Investments in automation aim to improve warehouse productivity, boost fulfillment speed, and keep operations running smoothly, 24/7. Yet when it comes to system maintenance, some facilities still follow the old adage, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But that’s quite a risk when that very system is the backbone of your fulfillment operations. After all, the last thing you want is equipment to fail mid-shift or for unexpected downtime to cause delays during the busiest times of the year.
So to maximize system uptime and get the most out of your investment, it’s best to take a layered approach to equipment maintenance. The following four tips can help you keep your automated system running at its best, giving you the highest productivity at the lowest cost for years to come.
1. Set up a schedule
Preventive maintenance is exactly what is sounds like—regular, routine maintenance to prevent problems before they ever occur.
A carefully planned and executed maintenance schedule (based on your system’s needs and supplier recommendations) provides a solid foundation for equipment care. Routine inspections, parts replacement, and other regular maintenance tasks enable you to monitor machine wear, prevent any small issues to escalate bigger problems down the road, and keep your equipment in peak condition.
2. Train your team
While automation is designed to run with minimum human involvement, don’t underestimate the key role your employees play in maximizing performance and uptime. Be sure to provide proper training to your operators, supervisors, and any new hires, so that your team is well-versed in running your system.
When personnel are well-trained, they’ll be equipped to identify potential problems and recognize when machinery isn’t performing the way it should. After all, they work most closely with your automated system and will notice variances that happen between inspections. In short, training ensures your team becomes another great line of defense against downtime.
3. Leverage data
It’s also easier than ever to facilitate predictive maintenance, thanks to advancements in data collection and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). Now, with the help of the feedback from the system, you can collect real-time condition and performance data.
By monitoring and analyzing this data, supervisors can detect concerning trends (e.g., abnormal functionality, share of manual time or equipment efficiency declining), and then proactively take actions like order spare parts and expedite repairs that mitigate the risk of major failures.
4. Choose a trusted partner
When looking for long-term system support, who’s better qualified than the ones who designed it?
Look for an automation technology supplier that offers a lifetime partnership and is truly invested in the longevity of your automated solution. The supplier of choice should offer repair and replacement services, as well as 24/7 support from remote experts and onsite technicians. A trusted partner can also manage ongoing preventive maintenance, monitor your equipment, and analyze the changing needs of your business for strategic system upgrades.
Ultimately, a proactive approach to maintenance will help you reduce costs, maximize system uptime, and ensure optimal system performance in the long run.
So forget that “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” mindset. When it comes to the health of your automation, “Prevention is better than a cure.”
Author Ilpo Nummelin