How can food processing plants keep their assets running while at the same time stay compliant with government and industry bodies? Equipment management software is the answer.
Nobody likes unplanned downtime, but it can be especially punishing in the food processing industry.
Downtime kills your chances
Once an opportunity is missed, it might not come back for a long time or at all. In some cases, demand is seasonal. Basically, there's only one time each year to capitalize. If an asset breaks down just before Easter and you can't get those chocolate bunnies out the door and on shelves, you're stuck until next year. If your eggnog isn't ready to ship on time, you can't just wait until mid-summer and sell it then.
If it's not tied to a season or date, a product's popularity is often unpredictable and fleeting. Here is a list from 2018 of popular food trends. As delicious as they all are, we already know they're not making the list in 2019. If you have reliable equipment, it's possible to ramp up or shift production to take advantage of a craze. But if you can't trust your equipment, you can't reliably predict when your trend-inspired product will be ready. By the time you finish, everyone might already be over this year's version of pumpkin spice lattes.
Downtime creates waste
The cost of downtime depends on the type of feedstock that's now sitting around waiting to get processed. When the widget punch is down for on-demand maintenance, nobody worries the inventory of metal is going to melt or spoil. But food processing plants always have to worry about their ingredients. Long stretches of unscheduled downtime can force you to carry inventory for longer than expected. If it's sensitive to temperature and you're using cold chain, bottlenecking costs add up quickly. Worst case, you might have to dispose of your inventory altogether.
Downtime can be tamed
There are two ways to have less downtime: You can fix things more quickly or have them break down less often. Good equipment management software helps you do both.
Work orders are at the center of it all. Free equipment maintenance software might let you generate basic work orders, but full-featured, cloud-based solutions like Hippo's offer so much more. If someone outside the maintenance department notices a problem, they can submit a ticket through their desktop or mobile device. Automatically, the ticket is forwarded to the maintenance department, where it can be rejected or built into a data-rich work order. You can add information about the problem asset, including:
- Location on an interactive floor plan
- Serial number
- Operator and repair manuals
- All past work orders
- Spare parts inventory
- Step-by-step instructions
- Best practices checklists
Once the technician is on the scene, all that information cuts time on wrench. They know what needs to be done and can access instructions on how do it. With the built-in inventory tracking's customizable reorder thresholds ensuring the department always has the parts it needs onsite, technicians are never caught unprepared.
Good equipment management software maintains a searchable record of all past work orders. Your department can go back and see what broke, when it broke, why it broke, and how it was fixed. Using this data, along with industry standards and asset manufactures' recommendations, you can build a preventive maintenance schedule. Instead of the stress and uncertainty of running to failure, your department can stay one step ahead with PMs, making sure everything is oiled and topped up before problems develop. Because you're now proactive and in control of your time and resources, a solid equipment maintenance plan reduces your stress and increases the assets' useful life.
Food processing companies deal with a lot of rules and regulations, and it can be very tricky. In America, there are many different state and federal agencies involved in regulating the industry. In Canada, this past January the government introduced sweeping new changes through Safe Foods for Canadians Regulations. In the UK, law firms have developed a new niche market. They now offer UK food processors advice on staying compliant in the event of a hard Brexit.
Compliance has two parts: being compliant and proving you're compliant. Because the software holds a record of all past work orders, it's easy to generate reports that can then be forwarded to different government agencies. Not only can you show the work you've done, but you can also show, for example, all the safety information you have on hand and available to your staff. It's all been loaded into the software and is now available from any desktop or mobile device.
It really is the answer
The food processing industry faces a unique set of challenges. Unreliable equipment creates costs in ways other industries often don't have to worry about. At the same time, companies must navigate mazes of rules and regulations. Without the right tools, it's impossible to succeed. Equipment management software empowers companies like yours to keep running and stay compliant.