In any manufacturing facility, machinery plays a very important part. It could be rudimentary tools or highly-computerized systems, but either way, it’s the equipment that makes it possible for your personnel to convert your inputs to outputs.

Because our machinery doesn’t complain that it’s tired or in pain, we can often assume too much about its condition. As long as things are working normally, preventive maintenance may be neglected in the interest of keeping production on schedule.

Indeed, many pieces of machinery buzz along unchecked until something fails. Once it reaches this stage, the cost can be astronomical. Not only are there repairs to be made, but there are also wasted inputs, missed order deadlines, and even injured workers.

So it’s very helpful to set aside time to give maintenance personnel the opportunity to inspect machinery and tools, verifying that everything is working normally and able to stay on track. But good maintenance isn’t the only step to ensuring functionality.

This takes in several areas in addition to maintenance. First is the construction of the device itself. An often-overlooked component of machinery is the materials with which it has been built. Sometimes the focus on cost-cutting becomes so sharp that it also cuts into reliability, so managers need a ground-level understanding of how to order machinery.

Is the entire unit built of low-cost materials, or does it have wear blocks constructed of specialized alloys to reinforce critical points of movement? These elements function for the machine the same way work gloves do for a person by protecting it in focused areas of heavy use.

Another big part of machinery upkeep is the people operating it. Powered equipment has the ability to severely damage itself if it’s not properly operated. Making sure workers are getting required training in safety and operation is essential.

And of course, management is on the hook for ensuring personnel has the opportunity for proper training. It’s a classic problem in business: A new facility opens, all the employees are very carefully trained, and things get started. Then, through attrition, new personnel arrive, and the training gets a little more relaxed. In time, the whole staff can turn over into a group that simply doesn’t operate things correctly.

A final element to consider is the materials being used in the equipment. Once a facility is committed to a particular set of tools, all work should be designed to utilize those tools appropriately and without undue strain.

As one simple example, consider ceramic tile. A craftsperson already has a saw that has been used on other materials and chooses to install a floor using tougher materials. He may be able to cut the tiles fairly well with the substandard saw, but after several pieces, the blade may dull and the motor may begin to drag. Soon the saw is worn out and is damaging tile or simply not working at all. Had the appropriate tool been used in the beginning, the operation could have continued.

Good machinery design, training, and use are a philosophy as much as anything else a company chooses to do. Just as companies can put an emphasis on the environment, they can also build a sturdy physical plant that can withstand the hard work demanded of it. With that proper infrastructure in place, the company has its best possible opportunity to operate safely and efficiently–and profitably.