Preventative Maintenance for Automated Machines


Posted on: July 29th, 2020

By Ashley Belliveau

It’s crucial to conduct regular preventative maintenance on automated industrial machines. If properly maintained, automated machines and equipment should not need to be replaced, unless there is a change in product or design or the technology needs to be upgraded. Preventative maintenance not only improves the return on investment, but it also helps ensure high performance and quality, reduce repair costs, and keep production moving.

At Steven Douglas Corp. (SDC), we’ve seen our clients who have conducted regular preventative maintenance keep our machines in production and running efficiently for more than 20 years. Likewise, when machines have not been maintained, those machines typically start to experience failures after a couple years. To avoid the latter and keep production running efficiently, follow these five preventative maintenance tips for automated machines.

Epson Scara robot.

1. Identify Appropriate Preventative Maintenance for Your Machine

Every automated machine in your manufacturing facility will require different preventative maintenance checks based on its design and function. Ask your equipment provider and/or consult your service manual to understand exactly which tasks are beneficial to your machine’s needs. For every machine the experts at SDC builds, a basic service manual is provided, explaining how the machine operates and outlining troubleshooting procedures for common machine faults.

From there, you can begin to outline a preventative maintenance checklist to follow. Some general preventative maintenance tasks that SDC routinely performs, include but are not limited to:

  • Checking all machine components and replacing parts as needed
  • Checking machine alignment to ensure all stations are level
  • Checking machine bolts, levers, hinges, etc. to ensure everything is tightened to the correct tolerances
  • Cleaning vision systems and camera lens’ to ensure they are free of debris
  • Cleaning debris from machine and surrounding area to ensure the machine can operate efficiently

2. Create a Machine Preventative Maintenance Schedule

Tightening external bolts on an automated machine.Rather than maintaining machines on an as needed basis, creating a schedule to perform routine maintenance checks can help keep production moving. By scheduling preventative maintenance tasks, especially those that may require significant downtime, during off hours or at times when production is slower, you can ensure that these tasks won’t interfere with your ability to meet production goals.

How often you schedule preventative maintenance tasks will depend on the task itself and how frequently the automated machine is used. For example, you may only need to tighten the machine’s external bolts once every six months, but you’ll likely want to clean the vision system, machine, and surrounding area at least once a week. Likewise, if the same small part assembly machine works three shifts a day, you’ll likely need to perform preventative maintenance more often than you would for an automated packing machine that’s only in use for eight hours a day.

3. Maintain a Spare Parts Inventory

When conducting preventative maintenance checks, you may find that a part on your automated machine needs to be replaced. Having an inventory of spare parts for your automated machine readily available can help streamline preventative maintenance tasks and prevent any delays in production. Be sure to ask your equipment provider for a list of recommended spare parts, such as extra cables, air filters, light bulbs, bolts, power cords, screws, etc. For every machine, SDC provides a recommended spare list that is categorized by the importance of having extra parts in stock and ready to install if needed.Vision inspection system

4. Create a Culture of Accountability

Once you’ve identified the appropriate preventative maintenance tasks and created a schedule for when they should be done, you’ll need to determine the right person or team for the job. SDC offers regular preventative maintenance service visits to customers, where an experienced service technician will work through a service checklist, as well as help troubleshoot any issues and optimize the performance of the machine.

Taken a step further, documenting these maintenance checks can help ensure accountability. In addition to assigning and communicating tasks, be sure to document the parts of the machine that were checked, the tasks that were performed, and the date that the service was conducted. The designated machine operator or service technician performing the tasks should then sign off on the document and submit it to a supervisor.

5. Demonstrate a Commitment to Preventative Maintenance

SDC technician shows client how to use automated machine.A commitment to preventative maintenance starts from the top, down. When company executives reduce maintenance budgets or when plant managers fail to schedule preventative maintenance or override scheduled maintenance to meet production goals, it can send the wrong message about the importance of preventative maintenance. Failure to conduct regular maintenance on machines can cause parts and components to break down and malfunction, which can create serious threats to the safety of your employees and the quality of your products.

When considering budgetary or production needs, it’s important for company leadership to realize the benefits of regular preventative maintenance checks. Regularly scheduled preventative maintenance can save money by increasing the lifetime of your automated equipment and addressing equipment needs before resulting in unanticipated downtime, as well as maintain consistent product quality by ensuring the machine is running smoothly.

With over 20 years of experience, SDC understands the importance of preventative maintenance to keep your automated systems running as efficiently as possible. Contact SDC today to discuss your upcoming automation project. In the meantime, check out some of our past projects.