilities. Sufficient care should be taken to avoid any gapping or overlapping in defining the maintenance functions.

The size of the maintenance crew will largely depend on the type of maintenance work, frequency of maintenance and other specific requirements of the unit. The specialist or generalists or operator-cum-repairer can be employed according to the need of the organization.

Generally the maintenance staff is rewarded on time basis. As the maintenance work is of highly non-repetitive nature, it is difficult to set any standard of performance and so the payment of remuneration on piece-rate system is not feasible. Moreover, there is no ensured regularity of work like production department or other departments. So mostly they are paid on time-rate method.

However, a study conducted by the Du Pont Company of USA., revealed that the maintenance staff is working below their capacity in relation to the operating staff, and so there is a case for implementation of wage-incentive plans for tapping the ability of the maintenance staff which is beneficial to both the company as well as the maintenance staff.

Where the workers are paid on the time-rate basis, it becomes highly essential to supervise their operations. The supervision of the maintenance staff poses a special problem. As their work assignment involve the scattered visits of extensive plant area, they go beyond the watchful eye of the supervisor. So the maintenance supervisors need a special type of skill and vision to handle the situation.

Generally, the plant maintenance function is put under the control of the plant engineer. A plant engineer reports to the works manager and he generally heads the two main departments—“workshop� and “plant maintenance.� The plant maintenance can again be sub-divided into building services, machine maintenance, and other plant services according to the need of the organization.

Plant maintenance in continuous production and automation:

In the continuous production, the production activity consists of the series of sequential operations. The whole system operates like a single large machine. There is a situation like everything in operation or everything idle. A delay of even few minutes proves very costly to the organization.

Preventive maintenance is a system where the plant and machines are subjected to regular periodical inspection. During the inspection parts subject to wear and tear are replaced based on a pre-determined frequency. Thus preventive maintenance prevents machine breakdowns and is very important in continuous production.

In such a production system, some of the operations are designed with removable sections, which can be replaced immediately with spare sections or parts. For certain critical operations, the stand-by (extra) equipment are provided. However, this is possible only where the equipment is not very costly. The periodic checking and overhauling should be made for the whole system rather than the maintenance of the machines and equipments on piecemeal basis.

Automation is an advancement of the continuous production system. The preventive maintenance is equally or a bit more important because here also the production system works on the full-working or nil-working basis. In continuous production, there is possibility of some flexibility because the stoppage of one part for few minutes can be tackled without the entire production stoppage. But under automation, the entire system is managed through push-button control.

The machines are relatively more complex controlled through electronics devices. The maintenance supervisors are not called in case of need. In fact, they have to attend all the time as long as the system is in operation. They are required to patrol in anticipation of any required repairs.

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  • The hardest part about maintaining an automated plant is to determine when you’ll have to replace certain parts or machine that ‘rarely’ gets broken or repaired. I guess it’s best to get automated machines that have a long warranty or something. Better invest in insurance as much as you invest in maintenance, I suppose.

  • Outstanding work yet again! I am excited for your forthcoming post!