Pros and Cons of In-House Maintenance vs. Hiring Contractors

Food manufacturers find themselves on a tight budget: choosing to use in-house maintenance or hiring contractors is a critical decision for an industry that has to contend with its profit margins.

Today, industrial plants are embracing automated systems to accelerate production speed and minimize labor costs. Plants have always prioritized improving the turnaround time and expanding their product offerings. That means manually handling tasks is a big disadvantage on a production floor.

Automation enables plant managers to control, execute, monitor, and manage productions in real time effectively and accurately. Many plants leverage automated systems to improve labor efficiency. However, once a production unit has invested in automation, it needs to consistently maintain its machinery and technology from early wear and sudden breakdowns.

As a plant manager who has harnessed automation, you’ll have to answer a tough question: Should you have an in-house maintenance staff or outsource your maintenance work? In this blog, we’ll help you answer this question.

How Expensive is Your Downtime?

There is a tradeoff to be made when choosing between in-house maintenance and contractors, but the easiest place to start is recognizing how often you need a set of eyes on your automation. Routine maintenance is always recommended, but if you’re doing this infrequently, it may not be necessary to keep this service in-house. It will save you from having to pay an extra salary with benefits, and from having to invest in training, equipment, and other expenses.

In return, unplanned downtime becomes increasingly perilous. Downtime directly ties to lost revenue. Without maintenance being immediately on-hand, you become entirely dependent on a contractor group to be able to resolve your issue. If they aren’t available when you need them, this can mean even longer amounts of downtime, equating to even greater losses.

When you’re making this decision, consider whether your maintenance team will include specialists who’ll fix your complex machinery quickly, and how often you will need them. If the cost of bringing maintenance specialists in-house is higher than outsourcing them, then hiring a maintenance partner will be cost-effective.

Gauging Your Autonomy

Outsourcing plant maintenance can be cost-effective, but working with contractors comes with some restrictions. As a plant manager, you may grapple with the lack of control when you’re outsourcing your maintenance work. The lack of control with outsourcing means that you won’t be able to manage directly, schedule task priorities, and give instructions to the workforce.

By contrast, you can instruct an in-house maintenance team more freely than a contractor. It’s because such a maintenance team will serve at your facility for a longer period than a contractor and will have a better understanding of your business processes and expectations. However, an outsourced contractor’s knowledge will be easily lost once it leaves your factory.

Growing into In-House Maintenance

Depending on the size of your food manufacturing plant, the best approach to your maintenance plan might be scalable. For smaller plants with less machines in need of repair or with less automation, it might make perfect sense to keep your staff small. In-house maintenance is not beneficial if they spend most of their time idling.

Yet in an industry with small margins, growth is necessary for the long-term viability of your business. By investing in automation, you will be able to process larger amounts of product and yield higher profits. In exchange, these same machines will need to be kept in check to prevent unplanned downtime.

For food manufacturers looking to grow, the best option might be to start with outsourcing your maintenance, and growing until the need for in-house maintenance becomes necessary. This will keep your budget at a reasonable place while allowing you to scale.

Choosing In-House Maintenance vs. Contractors Goes Beyond the Present

The decision between in-house maintenance and using contractors for maintenance should hinge on your budget: does it make sense to hire staff? Each decision carries risk, but the best place to start is by looking at the machines you have.

Automation is the future of manufacturing, and can help your business compete in an increasingly crowded industry. At Custom Cut Metals, we use cutting-edge technology to help manufacturers keep up without prices that will break the bank. Contact us today for more information about our services.