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Back to Basics: Plant and Conveyor Maintenance Tips
plant maintenance, conveyor maintenance, Clarence Leising, preventative maintenance, maintenance shop, checklist, lean manufacturing, breakdowns, parts inventory.
By Clarence Leising
Date Posted: 3/1/2013
††††††††††††††† Thereís been a lot of talk in the industry over the last few years about lean manufacturing principles. In reality, this business philosophy centers around making things simpler, removing unnecessary steps and doing the proper preventative maintenance to ensure that your equipment runs properly.
††††††††††††††† You need to set up a routine checklist and make sure it is followed. Basic maintenance should be done by operators every day. A more thorough maintenance program should take place on a weekly or monthly basis. This all depends on the type of equipment you have and the condition.
††††††††††††††† The most important thing is to make proper maintenance a habit. Suppliers can be very helpful in learning what regular maintenance should be done as well as what spare parts should be kept on hand to minimize downtime.
††††††††††††††† Typically, it is the production equipment that gets the most maintenance attention. Many people donít think much about the conveyor systems in a recycling operation. But conveyors feed the productivity of your line. And a broken conveyor means lost productivity. Daily conveyor maintenance and inspection was critical to keep this from happening in our plant.
††††††††††††††† Before we started the conveyor every day, it was inspected to ensure nothing was out of the ordinary. There are a number of different checks that can be made on a daily or weekly basis, depending on whether or not the conveyor system is operated continuously. Belt tension is one area to regularly monitor since a loose belt can indicate a number of deeper problems. The belt itself should also be checked for wear, cracks or tearing, and repaired if necessary. If there are any roller bearings that appear sluggish, or make excessive noise, that can also indicate an impending problem. Loud squeaks or other noises are not normal and are signs of an area that needs attention. Repeated breakdowns are also warning signs of a problem that will likely get worse the longer you ignore it.
††††††††††††††† Although you donít want to overdo it, we regularly greased each bearing. Daily, we blew out the motor and hydraulics and checked the fluids. About every three months we would change the fluids. As needed, we replaced bearings and other wear parts. We used a sliding belt conveyor instead of a roller conveyor. One of the advantages is that a sliding belt only has a belt and four bearings compared to the roller type that has bearings on each roller.
††††††††††††††† When it came to more detailed maintenance, we always did it on a Saturday every month when the line was not in operation. The process took four hours, and I donít think you could get a cheaper maintenance service that actually did the job right. We dealt with everything from bandsaws to compressors to conveyors and every other piece of equipment. Having a set time to do major maintenance cuts costs and ensures you stay on schedule. You should also keep records so that your system has accountability. This should cover what was done, when and by whom. You may also want to note any problems that were detected or parts that were used. This can help you plan for the future. Letís say you notice that a bearing is about ready to go bad. You can order one so that when you need to replace it you have one in stock in your maintenance department.
††††††††††††††† You should survey your conveyor systems and develop a list of key components to keep on hand in case you need to replace something.† While it is not practical to inventory every part, there are certain key components such as motors, couplings for line shafts and bearings that should be kept in stock.
††††††††††††††† Organizing your maintenance area is critical to reduce wasted time spent looking for parts or missing tools. In a previous column, I mentioned how we would develop boards where every tool had a place. Each tool location was identified. A paint line would be drawn around each tool so that it is easy to spot something that is missing. You may also want to develop a tool bag that is optimized with the tools you frequently use most.††††
††††††††††††††† If you think you can run a plant without any maintenance costs, you can forget it.† You can either pay a little now or a lot later. That is why preventative maintenance pays for itself over time.