Whether your shop is large or small, you have tools, vehicles and buildings that require maintenance. The cost of keeping a plant properly maintained can be considerable, but often less costly than overlooking repairs. Have you ever had to repair a vacuum pump or a table saw? If so, you know that it isnít cheap. If you look back at items in your shop that have been broken, you will probably conclude that with a little preventive action the repair might have been avoided.
If you look up the word maintain in the dictionary, the definition is to carry on, continue or to keep in a desirable condition. This should be our goal in regard to all of our equipment. Setting up maintenance programs to protect your investments is a great way to start. Letís break this down into three areas of discussion: tools, buildings and vehicles.
If you have ever been on the ISSFA bulletin board, you may have noticed that tools are the most discussed topic. If we are so concerned about our tools, we should be taking good care of them. I am often surprised when on jobsites to see how many trades arenít tagging their tools with their company name and the poor condition many tools are in. It is a good idea to not only tag your tools but also to engrave them with a Dremel tool. You could also have stickers made up displaying your company name, address and phone number. Over the years we have had many lost tools returned to us in this way.
Keeping your tools in good repair is extremely important as well. Consider stocking extra brushes, switches, cords, etc. The cost of stocking parts is minimal compared to the cost of losing the use of your tool for a few days. That said, a good power tool repair shop is essential for the times when tools need an expert to fix them. Also, keep in mind that your air tools and sanders all have maintenance requirements that, if neglected, will cause your tools to break down or wear out. For example, many view hot melt glue guns as a disposable tool, but did you know that you can improve the life of the gun tremendously? When unplugging your glue gun for the day, try purging one glue stick through the gun. This decreases strain on the thermostat when you turn it back on. Small things can help make a big difference. As Benjamin Franklin once said, ďTake care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.Ē
It is also a good idea to assign a shop employee to maintain each tool so it becomes their responsibility to see that their tool is properly maintained. It is better to have this maintenance performed weekly than waiting until work is slow in the shop. You canít make a countertop if your tools arenít running, so maintenance must be a priority.
In your building there are many things that need a regular maintenance schedule. Your lights as well as dust collection systems need frequent checking. Filters in the heating and cooling system also need regular maintenance. It is very important to keep dust off the fire censors. Recently, our electrician told us that if we didnít have a system to clean off the lights in the shop the dust could have overheated the ballasts, causing a safety hazard and an expensive repair job. It is advisable to have a plan that reminds you when to service a certain part of the shop. In our shop we have clipboards on the office wall that explain different tasks that must be done, from removing trash to dusting fire alarms. It is an effective way to see that all building maintenance is being done on a regular basis.
Most of us know what our cars need to keep performing at their best. We change the oil, have the tires rotated, etc., but what about your company vehicles? You canít rely on the employee that drives the vehicle to notice any problems. After all, it isnít their vehicle. That is why it is essential to have a vehicle maintenance program. Each vehicle needs to be checked weekly for fluid levels and tire pressure. The 10 to 20 minutes spent doing this can save thousands of dollars later. Also, replacing older tires can be a good investment as it saves money on unnecessary gasoline consumption caused by poor tire pressure. The safety of each employee is certainly an important reason to keep all vehicles operating optimally.
It would be nice if all we had to worry about was fabricating countertops. In order to make those tops, we need to protect the investments we have made to produce the work. I would encourage you to implement a plant maintenance plan right away. It will result in a safer, more efficient shop and will minimize the expense of unnecessary repairs to equipment.
About the author:
Jon Olson is the production and operations manager for Sterling Surfaces in Sterling, Mass. He has been a solid surface fabricator since 1982 and can be reached at email@example.com.