8 Ideas Manufacturers Should Consider Before Replacing Equipment
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Small Manufacturer Machine Maintenance Challenges

As a small- to medium-sized manufacturer, you might not have an engineering staff. Maintenance reliability for a key piece of equipment can be a challenge. Maybe you have an old piece of equipment that has served you well since the beginning days, but it just doesn’t seem to have the same get-up-and-go that it used to have.

We see this scenario a lot. WIP is building up in front of the older machine. There are no historical records to accurately determine the hours of labor required to fix the break-downs nor the ability to sort out the repair parts from the accounting system. Could it be time to replace your machine? Not so fast. Here are some easy steps to help you make the correct decision.

Before Replacing Your Aging Manufacturing Equipment, Consider This

  • Get 3 separate quotes for a replacement machine. Keep the quotes Apples to Apples!
  • While you are waiting on quotes, collect downtime data on your machine. This operator log should record uptime calculations that include “running well and running at a reduced speed/rate.” Downtime categories should include the following:
    • Setup
    • Scheduled maintenance
    • Breakdowns
    • Quality problems
    • Other
    • No work
    • No operator

The point here is to understand where the problems are occurring. It is not unheard of for poorly trained operators to require 3 – 4 times the expected change over time and tracking availability. The bottom line: evaluate the root cause for any reduced machine rates.


  • Clean to inspect the machine using a Total Product Maintenance (TPM) scan to get a baseline of the overall condition. Once you have the machine clean enough to inspect and document the scan, you should already have a gut feeling for the overall health of the machine. Be objective and score the machine fairly. Anything scoring below an 80 requires the next step using the abnormality log.
  • Use an abnormality log and painters tape to visually inspect the entire machine. Take note of leaking cylinders, loose or broken wires, torn or missing wipers, damaged way covers, or damaged operator windows. Document even the minute abnormality and place a piece of tape at the site with the number corresponding to the log. Get quotations for repair parts and estimate the hours required to refurbish the machine. If your maintenance group cannot do the repairs, contact a machine service for a quote with time requirements.
  • Compare the new machine quotes to the refurbishment estimates to do a simple cost analysis. Remember, the pain of commissioning and debugging a new machine and new controls add an additional learning curve for operators that can create production delays. This should be considered for your cost analysis too! Another consideration based on your sense of urgency is the lead time for the delivery of the new machine. Don’t forget the cost of lost production if time is a concern.
  • With a new or refurbished machine, consider protection of your investment. The best insurance policy is an effective maintenance program! If you run the machine to failure, the question is not if, but when the new machine will have issues. Establish a routine inspection and maintenance program.
  • Remove variation in process by implementing standard work. Whatever you want to call it, document and train the operators on the correct and consistent operation of the machine and it will provide you many more years of faithful service.
  • Last but not least, contact OMEP if you need assistance. They can help you develop a maintenance program to bring back the reliability and productivity of your plant. If you have the technical skills and resources to perform the work and want copies of the forms listed above, let us know.

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