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Improving Processes with Predictive/Preventative Maintenance of Weighing Equipment

01 February 2007

It is a common mistake to wait until something breaks down before you fix it, and this is often the situation in industry. Time and perceived expense are the most common factors that condition us this way, but in the long run it can save time and costs to prevent rather than cure. Maintenance managers have to juggle resources to deal with emergency repairs and find it difficult to implement a preventative maintenance (PM) programme. But an effective PM programme can limit emergencies.

Many companies perceive a PM programme to be sold from the top down, and often management impose a cost/benefit analysis. However, the benefits of implementing a system are clear - not only the physical costs of equipment repair but also the costs involved in production downtime and bad batch production. If broken scales or load cells occur, and production is shut down, expenses will arise. Detailed investigations are necessary to check the quality of all former batches produced and many questions will need to be answered before production can resume. When did the breakdown occur? What are the effects on product quality? How many batches were affected and why?

For those conforming to GMP a deviation/investigation report is required and the batches produced will not be released. But it could become even more costly if the equipment breakdown has not been detected, incomplete reactions or impurities may cause bad yield and poor quality and the batch cannot be released. If the breakdown goes as far as the product to be sold by weight, manufacturers could supply too much or too little. The costs vary from product to product and the quantities produced, but it is clear that the cost of preventing such errors will be a small proportion compared with dealing with an emergency breakdown or undetected errors.

Planning of maintenance and calibration
It is important when implementing preventative procedures to plan your maintenance based on a defined time period and number of weighings. Operators should be aware of these procedures and equipment is now available that can notify operators of actions including calibration checks through email alert, indicator display, alert to mobile phone or even disablement of the scale. And events such as calibration, alarms, errors etc for quick diagnostics and recovery should be logged. This is easy and accurate with weighing terminals that automate these processes. Internal calibration management defines the calibration procedure, controls equipment calibration and monitors and reports to the operator when equipment fails.

Condition monitoring
Condition monitoring depends on the equipment in question - from measuring voltage, current and strain through to drift, overloads, impacts and errors for weighing equipment. Again it is important that the weighing equipment can detect these changes in condition and alert the operator through his chosen method. Every item in the production process plays a vital part and at any point failure of equipment will result in financial losses. New developments in intelligent weighing terminals play a crucial part in predictive failure management. While it is important operators are alerted to breakdowns, the management of failure can save a company - financially and reputability.

With predictive maintenance you can schedule and track equipment’s own maintenance requirements, predict failure before it occurs, perform fault recognition and recovery and alert individuals of potential failures or maintenance needs by email. This may prevent loss of revenue.

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