The plant maintenance program is vital to consistent production of high quality feeds and no less important to cost control and assurance to the customer that their feed will arrive on time and to formula specification (Parr, 1988).
Equipment breakdowns are bad enough as they impede aquaculture feed production, but at least as bad is machinery which is not working to design which may, through short weighing, or improper mixing, produce a defective feed.
Such defective feed may, at the least, hurt the farmer’s production and at worst create a serious crop failure. Also possible is a threat to human health.
Keeping motors, scales, pellet dies, conveyors and all other components of the mill in proper working order is as important as formulation or the quality of ingredients which go into the finished feed.
Mechanical or electronic failures may occur from time to time in a complex system like a feed mill, but proper attention to preventive maintenance will minimize down time and the prospect of the customer receiving feed which is out of specification. The latter may cause a costly recall of feed or possibly compensation for damages to the customer’s crop, if the error is not found in a timely way (Appendix II).
A good preventive maintenance programme should provide adequate maintenance at reasonable cost (Appendix III).
Preventive Maintenance Objectives:
- Reduce major repairs by correcting minor difficulties as soon as they are evident. This means listening to your operators who usually recognise before management that machinery is making a “funny noise” or other irregularity in performance of equipment. Do not punish employees who are trying to report a defect beyond their control.
- Maintain equipment in a more productive state. Keep it clean; repair or replace lost or worn parts immediately. Follow the machinery manual recommendations.
- Improve scheduling of repairs. Do not postpone needed repairs. Delaying repairs usually results in much more costly problems later on.
- Maintain safety. Some parts as they become worn become dangerous, as in worn chain or belt drives. Staff are valuable and injuries are costly from the standpoint of lost time and training replacements, not to mention adverse impacts on employee morale.
- Improved customer service. A well-maintained mill looks good to the customer and helps assure the customer that the feed is made correctly the first time.
- Reduce overall operating costs. The miller of aquaculture feeds benefits from a well-maintained facility through reduced costs of operation and customer satisfaction.
- Provide trained maintenance personnel. Training of maintenance staff should be a high priority with high-level management oversight. Too often maintenance is seen as the bottom of the ladder, when in reality the quality and training of staff for this important responsibility should be paramount.
Building and Grounds Maintenance:
- The building grounds shall be adequately drained and maintained to be reasonably free from litter, waste, refuse, uncut weeds or grass, standing water and improperly stored equipment.
- The buildings shall be maintained in a reasonably clean and orderly manner.
- Adequate space, ventilation and lighting shall be maintained for the proper performance of all manufacturing, storing, labelling, quality assurance and maintenance aspects of aquaculture feed manufacturing.
Preventive Maintenance Areas:
- In Appendix IV a checklist is provided to highlight generalised preventive maintenance functions, which are to be checked periodically. Each plant manager should take this guideline and revise it to conform to the actual conditions of his plant.
- A log (record) book or computer record should be maintained on a daily basis. Careful attention should be paid to the equipment manufacturer’s suggested maintenance schedule(s).
- Quality aquafeeds can only be made by knowledgeable and trained personnel.
- Training is an on-going process mentioned in various sections above, and can be summarized as follows: General management should have formal training in feed technology, sufficient to assure the competent purchase and handling of quality ingredients, correct manufacture, storage and handling of finished feeds. In addition to assuring that the feed manufactured meets the intended specifications for the species to be fed, the manager must maintain documentation of the process sufficient to allow accurate tracing of the ingredient sourcing and manufacturing events of a finished feed. This will include a record of who received the feed, and any other pertinent details including medications.
- Personnel should receive refresher training on a regular basis, or additional training on new equipment and/or processes to be employed. There will be a particular emphasis on regular safety meetings where employees will make known any safety problems (violations) in need of correction. A log or journal of safety meetings should be kept. Particular attention must be given to record keeping as it relates to animal health products; these should always be stored separately from other ingredients to avoid any possibility of cross contamination.
- Procedures for training and refresher training, as well as plant organizational structure shall be sufficiently flexible as to allow immediate adaptations to changes in evolving aquafeed technology. Certification of management and staff may become essential for ingredient purchasing, process control, and quality assurance.
- Every employee from top management on down should have a working knowledge of the mill and the various specialities required to produce a finished product. Cross training can be a particularly valuable means of problem solving and lead to greater flexibility in a feed mill.
- Regular meetings to express customer satisfaction, evaluate procedures, introduce new technology, and problem solving, will assure effective communications up and down the chain of command (UKASTA, 1998, 2000).
- Documentation is a prime necessity in quality assurance and traceability.
- Its main purpose is to define the system of control required to reduce the risk of error. This must include defining and mastering the critical points in the manufacturing process and establishing and implementing the quality control plan.
- It is also designed to ensure that personnel are instructed in the details of the necessary procedures and to permit investigation and tracing of defective products.
- The system of documentation should be such that the history of each batch, blend, or run of product may be determined.
- Documentation must be both adequate and systematic and relate both to the manufacturing process and to quality assurance.
- All relevant documents including those referring to quality assurance or HACCP procedures, must be retained for an appropriate amount of time, or as required by local regulations.
- An example of an existing Code of Practice and good procedure to follow is outlined in the UKASTA “Code of Practice for the Manufacture of Safe Compound Animal Feeding stuffs” (UKASTA, 1998, 2000) and the Draft Code of Practice for Good Animal Feeding (FAO, 1998; Appendix IV).