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Mon, Jul 22, 2024 16:02
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Management Side

The importance of maintenance

Mr. Thompson is writing about maintenance this month. One of the good things we did in the “maintenance area” was give operators some diagnostic tools and training.

The tools consisted of a temperature gun, vibration probes, a strobe light, and a few other goodies. Running equipment was classified as to its importance and given a priority and a checklist. Operators inspected the equipment on a set routine with their new tools. As a result, marginal or failing units were repaired before actual failure or shutdown. Some units operating out of spec were brought back into line with just cleaning.

The biggest operating issue in the paper industry is heat. Coolers and vents get clogged with paper fiber and dirt, causing high operating temperatures. Statistics show that higher operating temperatures drastically shorten the life of running equipment, like motors, fans and pumps. Unfortunately, much of this can easily go unseen, for example a motor failing after five years instead of a normal life of nine or 10 years. How many maintenance systems would alert such a five-year failure as premature? Even if the system did issue an alert, what would be done about it? Replace the motor. Start it up. Business as usual.

So how exactly did this work? The operators had checklists for equipment in their area. Routinely, they would check running equipment based on the established priorities. On a motor, for example, they would use a non-contact temperature gun to check temperatures, the vibration probe to check the vibration of each bearing, and the strobe light to visually check the condition of the motor cooling fan and coupling.

One hurdle to overcome: guarding. Moving equipment guards are a serious safety business and most guards make physical contact with bearings and such a difficult task. One solution is to design an observation/inspection port in the guards. If this is done a bit at a time, the cost isn’t too prohibitive.

One benefit, other than reducing emergencies, lowering downtime and costs, and improving operating efficiency, was that the operators had the ability to make a visible difference in the reliability of the operation. Tangible evidence was up front and could be used to communicate successes in newsletters and websites. You know – PR.

School should be about out and you know what that means – kids are on the streets during the day, not just on weekends. And pray for our fellow Americans in Oklahoma.  

Gene Canavan is a retired West Point Graduate and Paper Mill Utilities Manager and lives in Prattville, Alabama, USA.


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