Mechanical innovations shouldn’t be seen as the poor relation in the quest for downtime reduction

Posted on 30 Aug 2023 by The Manufacturer
Partner Content

Industry 4.0 has revolutionised the way the manufacturing industry operates.

The growing use of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cloud computing and big data is helping businesses to minimise downtime, the true nemesis of engineers, or at least allow them to have better control over its occurrence. But when it comes to the mechanical aspect of any plant – whether that be a retail distribution centre, a food processing factory or an automotive manufacturing operation – there will always be a maintenance requirement that forces downtime.

The innovations in mechanical products helping to reduce or even negate downtime may not be deemed as exciting a topic as IIoT, but they can be as crucial in the battle to keep operations moving. According to RS’ Industry in Motion report created in conjunction with the Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE), downtime costs an average of £5,121.81 per hour. If it is assumed that some of this could be attributed to mechanical maintenance requirements, it’s not an area to be ignored.

Latest bearing technology reduces downtime and boosts uptime potential

Bearings are a commonly used component in any plant, so employing some good practices to help extend the life of them, combined with wise purchasing decisions and consideration of the latest options, can significantly aid smooth operations.

Lubrication is key when it comes to extending bearing life: poor lubrication accounts for around a third of premature bearing failure cases. Good practice measures include selecting the right grease, applying it in the right quantities and with a good knowledge of the best application methods. But innovations in ball bearing technology include relubrication-free solutions, which are not only a game-changer for organisations wanting to negate these time-consuming and production line disrupting maintenance tasks, but are helping those in the food processing industry meet compliance requirements.

Bearings in the challenging environment that is food processing are subject to daily pressure washdowns and caustic anti-bacterial solutions, which elevates the lubrication requirement and the need for hygienic solutions. Replacing bearings with the latest relubrication-free alternatives reduces maintenance, supports sustainability and helps maintain food safety. Another advantage is that the potential for increased uptime, creating a win-win!

Be free from the maintenance chains

Roller chains are another mechanical product commonly employed in manufacturing and distribution settings and are vital to keeping the line moving – with lubrication of them being just as crucial. The lube-free long life options now available can help save maintenance resource, improve equipment reliability and create energy efficiencies. The deployment of oil-impregnated brushes within the chains keeps them operational and provides better wear performance.

While the benefits of these lube-free chains are highly suited to food production environments, any operation where there is a hard-to-access system or even non-accessible will benefit from employing this kind of technology.

Tighten the belt on maintenance downtime

While there is a clear maintenance element with belts, there is also an energy efficiency consideration as the choice of belt will affect the efficiency of power transmission. Some of the latest belt options can boost power transmission by 50 per cent compared with conventional belts, and can offer 97 per cent efficiency. Choosing products like these, which are constructed with innovative fibres for durability and feature minimal stretch, means tensioning maintenance is eliminated.

Elements including heightened shock resistance and dual wrapping for increased durability further make the case for using these kinds of belts for maintenance reduction and longevity – both of which are key factors in downtime.

Liam Kettlewell, RS EMEA Vice President for Mechanical & Fluid Power, said: “With so many innovative mechanical products now available, engineers should definitely be embracing them to minimise downtime. It is worth noting though that by accessing these products through distributors with authorised status, as well breadth of product offer, they can access a wealth of product knowledge and application expertise, so they will be able to ensure the purchasing decision is the right one for the organisation and give advice and guidance.

“Although cost can sometimes present a barrier to embracing these superior products, when considering the extended lifespan of the product coupled with the maintenance reduction, the positive, tangible impact on downtime is evident, making the decision a real no-brainer,” he added.

For more information on the challenges and opportunities facing maintenance engineers today, including downtime management, download RS’ Industry in Motion report here.