Article by: Craig Honeyman, Managing Director
Practising what we preach
At Stirling Machinery, we feel it’s important that you see us practising what we preach. As a business that deals in high-end timber processing machinery, we understand the importance of a clear and routine maintenance schedule and we perform ours to textbook perfection.
Over many years, we’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly of machine upkeep and I can tell you, the only way to run a successful, profitable business is to aim for ‘good’ every single time.
When we deliver and install new equipment, we talk to our partners about the critical importance of implementing and carrying out a maintenance schedule. It’s one thing to establish a system but it’s another to follow through on it. You can’t have one without the other and expect optimal productivity. Any machine can only ever be as good as the quality of its maintenance.
Apart from the relationship between machine uptime and profitability, you also need to be mindful of your machine warranty obligations. Compromising your warranty will result in expensive service callouts and repairs.
Stirling Machinery is an Accurate Group company, which includes a fully functional grinding and manufacturing facility over in Factory 2 at our Brisbane Head Office. Every hour counts when it comes to production. Our maintenance schedules are defined and performed so we always reach the targets we set. Every day, we talk the talk but also walk the walk.
… but it wasn’t always like this
Our history with maintenance
In the early days of Accurate Australia and New Zealand, we too thought that production was more important than maintenance, but we certainly learned some hard lessons. As Murphy’s Law has it, we would have a machine breakdown when we could least afford the downtime! We used to blame everyone else but ourselves for the massive impact it caused. We missed deadlines, we inconvenienced our customers, and our staff were caused unnecessary anxiety and stress. The truth is, this was all inevitable. We lost customers, staff, and ultimately, control because of our inaction.
Turning the lesson into a tool
We knew something had to change. We needed to determine a baseline for our most critical machines and let me tell you, this cost a fair swag of dollars in the short term. Since implementing this, our machinery has been available every day. The cost of this exercise paid off early on, with the impact on our business being only positive. Today, if you walk into our Factory 2, it is kept impeccably tidy and is a pleasant working environment for all. Not only that, but our finished product quality is also significantly better and the morale of our team is at an all-time high.
The flow-on effect for our workforce
Anyone who knows me knows that I place a very high value on people. It would pain me to see that our team didn’t feel properly taken care of and that had to change. Along with the maintenance plan for our machines, we were forced to challenge the rest of the process and we learned that our people benefited too. This has shown in reduced employee turnover and increased employee satisfaction and commitment to the business. This is not just a financial gain but also a gain for us as a cohesive team, all working towards the success of our company, our people, our customers and our suppliers.
Since implementing a strategic maintenance program and significantly improving machine productivity, our working environment is now exceptionally clean and clutter-free. Access to any part of a machine is clear and tools required to perform a function are now always at hand and ready.
We have implemented a software system for our productions on which we can track when and how many machines may be starting to show signs of needing a service.
Wins across the board
Our culture has been one of, if not the greatest win we have seen in Factory 2. We’ve made productivity gains, but every bit as good is that staff attendance is at an all-time high and there’s an individual buy-in to retain or improve upon the status quo. Our team have taken initiative themselves to make further improvements and each person is invested in the company’s success.
Reduced cost to the business
The financial cost of fixing our equipment has decreased significantly since we commissioned our maintenance schedule, even after factoring in the cost of the preventative maintenance.
Better quality product
Ultimately, we can now turn out a better product and repeat this every day, every month and every year. This is all with lower staff numbers than before and we still have significant room for growth without adding more people.
Maintenance is a commitment that will only ever pay you forward, and I can tell you that we will never return to those bad old days!