The Importance of Machinery Inspections
By Scott Shaver, Executive Vice President, EMI Inc.
- Use daily or preshift inspections to identify obvious problems
- Consider the benefits of OEM Inspections
- Establish a frequency that fits your needs
Many foundries already conduct daily or pre-shift machine inspections but it is good practice to conduct regular and more thorough machinery inspections with the original equipment providers expert technicians. A thorough “OEM-Inspection” is much more than daily rounds and requires some advanced planning. While daily inspections are necessary and beneficial, these are commonly completed by either the foundry’s Maintenance Technician or the Machine Operator and follow a preset list of inspection topics. These are useful at identifying a problem after the problem has already occurred and before additional or serious damage may result.
Daily Inspection Basics
Ensure the original equipment vendor provides a suggested daily inspection sheet as part of their Operation and Maintenance Manual. This should be a preprinted worksheet that an assigned individual is responsible to complete each day the machine is operating.
Below is an excerpt from a large automatic green sand mold line daily inspection list. This is a two-page list that asks for visual inspection only and provides a short area for comment. This list should be completed daily. Any area marked “Not OK” should result in some additional attention by the Maintenance or Engineering departments.
A thorough – OEM Conducted Inspection should not be something to avoid or fear. Inspections are an opportunity to prevent injury and accidents, and to save money. Regular inspections will maximize productivity and minimize/eliminate a catastrophe along with expensive downtime. Foundry equipment is impressive by nature as it is designed to move or handle very heavy loads to millimeter precision in a repeatable fashion. The incredible work foundry equipment does in less than desirable environments, means wear and tear is inevitable. No matter how great the team is with daily inspections, damaged or worn equipment does not always present itself in daily inspections. Regular OEM Conducted Inspections ensures your equipment can continue to be in tip-top condition.
The OEM trained technician can determine if small repairs will make a big difference and can suggest repairs to help your equipment run more efficiently. The OEM trained technician may point out details your team might tend to overlook. New machinery builds undergo continuous improvements which in most cases may be retrofitted to older units for increased production, reduced downtimes, and better maintenance capabilities. Regular inspections can allow you to get projects done on a planned schedule and affords the peace of mind; knowing the equipment is meeting productivity and safety needs. There really is no reason not to have regular inspections and get the most out of the investment you made in your foundry.
What are the benefits?
The benefits of independent inspections are numerous; with reduced risk of work workplace injury being at the top of the list. Unfortunately accidents do happen, but most of the time they are avoidable. Worker injuries are expensive; we won’t dive deep into this topic but consider that lost time, restaffing, workers compensation premiums, and OSHA notifications and fines are all probable outcomes.
Increased productivity – safety is always the top priority for any manufacturer, but productivity is your competitive advantage. Today’s modern foundry needs every piece of equipment operating at peak performance. If one part of the process or workflow is interrupted due to machinery outage, costs and delivery commitments are affected. Regular inspections help ensure the equipment is reliable for your business, workers, and customers.
Lower repair costs – regular inspections conducted by an OEM trained technician can help to identify small problems before they turn into big problems. A professional inspection may identify worn or failing parts that may be replaced from your spares inventory. Many times small and inexpensive spare parts prevent larger, non-stock components from failing. Many times, these non-stocked devices require many days or weeks lead time. This could put production at risk, or at the least, increases operating cost, safety exposures, and product quality.
What’s the right frequency for OEM-Inspections?
Establishing an OEM-trained technician inspection schedule should start internally with your Production and Maintenance Teams. It helps to group your equipment into two categories:
- Indispensable (Critical) Machines – defined as those whose breakdown would interrupt one or more steps in the entire foundry process and for which no standby unit exists or whose function cannot be performed by alternative means, e.g., a molding machine.
- Marginal (Noncritical) equipment – defined as those that contribute indirectly to the production process but its breakdown would not be a major inconvenience, e.g., a fork truck.
The highest priority and attention should be aimed at the regular inspection of the Indispensable (Critical) Machines.
Next you should start a conversation with the equipment vendor. Review the Operation and Maintenance Manuals with the Production and Maintenance Teams and fully understand the complexity of the machinery in comparison with the team’s capabilities. We all know that turnover in the foundry industry can be high and while the team may have high opinion of their capabilities today; consider how younger, less experienced staff may affect your capabilities in the future.
You should ask the OEM for an example service report to understand what the professional technician will look for in their inspections. You’ll also want to understand the duration of a professional OEM technical inspection. Many times, the technician will want to spend time while the machine is operating and then while the machine is shut-down and locked out. The first visual observations will point the technician to potential troubled areas. The shut-down inspection will allow the technician to safely enter the machinery to conduct more measured inspections and photo-document the findings.
Based on these input considerations you’ll want to discuss the necessary frequency of an OEM technical inspection which can be quarterly, semi-annual or annual. It may be safe to schedule a higher frequency early on and use these visits as continuous training exercises for the staff. As time goes on, the familiarity of equipment and continual professional training may provide the confidence to extend the time frame between OEM technical inspections.
If your foundry embraces the importance of a robust and planned OEM provided technical inspection, then you are ahead of many of your peers. If your foundry abandoned OEM provided technical inspections or hasn’t conducted one in a long time, we hope you’ll take this article as a friendly reminder about the importance of OEM provided technical inspections and how it plays in your long-term success. If you need help reestablishing an effective program, we can help with any portion of these suggested steps.