Mitigating the Challenges of Working on Production Equipment

Blog post by our Auburn Hills engineers

Does the idea of working on your production equipment send a million-dollar-a-minute shiver down your spine?  There are, of course, risks involved when working on equipment when it is in production.

Proper planning and communication with production staff can minimize downtime and stress when work is being done on this equipment.  Before tackling any work that needs to be done on a system that is actively in production, make sure to have a proper plan in place. A good plan will include the following elements:

  • Back Up: Before doing any work or making any changes to the system, backup the software.
  • Time: Allow enough time to do the work. Although this seems obvious, it’s important to be realistic about how much time a given change will take. Provide an estimate to all parties involved with this system such as plant personnel (plant engineers, operators, supervisors). Plan the work to be done on breaks, if time allows, or on weekends when the plant is not running production.
  • Work Ahead: Whenever possible, do the work offline and then transfer it to the working system when you’re actually working on it to help speed up the work change process.
  • Write it down: Write down a procedure of what the steps are to be taken for this work. When working under time pressure, it can be easy to forget a step if it’s only in your head.  Also, a written plan allows you to quickly share it with others if something unexpected should happen.
  • Communicate: Alert all personnel (plant engineers, operators, supervisors) involved with the system of the work to be done and the plan for completing it. It’s better to communicate too much than not enough.
  • Safety: Make sure all safety procedures and requirements are followed before, during, and after the work is performed. Cutting corners can lead to more downtime and more disastrous consequences in the long run.
  • Testing: Make sure there are test parts available for testing the new changes being made to the system or put the system in a state where is ready for testing.

Working on equipment while it is in production can be a very stressing task and costly if things don’t go well while changes are being made to a system while it is in production.  Having a thorough plan in place can minimize or even eliminate downtime while work is being performed.