Tackling Maintenance Challenges in Continuous Production Facilities

When planning out or improving their operations, manufacturers have a few options as to which production method they use: batch, production line or continuous.

Traditionally, many manufacturers use the batch method, where they produce singular batches of product at a time. Recently, more companies are seeing the value of continuous production, where raw materials are continually converted into products. These systems are highly automated and active 24/7. Pharmaceutical manufacturers the world over are adopting continuous production. Other industries, such as chemical processing and oil and gas, have successfully used this method for years.

Advantages of continuous manufacturing

Where batch manufacturing requires production stops between steps, which might take hours, days or even weeks to complete, continuous manufacturing never rests.

When something goes wrong in batch manufacturing, numerous units may be destroyed. When something goes awry in continuous manufacturing, it’s much easier to isolate the affected product, thus losing less inventory and money to the issue.

And when it’s time for the business to expand, continuous processes easily allow for growth. Meanwhile, it’s difficult to increase production when everything is done in batches and following a rigid order.

Maintenance in continuous manufacturing

No matter the production method, manufacturers must keep their maintenance needs in mind. With continuous manufacturing, equipment is always in use, and downtime is limited – so when does maintenance happen?

The key is to conduct maintenance procedures strategically. The run-to-fail method won’t work for continuous production facilities, because when something breaks down, it creates a bottleneck for the whole operation. To keep these facilities on schedule, there are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Plan to take assets offline

Production may have to slow down when you take an asset offline for maintenance. In many cases, continuous production facilities don’t allow for more than one major electrical equipment component to be taken offline for maintenance at a time. Instead, assets must be addressed one at a time so that the rest of the process can continue to be productive. Maintenance staff must decide which assets to address, when and in which order.

2. Monitor equipment constantly

Continuous manufacturing requires constant monitoring for quality control purposes, but this practice also helps operators to detect abnormalities in equipment functions before they turn into serious problems. Frequent reviews of assets can quickly identify when maintenance is needed. This, in turn, leads to a proactive maintenance strategy that serves to limit downtime and maximize equipment life spans.

Creating a strategic plan for maintenance tasks can be challenging in any production facility, continuous or otherwise. But despite the many advantages of continuous manufacturing environments, this type of system must be accompanied by a strong maintenance plan.

Miner can help facilities organize, monitor and carry out planned maintenance schedules aimed at minimizing downtime in your facility. Connect with us to learn more about how we can work to improve your productivity.