Are Maintenance Shops the Lifeline of a Manufacturing Business? (Hint: Yes! )

In my travels to customer’s and supplier’s manufacturing sites over the years (not so much lately), one thing I’ve always noticed was that most had a nice little maintenance / fabrication shop that was key to supporting their ongoing operations. They also had a couple of highly skilled mechanics or millwrights with extensive knowledge of the operation running these shops. For some reason, I always thought those were the coolest little “operations within an operation”, almost acting like their own little business. I’m proud to say that we, too, have a nice little maintenance / fabrication shop within our facility, staffed as noted above by a couple of highly skilled and uniquely talented individuals.

But why do these businesses have these neat (sometimes not-so-little) shops? Isn’t everything highly automated and run by computers? The answer is that even the highest tech operations need people with skills and aptitudes to keep them running. In our case (and that of many of our customers and suppliers), we are running a wide variety of equipment that has unique needs. While we have our share of digital controllers, those controllers are supporting very mechanical operations. The many and varied products we manufacture require lots of equipment performing operations that need to be completed quickly and accurately.

In one part of our facility, for example, we run ring twisters that use all kinds of speed controllers, relays and timers. The ring twisters themselves employ belts, drives, spindles, feed rolls, timing gears, bearings, pulleys, springs, etc. The actual twist operation itself hasn’t changed much in the last hundred years, but speeds, accuracy and input materials have. All of these parts need regular attention and sometimes complete rebuilding. The large number of PTFE coated fiberglass sewing threads, PTFE coated Kevlar sewing threads, and PTFE coated fiberglass yarns that we manufacture means that we need lots of spindles operating effectively and efficiently. These ring twisters supply product to our coating towers, which in turn supply product to our high-speed winders and PTFE Coated Fiberglass Draw Cord and PTFE Coated Fiberglass Lacing Tape braiders. Our capabilities are many and varied and our level of vertical integration means that it must all run smoothly from start to finish. 

Every piece of equipment ultimately relies on our maintenance shop and mechanics to operate smoothly. Did I mention that our PTFE coated fiberglass fabric coating towers and converting equipment also supply our PTFE coated fiberglass belt operation?  Lots more equipment in that operation as well!

Some days you’ll catch our mechanics building simple carts or racks to improve material flow between departments, other days it’s a modification to an existing rewinder or a better mousetrap!  It’s always something and rarely boring.  These folks know what they’re doing and have an aptitude for it.  As with all our employees, we appreciate their efforts every day and we think it’s pretty cool to have our own maintenance / fabrication shop within our operation.