Building an effective farm maintenance plan in 5 steps
In this article, Bryan Christiansen looks at building an effective farm maintenance plan in five steps.
Farm operations rely on several critical processes that require equipment, machinery, and buildings for support.
Farm maintenance ensures that equipment, machinery, and buildings are functional for carrying out agricultural processes without interruption.
Importance of farm maintenance
Farm equipment should be operational when it is required. When it is not available on time, agricultural processes will be delayed.
For example, if the combine harvester has a failure and requires maintenance, it is not available when wheat needs to be harvested.
Delayed harvest can lead to lower quality of harvested crops. There is also the risk of crops falling off before they could be harvested.
Agricultural process and farm activities with climatic conditions and other seasonal factors. The activities have to be done within the desirable window of time.
If farm equipment experiences unplanned downtime during this window, agricultural processes cannot be performed on time, and the complete farming cycle falters. This wastes time and money that has already gone into farming until then.
Farm equipment has to be in pristine condition to perform tasks in the desirable window of time.
Another reason why farm maintenance is important is the irregular use of most farm equipment.
Cultivators are required only at the beginning of the farming cycle. Once it is used, it will be required only in the next farming cycle. Such equipment has very high chances of failure as they remain unused for long periods of time.
Scheduled maintenance becomes very important for such equipment.
Farm maintenance is important to ensure agricultural processes can be performed without a hitch. It also helps to alleviate any safety concerns that could arise due to faulty machinery in the farm.
Farm maintenance plan
A systematic approach to farm maintenance ensures that equipment does not experience any unplanned downtime.
A farm maintenance plan can put in place a systematic approach to farm maintenance.
An effective farm maintenance plan ensures the smooth running of farm operations. In addition to that, it helps in increasing operational efficiency and reducing operational costs.
Experience goes a long way in preparing a farm maintenance plan.
Directions from equipment OEMs and the learnings of experienced farm hands should go into creating maintenance plans for your farm.
The following five steps have to be performed to build an effective farm maintenance plan.
The first step in creating a farm maintenance plan is assessing what needs to fall under the plan.
Audit all equipment, machinery, buildings, and structures on the farm.
This will range from cultivators and combines to barns and ponds on the farm.
Survey the farm multiple times to ensure all stock is counted and listed to be part of the comprehensive farm maintenance plan.
Collate all information regarding the objects that fall under the maintenance plan.
This includes user manuals from OEMs, historical data, previous maintenance schedules, maintenance records, etc.
You need to collect details and information supporting all maintenance activities on your farm.
Data collection throws a wide net, and a lot of unwanted information will be available. Discard data that is not helpful in creating maintenance plans.
Some important data or information might be missing. You need to figure out other avenues to fill the gap of missing information.
The next step is to identify and rank maintenance activities according to the criticality to farm operations.
This step includes assessing information on operating times, procedures, etc, that would be helpful in creating a farm maintenance plan.
The ideal people to prioritise activities are experienced farm hands. It is better if they have long experience on your farm.
The bulk of the process lies in this penultimate step. With the prioritized information you need to create a maintenance plan.
This plan should be put in place after long deliberations with all the stakeholders on the farm.
Stakeholders include owners, partners, suppliers, distributors, and employees.
The feasibility of the plan has to be the focus while creating the schedule of maintenance activities.
Once the farm maintenance plan is in place, the next step is to ensure adherence to the plan. Making the plan an integral part of the farm system is the way forward.
The first stride towards the goal is the creation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for all maintenance activities. Adherence to SOPs can be ensured by the creation of checklists from SOP.
To ensure SOPs and checklists are accessible to all stakeholders, a cloud-based computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) can be used to aggregate everything related to farm maintenance.
Maintenance automation should be introduced at a later stage for recurring activities.
Farm maintenance is important because an unplanned failure of equipment could destroy the chances of a good crop yield.
Unnecessary delays can cause you to miss the time window for various agricultural processes.
Creating a well-thought-out maintenance plan is critical in the effective execution of farm maintenance.
The steps to create an effective maintenance plan starts by assessing the assets of the farm that fall under the ambit of the plan.
Data collection and prioritisation follows the initial audit. The bulk of the task is involved in the step where the maintenance plan is scheduled.
The plan and associated activities have to be systemised to ensure the plan is adhered to.
Farm maintenance plans can be perfected only with trial and error. Create a crude plan, and improve upon it later to cover the shortcomings.
With many such iterations, you will have an effective farm maintenance plan.