Beverage industry facilities have much in common with similar process type industrial plants as they are configured with grounds, buildings, infrastructure support areas and machinery used for product manufacture ― all of which are invested assets requiring maintenance while in operation. Recognizing that these items can depreciate, become obsolete, or outlive capability and capacity to perform at projected levels, scheduled maintenance is a necessity. Therefore, the maintenance function is a key player in just about every beverage operation and warehouse.

Because every beverage operating area contains some type of machinery, equipment or process that will or should require maintenance, it’s important to review how the maintenance function has evolved in terms of people, machines, materials and adjustments to constantly changing conditions, 

Realistically, because the maintenance function has such a broad scope of responsibility, the focus of the review is directed toward the center of the supply chain ― from processing through warehousing. 

The supply chain center generates the packaged product and should position the maintenance function as a top priority item. As such, maintenance in this specific area has evolved from relatively unsophisticated procedures that existed for a period (30-50 years or more) with the debatable battle between emergency/breakdowns versus preventive/planned programs and/or automated systems. 

From an operations perspective, the evolution can be analyzed by culling out critical questions:

  • What has changed?
  • How has it changed?
  • Who is responsible?
  • What skills are necessary?
  • When is the change scheduled?
  • How is the function performed?

    Quite simply, all these questions are contributory to an updated view of maintenance and essentially the basis for establishing a mandatory maintenance schedule/program. This is particularly important since beverage packaging is constantly changing. This is a primary driver in many situations dependent upon varying degrees of adjustment, replacement or elimination of specific packaging equipment.

The complexity of machinery changes caused by packaging configurations usually has a domino effect on maintenance responsibility and skill requirements. In the past, because most beverage packaging lines required operators, these workers often made adjustments when breakdowns occurred, resulting in operators becoming mechanics. Unfortunately, this situation has prevailed for many years.

In addition to evolving product packaging and machinery changes, the high degree of advanced technology has impacted the type of maintenance required on specific pieces of equipment. Again, a domino effect arises ― responsible personnel must possess a new and different set of skills beyond the “operator” level.  The current environment substantiates changed maintenance requirements.

During a continuing beverage plant maintenance evolution packaging, machinery, line speeds, case makeup and more always will necessitate updating the maintenance function with an ongoing program to protect assets, reduce costs and increase productivity.

Numerous approaches have surfaced and titled to make maintenance a critical function; however, in the evolution experience all impacting factors have provided sufficient dos and don’ts as a foundation for setting up mandatory maintenance programs. The program should contain all f necessary elements with personnel, procedures and policies that are flexible and practical for beverage operations.

To support this evolution, policies, management and manufacturers are the first affected. Secondly, the operator-mechanic duo is then replaced with a plant engineer and trained mechanics. Finally, a preventative/emergency maintenance format should be implement in terms of schedules, assignments and evaluation.

To save on costly shutdowns of more technically advanced equipment, maintenance must be mandatory.