July 13, 2021 

Usage-Based Preventative Maintenance in Industrial Coding Systems

A man wearing a hardhat stands in a production facility with a laptop preparing to conduct usage-based preventative maintenance.

For many manufacturers, scheduled preventative maintenance is critical for reducing costly, unplanned cleanings and repairs as well as decreasing downtime on the production line. Traditionally, preventative maintenance for industrial coding systems is scheduled based on a calendar date, which generally works fine for many production environments. However, if you don’t implement time-based preventative maintenance correctly, you could end up under- or over-maintaining your equipment. This is why some facilities are turning to usage-based preventative maintenance instead.

What Is Usage-Based Preventative Maintenance?

As the name suggests, usage-based preventative maintenance is scheduled based on your industrial coding equipment usage. Usually, the OEM uses meter readings from your device to determine when it needs to be serviced, rather than estimating how many months you can go between maintenance calls. Usage-based preventative maintenance is meant to ensure your coding equipment is always running at peak efficiency even in unusual production environments or on high-volume lines.

Usage-based preventative maintenance is beneficial for many industrial environments, but there are some disadvantages as well. Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons. 

The Pros and Cons of Usage-Based Preventative Maintenance

The biggest potential benefit of usage-based preventative maintenance is that your equipment is serviced only when it needs it, so there is no need to pause production for unnecessary maintenance just because a certain amount of time has passed. The opposite is true as well—for extremely high usage facilities, industrial coding equipment may need to be maintained more frequently than a time-based maintenance plan allows for. Ultimately, performing necessary maintenance on a usage-based schedule could extend the life of your equipment and ensure optimum performance and uptime.

The downside of usage-based preventative maintenance is that it can be needed unexpectedly. When your service calls are scheduled well in advance, you can better prepare for the downtime on your production line. With usage-based preventative maintenance, you may only have a few days’ notice that a tech needs to service your industrial coding equipment. Some OEMs will set a meter threshold to give some warning that maintenance will be required soon, but these service intervals are still harder to predict than with a calendar-based schedule.

Applications for Usage-Based Preventative Maintenance in Industrial Coding Systems

Usage-based maintenance schedules offer some benefits to low-volume facilities that want to avoid over-servicing their equipment. However, a usage-based model seems to be most popular with extremely high throughput production lines, especially in extreme environments. Some examples include:

  • Confectionery production - melted sugar in the air or on the printhead can increase the frequency of maintenance.
  • Metalworking - cutting oils tend to coat all equipment on the line, including industrial coding systems.
  • Extreme cold, damp, or heat - any extreme climate can affect the electronics in a printer, causing issues with the main board, sensors, and other components.

Industrial coding equipment manufacturers keep looking for new ways to extend service intervals and prevent over-maintenance and unnecessary downtime for high-usage facilities. For example, some high-usage facilities have shifted to laser coders so they can keep maintenance downtime to a minimum.

In addition, laser coders tend to be much more expensive than other coding systems. Typically only larger companies can afford the upfront investment and are looking for long-term savings through the removal of consumables. So, while you might eliminate some maintenance costs by switching to laser, you’ll need a large up-front investment, plus you could end up requiring more expensive and significant repairs, such as regassing laser tubes, down the road. However, if you have the budget, and your substrate marks well when exposed to laser energy, laser coders are a viable strategy for moving to a usage-based preventative maintenance schedule with less frequent services and downtime.

Is Usage-Based Preventative Maintenance Right for You?

If you are a high-usage facility that frequently needs coding equipment maintenance before your time-based service schedule, you might want to consider switching to a usage-based system. Likewise, if you think your equipment could go much longer between maintenance calls than your current time-based schedule and you want to eliminate unnecessary downtime, usage-based preventative maintenance could be the right option for you. 

However, if the somewhat unpredictable scheduling of usage-based preventative maintenance is going to cause too many logistical issues in your production, you should proceed with caution. You may find that simply altering your maintenance schedule to occur more or less frequently—depending on your production volume and requirements—is a viable solution to your over- or under-maintenance issues.

For more advice on usage-based preventative maintenance and other coding and marking industry issues, stay tuned to the C&M Digest website. You can also subscribe to our newsletter to receive summaries of our best stories delivered right to your inbox.

C&M Digest Team

The C&M Digest Team is composed of experts from across the coding and marking world. Comprised of ink developers, hardware veterans, and engineers, our News Team delivers informed coverage that is always free from brand bias.

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