Manufacturing Maintenance: How to Get the Most Out of Aging Equipment

 

The lightning fast rate at which we embrace new technology has made items such as mobile phones and laptops almost disposable. Yet, when it comes to manufacturing maintenance, most plant operations are faced with the challenge of maintaining aging equipment.

 

In fact, according to the Wall Street Journal, most industrial machinery in use today is at least 10 years old - and for our SAGE Service department, ‘failure of electrical parts or equipment’ is the number one cause for emergency service support call outs.

 

It's clear that new industrial equipment requires a scale of investment that many organisations just can’t commit to in a constrained economic climate. Here are our tips for getting the most from your equipment.

Safety First

First and foremost, industrial equipment must be safe; the implications for a business in running unsafe equipment today cannot be overstated.

 

It is for this reason, if you are operating equipment more than 10 years old, you should really consider having a safety certified engineer conduct a hazard and risk control review against the Australian Safety Machine Standard 4024.

Really Smart Manufacturing Maintenance Programs

It goes without saying, well-maintained equipment suffers fewer breakdowns. But, regularly serviced equipment almost always yields the added benefit of being more cost-effective longer term, than fixing a major fault or failure due to lack of maintenance. Plus, you’re very likely get better performance from your equipment, too. 

 

Organisations across industry are now using thermal imaging to identify hot spots within mechanical and electrical equipment. This technology has revolutionised predictive maintenance programs, but it is worth noting that a trained eye is recommended to correctly interpret the readings.

Spare Parts Worth Their Weight in Gold

Too many times, we have seen the heartbreaking occurrence of a part, worth maybe $100, cost a business many thousands of dollars an hour in lost production.

 

Following an electrical part failure, your return to uptime is largely driven by availability of the part. Some parts can take weeks to source and replace, but at a minimum, usually expect it to take at least 24 hours, depending on what time of the day or night the part fails. A sound spares management process can pay dividends in your speed to return to uptime, particularly with the scarcity of older parts.

Up-to-Date Documentation

It is a fact of any agile operation that a little ‘tinkering’ to keep aging equipment running often results in documentation and drawings which are heavily (or even horribly) marked up. Worse still, equipment knowledge is in the heads of the staff who have worked with the equipment and you risk losing that critical working knowledge if staff move on.

 

If this equipment is vital to your operation, take the time to update documentation. It could be the difference between hours and weeks of downtime in the event of a failure and invaluable for those tasked with re-commissioning a plant after equipment replacement.

Condition Monitoring

Aging equipment can benefit from monitoring and predictive technology, but require modifications by way of sensors and analytical software to glean insight into the machine’s performance and health, and detect indicators of performance issues or failure in advance of catastrophic and costly repairs.

 

A great example of condition monitoring has been implemented by DTPI on the Heysen Tunnel, built in 2000. The vibration monitoring sensors require fewer calibrations than their predecessors, which resulted in costly lane closures.

 

 

 

Sound preventative maintenance and a bit of insurance, by way of spares and documentation, is a great start towards reducing the operational risk associated with older equipment and squeezing a bit more life out it. See how we helped Coopers keep their equipment in tip-top shape with a full system test. Learn more. 

Learn more about our work with Coopers

SAGE Automation delivers agile, scalable and secure solutions that don’t just solve current problems, but pre-empt and deter future ones, helping your organisation thrive. With years of experience working in defence, resources, utilities and manufacturing we have the expertise you need to complete your job on budget and on time.

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