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Exploring biggest maintenance challenges in supply chain management

Supply chain management (SCM) is a very fast-paced endeavour that is constantly faced with challenges that can hinder quick and efficient shipping of products.

These issues can occur during any stage of the supply chain cycle: from Planning, to Sourcing, Production, or Delivery. And, any interruptions along the process can have a cumulative and negative multiplier effect that leads to inefficiency of the entire supply chain.

Due to the extremely sensitive nature of the supply chain, the maintenance team must help supply chain managers stay ahead of any issues by diligently preparing for them. From production to final delivery, the input of the maintenance personnel working behind the scenes can ensure that the entire process does not break down.

Below are some of the areas where maintenance challenges are usually most pressing in supply chain management.

Three Biggest Supply Chain Management Maintenance Challenges And Possible Solutions

1) Sustaining Production Levels

In the past, maintenance was grudgingly regarded as an unwanted cost centre. But today, as companies continue to adopt more proactive maintenance strategies, they can see that the maintenance function has shifted from being a “burden” to becoming an active contributor to business profit.

Maintenance improves equipment availability and performance whether on the plant floor, in the built environment, or in any other business setting.

One area where the importance of maintenance is very obvious is on the production floor. There is no way the production process can remain efficient when manufacturing equipment are faulty or performing below their optimum levels.

Equipment downtime is a major factor that often disrupts the supply chain. It’s estimated that industries can lose up to five per cent of their production capacity as a result of unplanned downtime. It also hinders manufacturing efficiency by causing the following:

* Delay in the manufacturing process. No products produced obviously means no sales and no profit.

* Increased cost of resources such as spare parts and overtime payments for maintenance personnel working to restore the faulty unit.

* Waste as a result of defective or incomplete products created while the machine was faulty but still running.

Fortunately, a well-planned and executed proactive maintenance strategy will eliminate most of these problems or at the least reduce such occurrences to the barest minimum.

Rather than allowing equipment to run until they fail before repairing them (as in reactive maintenance), maintenance managers should consider adopting more proactive maintenance options. These options include implementing a preventive maintenance plan (pre-planned time-based intervention) or predictive maintenance (condition-based monitoring and intervention).

2) Warehousing and Storage

In many plants, it’s not uncommon to find that the stored items in their warehouses are worth even more than the value of the building housing them. So, the security and safety of these goods are important.

The maintenance department has an additional responsibility to ensure that any warehouse or storage facility under their supervision provides the right atmosphere for storing raw materials and manufactured goods. They can achieve this by doing the following:

* Ensure the warehouse structure is maintained properly by promptly repairing leaking roofs, replacing broken window panes, replacing broken light bulbs, repairing unstable shelving, etc.

* Mobile machinery, such as forklifts, should always be in good operating condition.

* Pay attention to the use of safety equipment and enforce compliance with safety precautions. For instance, all emergency exits should be clearly marked and free of obstructions.

* Ensure fire fighting equipment are functional and tested frequently.

* Implement proactive hygiene practices and pest control measures.

* If the finished goods are perishable or meant for consumption (e.g food, drinks, or medicine), then there must be extra care to ensure that refrigerators and other cooling equipment are always functional.

3) Logistics

Transportation and fleet management is another important activity in supply chain management. Raw materials must be physically moved to a warehouse then after production, the finished products are moved – on time – to the consumer.

There is a lot that the maintenance team does to ensure hitch-free logistics and that includes planning well ahead of time. For instance, it may sound trivial but did anybody check if the selected vehicles for moving the items are weatherproof? If it were to suddenly start raining en route the customer’s location, would the goods arrive safely and in good condition?

Also, logistics planning should cover goods that are to be transported in special conditions, for example, cooled or frozen goods and food items.

But the temperature must be just right as some products, especially pharmaceutical products like vaccines, medicines, and biotech products, are usually at risk of damage due to accidental freezing in transit. Any slip-up or failure in this regard can ruin the entire batch and upset the supply chain.

From all of the above, it’s clear to see that every step of the supply chain process is very sensitive to failure and delay. But, by working closely with the organisation’s maintenance team, the supply chain unit can minimise many of the effects of these delays before they become a headache.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organise, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.

About Sarah OBeirne

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