A while back we wrote a blog about the benefits of preventive maintenance, outlining 10 benefits to a PM program in a metal fabrication or manufacturing shop. One of the best reasons, of course, is extending the life of machining tools. This time around, let’s take a look at some of the specific maintenance tips you can do to accomplish that task.

  1. Make sure your “axes” are sharpened.  Some attribute Abraham Lincoln with the expression “Give me six hours to cut down a tree, and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Whether the 16thPresident actually said those words may be disputed but the wisdom of them is not. The point is, making sure cutting tools are sharpened makes them more efficient. Making sure they are efficient means they have to use less effort, causing less wear. Every fabrication shop has multiple tools that cut, chop, and slice. Keeping these machining tools sharp will extend their life.
  2. Cleanliness matters. Metal fabrication shops, and manufacturing shops in general, can quickly and easily become dirty, dusty, and grimy. The build up of filth on machinery can cause a host of issues including overheating and other premature failures. It is important we stress the significance of keeping machining tools clean as part of a preventive maintenance program. Beyond the benefits of extending the life of machining tools – a clean, organized workplace is generally more safe and efficient.
  3. Oils well that ends well. Lubricants are key in preventive maintenance in any shop that uses machining tools. Keeping parts properly lubricated reduces friction and wear. It can prevent rust and lock-ups. When moving parts are kept moving with clean lubricant, it puts less stress on the motor, potentially extending its life as well.
  4. Look before you work. The point of preventive maintenance is to catch potential problems before they interrupt production. Inspections of machine tools can detect parts that are loosening, cords that are fraying and unusual wear areas. Inspections should include making sure machines are properly aligned and operating efficiently. If machinery is beginning to make odd noises, the source should be investigated immediately.
  5. Every part (and tool) has its place. Proper part and tool storage is one of the most simple forms of preventive maintenance. Having tools stored in their proper place makes them easily accessible, making it more likely team members will use the right tool for the right job. It also keeps them from becoming misplaced or damaged. Proper part storage also make it obvious when they need to be reordered, minimizing downtime.

What is particularly valuable about these five maintenance tips is that not only will they help extend the life of machine tools, but they can all be accomplished at little to no cost. Certainly, they all take some time, but it is time that will likely be spent resolving a problem later anyway. It also may avoid unexpected downtime when you can least afford it.

A preventive maintenance plan doesn’t have to be cumbersome or expensive. By taking the five steps above you can well be on your way to experiencing the benefits.