Aseptic lines depend on a great number of mechanical movements for a correct operation as well as a correct interaction with rather complex systems. If the goal is to maintain a high level of efficiency in the long run, it is not possible to avoid a correct management of the line. The main maintenance activities of an aseptic line are described hereunder:
The general approach of the After Sales & Service activities has been based, in the past, mainly on repair. However, in practice the service has several applications normally categorised as follows:
This could be summarised simply as:
Service is about transferring additional values and functions to better satisfy customer needs. The transition we are seeing is change management that will bring more added value to customers.
All suppliers are passing from the After Sales Service that provided parts, components and skilled engineers to the Customer Support Service that also includes intangible assets like expertise, technical support and, in general, a trust-based relationship with customers.
This requires a change in the organisation and, most important, in the service culture in general. The interaction between supplier and customer is changing from a transactional one to one that is relationship-based. That explains the success of fixed-price contracts that cover all needed services during a pre-defined period. This approach partially transfers the risk of failure to the service provider but also focuses on relationship-based service working on the product, on the operations and on the response time in the event of break down. Suppliers can therefore optimise material management and resource management.
The next step will be a further change to a Customer Development Service: the main goal is to develop customer potential through innovative services. These will include activities that have, so far, been neglected or that divert the customer’s attention from its main focus which should be "produce at the right time, in the right quantity and with the right quality".
This field is still unexplored and requires a strong and trustful relationship with customers, the use of creativity at the highest level and the capacity to understand the real needs, to minimise frustration.
This is the challenge that Service is facing: to add value to customers with innovative solutions.
"Service is about transferring additional values and functions to better satisfy customer needs."
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a management policy for improving the productivity of plants making processes more reliable and less wasteful. Today, even the aseptic market is more and more competitive and the reduction of production losses is increasingly important for the success of a company.
Frequently, production losses are linked only with breakdowns or failures but they have a wider meaning. Indeed every cost that doesn’t add value to the final customer is a loss. For example the time lost changing formats or making adjustments, time lost in the start-up-phase, and limited production speeds are production losses. Even scraps of raw material, defects in the final product or simply improper procedures are significant too. Generally the losses can be measured on their whole by the ratio between the actual and the potential productivity of the plant. The index is known as OEE, overall equipment effectiveness.
TPM promises to locate the causes of production losses by monitoring the overall plant, increasing the availability of the production means and driving the company towards continuous improvement. The effectiveness of the plants monitoring is the key point. It allows plant managers to collect the information to initially evaluate the plant performance, define corrective actions and evaluate their success. Knowledge of equipments, processes, and experience from the field, are normally the drivers for a successfully designed monitoring system. In this way the experience of the user, and the skills of the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM), can be merged to offer tailored services and tools to satisfy the common need: increased plant performance.
Maintenance is one of the major areas in which the relationship between user and Original Equipment Manufacturer could be more profitable. Documentation (e.g. User and maintenance manual, spare parts list, troubleshooting lists …), training and corrective maintenance are the tools that have been available so far. Today maintenance is approached in a more scientific way and from different point of view: it usually distinguishes between preventive, condition-based and improvement maintenance.
The curve of the failure risk of a component is shaped like a bathtub. The failure probability is generally high in the early failure phase, often called infant mortality, because of possible manufacturing defects. It decreases initially with ageing and reaches a low risk stable phase throughout the useful life. The end of its life is characterized by an increasing risk due to its ageing and wearing (wear out phase). The entirety of the technics focused on the estimation of the useful life is called Preventive Maintenance and allows the scheduling of replacements parts before facing the wearing out phase. Imagine having to implement these technics to the whole plant, the vast amount of data that have to be managed for effective maintenance scheduling is huge. Therefore Preventive Maintenance is often put in practice by computer-aided systems, known as Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) that help maintenance workers to do their job more easily thanks to better management of assets and information.
Preventive maintenance, however, as it has been presented, is often ineffective against accidents that could affect the risk of early failure. These risk causes can be fought by using Condition Based Maintenance that aims to continually monitor the plant and translate its real health state in the form of useful information. The information is usually provided as threshold limits above which the failure probability will be very high. It is usually effected by a Condition Based Maintenance System CBMS that performs periodical plant monitoring to detect the plant’s real running condition.
Generally CBMS are highly powerful devices that will have an increasingly central role in the general management of plants. The monitoring, for example, could supply data to better estimate the useful life of components thereby improving preventive maintenance. The CBMS could even be an important source of information to identify previously unknown damaging phenomena that should be considered in the design phase of machines to increase their ruggedness under normal operating conditions.
The last is the most advanced approach to maintenance, known as proactive maintenance, where the increased knowledge of the system is used to make improvments and enhance performance. The monitoring system should be at the heart of the Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) programme and must be developed taking into account the maintenance needs of mechanical, process and automation systems. The effort and investment must be concentrated on the critical points that have been located using experience or by Failure Mode Effects and Critical Analysis (FMECA). Each point must be analyzed to establish the failure modes, and the causes, and choose the most suitable monitoring technology. This is why a comprehensive knowledge of the machines, - dynamic, cinematic and process - is so important. Even the monitoring procedure has to be chosen according to the criticality of the operation: continuous monitoring will be preferred if the components are very expensive or their replacement is critical for time or money, or if the component is inaccessible. This is normally carried out by expensive on-line devices and usually results very powerful, for example they allow remote diagnosis. Conversely, it is possible to perform periodical monitoring with portable instruments. This is much cheaper and ideal for less critical components but cannot be performed by remote control and does require trained, mobile personnel.
Nowadays a lot of technologies are available and they’re more and more affordable for the most varied applications:
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