Unplanned equipment downtime is a profit killer. Unplanned downtime means maintenance interventions, delayed shipments, lost throughput, customer dissatisfaction, and increased costs. While a good Preventive Maintenance (PM) program is always at the heart of high equipment uptime and availability, unplanned downtime cannot always be eliminated entirely. Here are some tips to help you avoid the losses associated with unplanned downtime of your bulk solids conveyors.
Tip #1: Maintain a part usage history database
Analysis of equipment parts usage history can reveal the components and parts which are consumed and replaced most frequently. Parts with high usage may represent a real downtime risk, especially if they are a critical operating part (see Tip #2 below). Maintaining an on-hand stock of these high-usage items will increase the probability that you can get a conveyor back online quickly should unplanned downtime occur.
Tip #2: Keep an adequate supply of critical parts on hand.
Critical parts are those that are essential for the safe and effective operation of a conveyor. A good rule of thumb to follow for identifying critical parts is to ask the following question: could the equipment run without this part? If the answer is no, that part is a critical part. For many types of bulk solids conveyors, critical parts to consider stocking include the following:
- Drive belts and chains
Many leading manufacturers of bulk solids conveying equipment provide their customers with a recommended replacement parts list or a replacement parts kit. These contain the replacement parts that the manufacturer recommends be kept on hand at all times. However, once equipment is placed into use, maintaining a parts usage history as described above may identify high-consumption parts that are not contained in a recommended replacement parts list or kit.
Another key question is, how much is “adequate”. Knowing how much of a critical part to stock is a function of the quantity of the part in your operation and the lead time to restock the item. Companies with multiple conveyors within their operation will need to keep more critical parts on hand than those that have a single installation. Similarly, when the lead time to restock a critical part from the supplier is long, you will need to keep a higher quantity on hand before reordering.
Tip #3: Know your equipment supplier’s response capability.
Relying on an equipment supplier to address a downtime event and restore a conveyor to normal operations means exposing yourself to that supplier’s responsiveness. While reputable vendors offer expedited and emergency repair services, delays can still be incurred. Other vendors can be less responsive, meaning that you are at their mercy. When buying equipment, evaluate the vendor’s responsiveness to downtime events where their help may be needed. This includes not only evaluating the vendor’s time to come onsite if required, but also the lead time to ship any needed replacement parts that are needed.
Tip #4: Practice good PM.
Regular equipment inspections can identify problems before they happen. Operators should be trained in Autonomous Maintenance practices, and equipment inspections should occur within the time intervals recommended by the manufacturer. Frequent inspections have been shown to reduce the incidence of downtime – performing daily, weekly, monthly, and semi-annual inspections can identify worn or broken parts sooner, helping to prevent downtime events. If your facility does not have the resources to perform frequent inspections, consider outsourcing this function to an external maintenance service.
Unplanned downtime with bulk solids conveyors can be prevented. Good maintenance practices, coupled with frequent inspections, part failure histories, and well-managed replacement parts inventories are all part of sound strategy for reducing the incidence of unplanned downtime.
Tip #5: Buy from vendors who maintain replacement parts to service older equipment.
Conveying equipment evolves as technology advances and the buyer preferences change. Vendors may discontinue certain models or model lines in response to changing technologies and market conditions. It is therefore important to deal with vendors who will continue to carry replacement parts for equipment models that they may either update, replace or discontinue. At UniTrak, as we have evolved and improved our equipment over the years, we continue to supply replacement parts for the first TipTrak™ bucket elevator models installed in 1969.
UniTrak supplies bulk solids conveyors that have proven reliability and uptime. Our product lineup comprises continuous bucket elevators, aeromechanical, and flexible screw conveyors. To find out more about how UniTrak equipment reliability can help assure your operations, please contact our sales team directly.