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Building a Top-Notch Maintenance Program

Solid preventative and proactive maintenance practices are an essential part of an optimized window and door manufacturing operation—how does your program stack up?

The Bottom Line: Prevention should be the true goal of any maintenance department—not necessarily reactive repair.

Any manufacturer—whether they are in the window and door industry or not—knows that downtime is the enemy of efficient operations. When a critical piece of equipment stops working as intended, production is slowed if not ground to a halt completely. Diagnosing the problem and fixing it takes time, effort and resources, all of which could have instead been devoted to continued production. 

Major manufacturers continue to focus on maintenance as a critical area of their business, one that is worth investment, rather than an unavoidable cost. And they’re doing so with good reason. Research suggests that total annual losses associated with maintenance—across manufacturers as a whole—hovers around $222 billion.  

That is a massive figure, and one that window and door manufacturers can chip into with the right strategies. Let’s look at how to make that happen. 

Prevent and predict 

Preventative maintenance (PM) tasks are the bedrock of a solid maintenance program. By some estimates, a well-rounded PM program can reduce overall maintenance and repair costs by as much as 18%.  

Putting your PM program into practice, of course, can be trickier. Consistency is key when it comes to PM. Regular activities can be scheduled on a daily, weekly, monthly and annual basis as per the needs of your equipment and your production schedule. These might be as simple as greasing bearings on a machine or as complex as dismantling your glass washing station for a thorough evaluation and cleaning. Big or small, the tasks that make up a PM program help ensure things are operating as intended. 

The rub is that if PM doesn’t happen as scheduled, it doesn’t work. Indeed, “We don’t have time for that!” is a phrase that any maintenance manager might be familiar with. During busier times of the year, when production is running at full steam to satisfy orders, it can be easy for some of your maintenance practices to fall by the wayside. But good PM requires making time—that might involve the maintenance teams and production teams communicating to collaborate on timing, schedules and other accommodations. 

Embracing technology is a critical part of PM and predictive maintenance, too. Taking advantage of modern software systems is something many window and door manufacturers are doing, according to Window + Door’s 2024 Industry Pulse. By merging the capabilities of software and machinery, operators can streamline maintenance tasks, improve their PM effectiveness, manage their existing equipment infrastructure,and predict problems before they happen via real-time data analysis. Doing so can help optimize your production yield, better allocate your maintenance labor and allow you to anticipate future maintenance needs.   

If you’re looking to enhance your PM programs or implement predictive maintenance techniques but aren’t sure where to begin, it can be helpful to seek the assistance of a third party. Some of your suppliers and partners may provide such services and can bring a helpful outside eye, helping you to identify what’s working, what’s not and how to bolster your overall maintenance program.  

Identifying the root cause 

Outside the purview of PM and predictive maintenance, unforeseen equipment breakdowns and other issues will inevitably happen on the manufacturing floor. Those occurrences naturally bring with them a sense of urgency. Performing a fix quickly and effectively can help get your lines back into production with minimal interruption.  

But it’s just as important to understand why such a problem occurred—lest it happen again. Root cause analysis can help minimize the long-term impact of equipment issues and prevent them from becoming larger, more critical problems. The fast-paced nature of today’s production floors sometimes may seem an impediment to proper evaluation and developing an engineered fix, but the upfront time spent is worth it to prevent ongoing issues that accumulate into more lost time.  

The bottom line is that prevention should be the true goal of any maintenance department—not necessarily reactive repair.  

Maintenance and production: A symbiotic relationship 

I’ve mentioned a few times that maintenance work can be perceived as being at odds with optimal production. In reality, the opposite is true.  

No production team is successful without the maintenance team, and no maintenance team is successful without the production team. Production requires reliable equipment that works safely and consistently, enabling production of high-quality products for your customers. Maintenance, meanwhile, would have no job to do if the production team isn’t making product. Neither would be successful without the other. 

It can be helpful to keep this framing in mind when promoting a collaborative, symbiotic relationship between all teams on the shop floor. Plant managers should work to encourage this mindset—the benefits can be significant for your business and your bottom line.  


John Ryba

John Ryba

John Ryba is Quanex technical services manager. Opinions expressed are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the position of the National Glass Association or Window + Door.