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Machine Breakdowns [Farming
Posted on August 10, 2015 @ 05:34:00 AM by Paul Meagher

This morning I'm doing some more research on the topic of machinery breakdowns (see previous discussion on breakdowns). Here is a top ten list of machine breakdown causes by farm machinery salesman Luke Gierach:

  1. Not reading the operator's manual
  2. Improper maintenance
  3. Poor electrical connections
  4. Overrunning machine's capability
  5. Not replacing worn parts when needed
  6. Tightener misalignment
  7. Improper storage
  8. Improper weather-related use
  9. Ignoring warning signals
  10. Asking untrained personnel to operate equipment

Another suggestion is to keep a machine log to record maintenance and repairs on a machine.

I did some preliminary searching for data on the frequency of machine breakdown over time. I would like to know whether there are general rules that would enable us to predict how much maintenance might have to increase per machine as it ages. For most people, an autombile is the piece of large machinery whose breakdown schedule they might be most familiar with and from which they might draw their own conclusions about the reliability and expense of maintaining machinery.

All of my farm machinery for making hay was purchased through online classifieds and all are over 30 years old so they are probably subject to more breakdowns per unit time than new machinery because so many parts of it are in a condition of being worn. The hay baler has performed without any major issues which I attribute to the care taken by the previous owner who fixed all the issues he inherited when he purchased it. He was very mechanically adept (owned a mechanical company). So even old machines can perform well if good maintenance was done on them in the past. Entropy, however, always has the last laugh.

The need to consider the failure rate of machinery can be quite important to include in production models because the assumption that all production machinery will operate without issues is unrealistic. Operations research has lots of techniques you can use to think about and incorporate machine failure into production scenarios.

Even when machines breakdown the job can still get done if there is enough redundancy in the system. My two hay mowers broke down but we still were able to mow some grass because we used my father-in-laws mower. His mower had a broken drive belt but still worked because it used three belts on the same pully system. We could operate it until we got another belt to replace the broken belt. The internet itself is subject to lots of noise but has so much redundancy and checks built into messages that messages generally make it ok to the receiver. So production scheduling to be accurate will often need to include some machine redundany planning in the models and in reality.

It is also important to keep machine failure in mind when purchasing machines. What types of breakdowns tend to occur in this machine? How easy will it be to fix when the machine breaks down? A mower conditioner is a step up from a disk mower but there are lots more things that can go wrong, and when they go wrong, you might need someone's help to fix it. Considerations like this might make you prefer one machine design over another. So thinking about the modes of machine failure can help you make better machinery purchase decisions.

A good piece of machinery that is well maintained and works without too many breakdowns can be very profitable to its owner. Many livelihoods have been based upon the purchase of the right machine operated and maintained properly. Conversely, the wrong machine with lots of costly breakdowns has been the bane of many entrepreneurs.

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