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New machinery doesn't always mean more efficient production

New machinery doesn't always mean more efficient production
SKF's Phil Burge examines the ways that engineers should maintain new process and manufacturing plant using the latest equipment to protect their investment and deliver maximum productivity

A critical aspect of commissioning new plant and equipment is ensuring that initial setup is carried out correctly and safely with all machinery running at optimum efficiency for maximum performance. Anything other than precise installation and calibration of machinery will result in expensive running costs due to high energy use from inefficient machinery, premature machine failures and reliability issues. This will result in increased downtime, affecting both productivity and profit margins.  

Even with the obvious benefits that these precautionary measures bring, there is an understandable temptation for manufacturers to take short cuts in setting up machinery. With commercial pressures and the need for stakeholders to see a return on their investment, the eagerness to start up the production, generate income and meet tight deadlines is ever present. Only when failures start to occur and the escalating costs in lost production become apparent, do the reasons for a more measured and planned approach to the installation process become all too clear. As an example, it is generally accepted that the cost of a catastrophic motor failure is ten times that of predicting the failure and dealing with it in a scheduled stop.

As well as pre-testing of equipment, it is equally crucial to implement an ongoing programme of condition monitoring for predictive and preventative maintenance from the outset. Even with the correct initial installation, the settlement of foundations or heavy floor loadings can soon lead to excessive bearing wear, leading to drive misalignment. With condition monitoring measures in place to detect vibration, noise and overheating, machinery downtime can virtually be eliminated.

Level and straight
Prior to commissioning, engineering and maintenance professionals will need to establish the correct geometric assembly of drive shafts to ensure that motors, turbines or gearboxes function efficiently and reliably. Shaft misalignment is responsible for up to 50% of all costs related to rotating machinery breakdowns; additionally, misaligned shafts can increase vibration levels and friction, which can significantly increase energy consumption and subsequently lead to premature bearing failures. The latest laser alignment equipment is quick, accurate and can easily record data compared with traditional methods of calibration. For example, SKF's TKSA 20 and TKSA 40 instruments feature a three-step process for correcting alignment through measuring, aligning and finally documenting data that can be downloaded to a computer for future analysis and report purposes. 

Similarly, pulley misalignment on belt-driven machinery also has a negative effect on efficiency, while wear on both the pulley and the belt itself can be potentially dangerous to machine personnel if left unchecked. However, in the same way as shafts, these can be accurately aligned using the latest highly effective and accurate laser emitting technology. Many of the latest units can quickly determine whether parallel, horizontal, vertical misalignment or any combination of misalignment is present on the belt-drive. 

As time goes by, checks on machinery for misalignment must continue as issues with loose fixings and movement can affect optimal alignment of machinery.

Lubrication at the right time
With 50% of all motor breakdowns attributed to bearing failure and 36% of bearing failures on machinery attributed to inadequate, degraded or incorrect grease, this often neglected component is as fundamentally important as the bearings, seals and housing themselves. Through development and testing, there is now a range of grease grades that have been designed by the leading manufacturers to perform in specific environments depending on the type, size, speed and load requirements of bearings or rotating equipment. To address the problem of regular and controlled lubrication - something that is often overlooked even during scheduled maintenance - automatic lubricators now provide a cost effective method of ensuring that equipment remains adequately lubricated over extended periods.

Centralised lubrication systems feed lubricant from a central reservoir source to the points on a machine at which friction occurs. In this way, wear is minimised and, in some cases, the heat generated by the friction is dissipated with the help of the lubricant. The latest automatic lubricators are supplied as complete kits with all the necessary components and are fully programmable for specific applications. This method of precisely timed and accurately dosed lubrication can save up to 70% in grease costs and takes the risk out of the inconsistent, time-consuming and often wasteful manual lubrication method, where too little or too much grease is often applied - both extremes causes problems with bearing function.

In many instances, failure of equipment is attributed to incorrect installation rather than wear. To address this issue, the use of alignment systems, combined with the latest monitoring and maintenance instruments will protect investment in plant and equipment, ensuring its performance is maximised, while reducing the time and cost of maintenance activities.
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