Half of UK industry has no plan in place for its obsolete equipment

Half of UK industry has no plan in place for its obsolete equipment and risks critical failure on a daily basis, according to a new report.

The report, ‘The Challenge of Obsolescence: Strategies for managing and maintaining an ageing asset base’ has been compiled by ERIKS UK & Ireland following research with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET).

Findings include:

  • 67 per cent of engineers describe more than half of their equipment as being +10 years old
  • 38 per cent of engineers say serious downtime incidents of more than 1-2 days occur due to ageing equipment ‘a few times every year’
  • 62 per cent of UK industry has never undertaken an obsolescence audit
  • 54 per cent of industry has no co-ordination of factory store inventory with the criticality of equipment
  • 68 per cent of industry does not know delivery times for spares of critical or obsolete equipment

Tom Boswell, reliability engineering manager at ERIKS UK & Ireland, comments: “This report is not designed to highlight the fact that UK industry is using ageing equipment. Older equipment is often extremely well-built and continues to perform well in the field, but it does require special planning, specifically the supply of spares and co-ordination with the factory store. These results demonstrate that all-too-often this level of planning is not taking place and UK industry is operating without a safety net.”

Specifically, Tom says the failure to undertake obsolescence audits is a key failure. “The obsolescence audit should not only identify obsolete equipment, but also highlight potential weaknesses in the indirect supply chain, specifically the ability to quickly deliver spares that keep machines operational. The fact that half of industry has never undertaken this type of audit suggests that too many are unconsciously exposed.

“As our report finds, the collective importance of obsolescence and inventory management are all-too-often often under-resourced and under-appreciated, despite their impact on downtime and ultimately, profits. We hope this report will encourage those working in factories and industrial sites to take a more proactive approach to obsolescence and the issues of maintaining an ageing asset base.”

Andrew Fraser, managing director of Reliable Manufacturing, an expert in improving asset reliability for industry, welcomed the report: “There is clearly a lack of strategic focus being given towards the whole obsolescence issue, but for me, there is a broader underlying issue about stores management as a whole. The store needs to become a vital cog in the manufacturing process that improves uptime and reduces downtime, closely aligned to assets and the different stages of their operational life-cycle.”

He continued: “I’d like to see the much more widespread development of joined-up policy in all areas, but particularly maintenance and procurement which jointly own the strategic goals related to spare parts. Organisations need to foster shared goals and parameters, in terms of stock levels, the stockout rates and the levels of unplanned downtime. An ageing asset base need not be a critical risk, but it does require careful planning.”

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