The goal of any service program should be to ensure that equipment stays in working order, with minimal downtime between service visits or the life of the product. What is preventive maintenance servicing and how does it differ from general servicing? Here’s my overall philosophy: General servicing puts out fires. Preventative maintenance servicing prevents fires. Let’s look into this a bit more closely.
A general service visit might be more specific in nature while preventative maintenance servicing should, along with upkeep of equipment, take into account such factors as heavy use periods, the value of supplying bench stock on difficult to acquire parts (so as to limit downtime), as well as strategies for repair if a breakdown occurs. In other words, preventative maintenance is a more holistic approach to service. It should not just look at the customer’s equipment in isolation from the operation, but should see the wider picture, including how the proper and efficient operation of the equipment (as well as breakdowns) affects the customers’ business.
In effect, general service is more specific hands on (“tool in hand”) service. Preventative maintenance includes that too, but also requires more interaction with a customer to understand the business and the role the equipment plays in it.
Why are preventive maintenance programs so important?
One of the first phrases a new Fairbanks employee will hear when starting their employment is “a customer’s scale is their cash register.” This speaks to the basic (and critical) notion of customer dollars. Strong support for preventative maintenance is one way we show customers that when they own our equipment we becomes a critical partner in their business operation – and that includes their bottom line dollars.
What happens if customers do not follow a preventive maintenance program?
Neglecting to account for the longevity of equipment can result in significant future repairs. Problems generally don’t stay static or improve over time – they usually get worse. When a small issue morphs into a significant problem, wholesale repairs need to be performed. These are often not budgeted for, so they result in unanticipated downtime. Any downtime is usually unexpected and often comes at a critical time.
Downtime can be minimized or eliminated almost entirely by doing proper preventative service. Here’s a recent example. Just this week we are working on a $38,000 full rebuild of a scale that experienced significant structural damage due to rusting of critical components. This customer does not get his scale checked regularly; had maintenance visits been performed, the issue would have been caught and small repairs could have been completed.
What to look for in a service program
Open-end service is the most typical type of service provided in the industrial weighing service industry. It is service that is paid for as required, or “pay as you go.” There is no limit to the total cost of repairs and it is impossible to know what your costs will be. Although you may know what your scheduled calibration costs are, it is problematic to predict failure of a component. It is also difficult to diagnose problems unless the cause is apparent at the time of any periodic pre-scheduled inspections.
With a closed-end service plan, when service is required, it can be ordered without purchase order, requisition, or approvals, so a technician can be on site quickly. This is the fastest, simplest way to initiate service. With a closed-end service plan, the extra costs are the responsibility of the service provider. Large service providers are better able to take this risk, so this type of service plan is less often an option with smaller scale companies.
The greatest benefit of a closed-end service agreement is reduced risk for the customer. Much like insurance, closed-end service agreements cover the cost of most failures. This allows the customer to spend less time making arrangements between purchasing and management when service is needed. It also builds a better relationship between the service provider and the end user of the scale because the service process is less cumbersome.
For example, the Fairbanks Scales Guardian Service Plan is a “no surprises” service program with multiple levels to fit specific customer needs. The highest level of Guardian Service can be all-encompassing to include parts, service visits and calibrations. Customers with little exposure to significant repairs might choose a more basic option just covering calibrations. The best agreement fits the customer like a glove!
The losses to revenue due to a scale failure can exceed the cost of maintenance. Preventive maintenance ends up saving in the long run.