Click HERE to view Switching Gears: Mechanical Maintenance Training Yields Solid Return on Investment as a multimedia presentation.
If you keep tabs on what’s going on in the world of manufacturing, then by now you’ve heard a lot about Industry 4.0 and smart factories. Advanced technologies are attracting a lot of attention for the leaps in efficiency and productivity that they’re making possible.
In the midst of the excitement over adopting new technologies, though, it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact that most current manufacturing equipment gets the job done by relying upon a variety of older technologies that have stood the test of time.
For example, mechanical components like gears, belts, and chains might seem old school compared to robots and electronic sensors, but they’re still critical pieces of all sorts of equipment. That’s why proper maintenance (including preventative maintenance) is essential to extend the life of this equipment.
Maintenance technicians must possess the fundamental knowledge and skills to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair a variety of equipment that will be around for many years if mechanical components are maintained properly.
The Amatrol family of technical training solutions, including training systems and learning aids from DAC Worldwide and Bayport Technical, offer a comprehensive range of products to meet your mechanical maintenance training needs. As we will discuss in this article, proper training and consistent maintenance will yield a solid return on investment that will keep the gears of production moving smoothly.
Develop a Maintenance Mindset
“For years, maintenance has been treated as a dirty, boring and often overlooked job. It is very important to get the best productivity from a company’s equipment but it is not recognized as a part of the operation that produces revenue,” writes Steve Krar in an article for Manufacturing Automation.
Does that attitude toward maintenance sound familiar? If it does, you need to mentally switch gears and get into a maintenance mindset. For too long, some people have lived by the old saying that goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, that adage has no place on the modern manufacturing floor.
Indeed, an AssetInfinity article notes, “The word maintenance does not always mean to repair…The priority of effort and time should be on maintenance rather than repair.” Why? The answer comes from Talmage Wagstaff in an article for SupplyChainBrain: “Your production machines are your bottom line: without them, you’re out of business. Each machine in a facility should be treated as a major part of your success.”
In his article, Krar argues persuasively for moving from a reactive maintenance mindset (“fail and fix”) to a proactive maintenance mindset (“predict and prevent”): “maintenance may be considered the heath care of our manufacturing machines and equipment.”
Why Maintenance Is Critical
Those who have proactive maintenance programs in place are already ahead of the game. For those who haven’t switched gears yet, it’s important to understand the many reasons why maintenance is so critical:
Maintenance Improves Machine Efficiency
All machines experience regular wear and tear as a result of normal operations. It simply can’t be avoided. Gears, belts, and chains wear out over time. As this happens, they become less efficient, leading to the likelihood of product defects and possible breakdown. Preventative maintenance keeps machines working at peak efficiency and extends their lifespan.
Maintenance Saves Time
Being proactive allows technicians to plan routine maintenance. For example, if a facility has a regularly-scheduled downtime, maintenance can be scheduled during those times to avoid production interruptions. Moreover, planned preventative maintenance always takes less time than emergency repairs necessitated by equipment breakdowns.
Maintenance Improves Safety
Employers must always keep the safety of employees as a top priority. Routine preventative maintenance ensures that equipment is running properly and safely, thereby minimizing the risk of breakdowns that could cause injuries to workers or other equipment.
Maintenance Saves Money
Inefficient machines can cause product defects that can be very costly to repair and replace. Even worse, breakdowns can halt production lines, requiring expensive emergency repairs and downtime that can quickly escalate costs that create ripples throughout an entire facility and even the larger supply chain.
As Krar notes, “Through short daily inspections, cleaning, lubricating, and making minor adjustments, minor problems can be detected and corrected before they become a major problem that can shut down a production line.” Wagstaff adds, “By ensuring that equipment is properly maintained, the element of surprise in the form of machine failure is virtually removed from the facility.”
To better understand the importance of maintenance, it can help to consider a specific example of a mechanical component that’s subject to wear and tear and requires routine maintenance. For this article, we’ve chosen to take a closer look at gears.
Gears are used in a wide variety of applications in all areas of manufacturing, from automobiles and motors to robotics and wind turbines. Jack Warner, in an article for Power Transmission Engineering, writes: “In the world of mechanical power transmission, gear drives have a very special and prominent place. This is the most preferred technology when you need to transmit considerable power over a short distance with a constant velocity ratio.”
Compared to other components, such as belts and chains, gears tend to be more compact, efficient, and precise. They’re also stronger and have a much longer service life. As a result, they also tend to cost more than other alternatives.
To keep gears cost effective, proper preventative maintenance is critical to prolonging the service life of these essential components. This might include technicians regularly checking for alignment, backlash, vibration, and worn or damaged teeth, as well as ensuring proper system lubrication.
According to John G. Proven, P.E., in an article for Altra Industrial Motion Company, “Proper lubrication is the single most important factor in ensuring the continued performance of a gearbox…In addition to oil, the physical condition of the unit including the foundation, protective coating, seals, breathers, circulating oil system, couplings, and bearings should be inspected periodically.”
Think of Maintenance as an Investment, Not a Cost
Too often, manufacturers think of maintenance as a cost that must be absorbed — and minimized. Instead, we urge you to think of maintenance as an investment, and like all investments, it nets a return.
An obvious benefit of preventative maintenance is that it increases the lifespan of valuable equipment. Manufacturing machines, from motors to robots, tend to be quite expensive. Investing in maintenance to keep them working at peak efficiency for a longer lifespan increases the return on those investments.
Manufacturers concerned about product quality should also invest heavily in proper maintenance. As Krar notes in his article, “If equipment starts to wear, it is possible to start producing parts with unacceptable quality and not know it for a long time. Eventually, machine wear will seriously affect not only productivity but also product quality.”
Perhaps the key to viewing maintenance as an investment, though, is to put it in perspective compared to the cost of equipment failure. Krar summarizes:
“The cost of regular maintenance is very small when it is compared to the cost of a major breakdown at which time there is no production…A recent survey showed the actual cost for a breakdown between four to fifteen times the maintenance costs…Today, with industry so focused on the bottom line, the cost of downtime has a big impact on profitability.”
Proper Training is the Key to Proper Maintenance
Switching gears to a proactive preventative maintenance mindset is only the first step in implementing a maintenance program that will extend the life of your equipment and provide a solid return on investment. Making sure your maintenance technicians are properly trained is essential to getting the job done and done properly.
Not all maintenance technicians bring the same skills to the workplace. Some have more education than others. Some possess industry-standard certifications and others do not. How do you ensure that all your technicians have the skills they need?
For many employers, the answer is to provide their employees with advanced technical training targeted at their specific needs. Such training will not only improve maintenance outcomes, but it will also help with employee retention by creating an environment in which employees feel valued because you care about improving their skillsets.
Implementing a proper maintenance training program might seem like a daunting task to some, but it doesn’t have to be. The Amatrol family of technical training solutions, including training systems and learning aids from DAC Worldwide and Bayport Technical, offer a comprehensive range of products to meet your mechanical maintenance training needs:
Amatrol offers a variety of mechanical maintenance training systems that combine comprehensive multimedia eLearning curriculum with hands-on skill building via physical trainers that feature real industrial components workers encounter on the job:
Mechanical Drives 1 Learning System (970-ME1)
Amatrol’s Mechanical Drives 1 Learning System teaches mechanical drive installation, mechanical drive operation, motor drive alignment, and applications of various motor drive systems to build hands-on skills for shaft, belt, gear, and chain drives using real-world motor drive components.
Mechanical Drives 2 Learning System (97-ME2)
Amatrol’s Mechanical Drives 2 Learning System teaches the construction, operation, installation, and alignment of heavy-duty V-belt drives, synchronous belt drives, and heavy-duty chain drives, as well as maintenance, belt and chain selection, lubrication, couplings, and drive troubleshooting.
Mechanical Drives 3 Learning System (97-ME3)
Amatrol’s Mechanical Drives 3 Learning System teaches the basics of plain bearings, ball bearings, roller bearings, anti-friction bearing selection and maintenance, gaskets, seals, advanced gear drives, and gear drive selection and maintenance.
Portable Mechanical Drives 1 Learning System (990-ME1M)
Amatrol’s Portable Mechanical Drives 1 Learning System teaches the fundamentals of mechanical transmission systems and applications, such as how to operate, install, analyze performance, and design basic mechanical transmission systems using chains, v-belts, spur gears, bearings, and couplings. This portable system is perfect when space is a consideration or the training system needs to be used in multiple locations.
If you’re looking for more targeted training relative to particular systems or components, DAC Worldwide offers a variety of training solutions that incorporate real industrial components that help learners build hands-on skills:
Gear Maintenance Training System (205-000)
DAC Worldwide’s Gear Maintenance Training System features a diverse selection of industrial-quality gears, shafts, and bearings that can be used in a variety of configurations. Learners will gain hands-on experience in gear identification, installation, alignment, maintenance, and troubleshooting.
This training system was uniquely designed to replicate multiple gear boxes in one unit, effectively allowing multiple set-ups with a wider variety of gears than is usually possible with a basic gearbox trainer. The system includes step-by-step exercises to guide learners through the basics of installation of multiple types of gears. It can also be used as an assessment device to gauge the skills of those who already possess basic mechanical skills.
Gear Sample Board (836-PAC)
DAC Worldwide’s Gear Sample Board is an introductory hands-on teaching aid designed to supplement courses in gear selection and maintenance. It includes samples of 10 industrial-quality gears for users to learn to identify.
Cutaways & Dissectibles
DAC Worldwide also offers a wide variety of cutaways and dissectibles useful for mechanical maintenance training. For example, its line of industrial cutaways features real-world industrial components that have been restored and professionally sectioned to expose each device’s primary components.
Dissectibles offer learners realistic, first-hand visualization into the disassembly, inspection, and reassembly of various industrial components. In each dissectible, all of the components and design features have been retained, allowing for completely realistic demonstration and training related to the design, operation, and maintenance of common industrial equipment.
DAC Worldwide’s lineup of mechanical maintenance cutaways and dissectibles features a wide variety of common mechanical components, including worm, bevel, helical, cycloidal, and planetary gears.
Bayport Technical also offers unique training solutions targeted at specific mechanical maintenance training needs:
Standard Multiple Mechanical Training System (150-SMMT)
Bayport Technical’s Standard Multiple Mechanical Training System provides maintenance personnel with hands-on exposure to a variety of common mechanical situations and develops skill sets related to vertical and horizontal shaft alignment, gear drives, belt drives, chain drives, pump maintenance, and lock-out/tag-out procedures.
Lubrication Working Demonstrator (152-LUBE)
Bayport Technical’s Lubrication Working Demonstrator is an acrylic model showing three of the most common methods of using a static pool (reservoir) to lubricate bearings. The unit is equipped with a variable speed motor, which allows the shaft to run slowly and at operating speeds. This allows learners to observe the lubrication process, as well as rotating equipment such as the shaft and coupling.
Consult with an Expert Today
If you’re ready to learn more, it’s time to contact Amatrol. Experts will consult with you to determine how best to get your workers the maintenance training they need to ensure that your training and maintenance dollars provide the best return on investment possible.
About Duane Bolin
Duane Bolin is a former curriculum developer and education specialist. He is currently a Marketing Content Developer for Amatrol, Inc. Learn more about Amatrol and its technical training solutions, including eLearning, here and connect with Duane on Amatrol’s Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube pages.