Best Practices on the Shop Floor: Maintenance

March 19, 2012 No Comments
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Kurt Manufacturing Machining Division

by Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc.

toc_columns50pxThis series is meant to provide you with the opportunity to read how selected MPMA members handle and manage various best practices within their company, giving you insight and information as a resource for your business on several topics throughout the next year. For more information on this series, contact Andrew Skoog at or Chuck Remillard at

In this second article of the Best Practices series, readers will learn how the machining division at Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc. manages maintenance in their shop.

For decades, industrial and other organizations concentrated most of their attention upon production, generally ignoring the maintenance function, viewing it as a necessary evil. During the recent years there has been a gradual attitude change in how general corporate managers view the maintenance function. Customers also are looking for documented evidence through audits for maintenance programs.

One factor forcing this change is that maintenance departments have become major cost centers within those organizations. Today, with general operating costs rising at the rate of approximately 10 percent each year, there is the potential for the realization of significant savings in the maintenance department that deserves serious scrutiny.

Most departments typically run operations under one of the following philosophies: reactive maintenance (run until it breaks), preventative maintenance (maintenance performed based on a schedule) and predictive maintenance (maintenance based on actual condition of the machine rather than preset schedule).

Machine Maintenance

Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc. performs machine maintenance (MM) on a predetermined schedule, using a software based program designed by Kurt staff. After attempts at using off-the-shelf software, Kurt Maintenance determined that it needed its own to manage the extensive list of machines. Our MM department has over 140 years of combined knowledge of Kurt’s wide list of machines. They use working knowledge and historical data to incorporate a periodic MM plan for many of the machines.

Among items in MM is the inspection of the machines for circular interalignment and backlash. It is performed using the Renishaw Ballbar System on a yearly basis. This gives us a snapshot of the overall performance of the machine for reference on its ability to run tight tolerance parts.

As a Kurt standard, all machines with over 200 hours of production run time per year are added to the preventative maintenance calendar for additional items that may be over and above the prescribed OEM requirements. New machines are inspected to create a benchmark for capability and are reviewed for standard maintenance requirements. They are then added to Kurt’s preventative maintenance calendar and, with annual inspection, we can track any changes that may occur to the machines’ repeatability. Another standard practice is that all new CNC machines brought into Kurt are fitted with mist collectors to maintain air quality of the work area and operators’ health.

As part of a continuous improvement program, the MM department developed a plan to standardize the coolant used for machining. With previous coolant, Kurt was seeing recycling problems and environmental issues from the blending process and a higher than normal usage of coolant on various work centers. After the program was launched to use single source/single type of coolant, Kurt tracked the results and realized a 30 percent savings per month in coolant usage.

Building Maintenance

Kurt has worked extensively with Excel Energy to take advantage of programs that offer rebates and savings to companies. Kurt has replaced old Metal Halide lights with T8 fluorescent lights that dropped lighting consumption by 40 percent.

Dryers and air compressors run with Variable Frequency Drives (VFD) to enable them to throttle down during less demand times using less energy.

Another continuous improvement program includes reviewing the plant for air leaks that cause compressors to run excessively. Once all air leaks were stopped, compressor run time was reduced, resulting in saved energy.

After assessing annual water usage within the division, Kurt added a reclamation system to recover clean water. The plant went from 385,000 gallons per month to 90,000 gallons per month usage, showing tremendous savings. As a bonus, Kurt has recovered and utilized heat for a savings of over 7 percent in power costs.

Purchasing also plays an important role in the modern integrated maintenance organization. The use of an automated system to trigger purchase orders designed to facilitate stocking levels as they are established, is essential. Adequate planning and proper establishment of workable stock levels (controlled by supply lead time and usage) can prevent stock outages and overstocking. This action is very effective in controlling stock purchasing activities.

The trick here is to have on-hand only the items required for genuine emergencies. By letting a supplier be the main stock point, your in-house stock levels will be sufficient only to meet the needs of a bonafide emergency.

One method is to find a supplier who will be willing to guarantee an adequate supply of your stock items on its shelf to meet all the needs of your operation. This can be accomplished by selective purchasing—agreeing to purchase all your supplies from a single supplier. To remain competitive, commit to purchase from the supplier on an annual basis, but re-bid purchases on that basis and spot check competitors frequently. A written contract can be very helpful, specifying the need to remain competitive.

The Equipment Performance Indicators below can provide valuable data, as they alone will reflect the “actual value of the plan” and employee activity successes or failures. These measures specifically focus upon reliability, cost of critical equipment or the cost of manufacturing lines.

  • Equipment downtime.
  • Equipment capacity, utilization, running speed or performance efficiency.
  • Mean time between failure (MTBF) for pumps, motors, compressors, etc.
  • List of worst performing equipment.
  • Set-up or changeover times.
  • Start-up and shut down times.
  • Monthly costs for each type of equipment (pumps, motors, compressors, etc.).
  • Monthly costs for each asset center.

Challenges for the Future

People are the eyes and ears for maintenance and it will take additional gauging, sensors and remote monitoring to know what is happening. Discipline in following preventative and predictive maintenance schedules and programs is a must to support production needs in this competitive world. pm_endmarkred-e1320337243152

 Article courtesy of Kurt Manufacturing Company Inc.

Copyright © 2012 Minnesota Precision Manufacturing Association. For permission to use or reprint this article please contact Amy Slettum, publications manager for Precision Manufacturing journal.


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