Ensuring manufacturing equipment reliability and improving it is not simply limited to the maintenance of the equipment alone, though maintenance is one of the major functions contributing to it.
When we speak of reliability of a manufacturing equipment, it must answer several questions like:
1) Is the equipment consistently producing the products to the specified accuracies, tolerances, finishes etc within the stipulated cycle time?
2) Is the equipment runs trouble free without too many breakdowns during its stipulated working hours?
3) Is the equipment performing successfully at the upper limits of specified/ designed capacity at occasions when demanded?
The answers to these questions are to be addressed right from the procurement of the equipment in the first place to the right usage by the production personnel and the right maintenance, both preventive maintenance and break-down maintenance, at the last.
Right at the purchase stage of the equipment and any spare/ wear parts for the machine, the quality, reputation and reliability of the supplier of the equipment must be ensured. Cheapest price should not always be the criterion in procuring equipment or the critical spare parts for the equipment. In case of machinery bought fully tooled up for a specific manufacturing application, it is imperative that machine is tested fully by conducting trials at the machine with sample components of adequate sampling quantity. Ideally, such machines are tried and procured by conducting trials as per pre-agreed SPC (Statistical Process Control) procedures.
Importance of Factory-training
When critical, costly and out-of-ordinary type of machines is procured, it is important that a team of technicians from production and maintenance are sent to the suppliers’ works to get trained on the running and maintenance of the machinery. This will help a long way in maintaining the reliability of the manufacturing equipment after it is installed and run on a regular basis.
Build knowledge base and skill on equipment maintenance
Assembling and disassembling of sensitive and critical machine elements like high precision bearings, LM guide-ways, ball screws and nuts are to be done very carefully by maintenance personnel and it requires skill and knowledge, which have to be built in the company’s working system. Any haphazard handling of critical parts of equipment can lead to frequent breakdowns.
Watch out for misuse of machinery
Machinery which have to be operated within preset conditions like spindle speed, feed rate, operating temperature, the right type of cutting fluids and coolants are to be strictly adhered to in order to ensure that the equipment performs reliably to produce consistent results.
In some organizations with lack of discipline and control, machine operators in the night shift may fiddle with machine working parameters and try to speed up production so that they can finish off their quota of production and take rest. This may prove to be detrimental to the reliability of the equipment in producing the output consistently.
In CNC machines, any mistake done in programming or in operation by careless operators can result in moving machine elements and tools hitting the work-piece, creating heavy damages and disruption of production.
A well planned and executed preventive maintenance programs covering many aspects like filling of hydraulic and lubrication tanks with the appropriate and the recommended grades of oils, ensuring proper working of periodic lubricating systems, systematic replacement of rubber and other wear prone parts (even before a breakdown occurs), ensuring cleanliness of machines etc can contribute in a large way in ensuring manufacturing equipment reliability.