Oiling the wheels of the maintenance function

15 February 2022

In the manufacturing and process sectors every second of production counts and any downtime can be costly. To maintain optimum production and uptime, a predictive and preventative maintenance strategy is vital if facilities are to remain efficient and profitable.

Any maintenance strategy programme would not be complete without ensuring that production machinery is correctly lubricated.  Lubrication is essential to the correct functioning of equipment with moving parts, yet all too often this subject isn’t given the attention it deserves and 80% of premature rolling bearing failures could be prevented through the use of proper lubrication, according to Schaeffler.

The main reason to lubricate rolling bearings is to prevent or reduce contact between rolling and sliding surfaces. Friction and wear are kept to a low level if lubricant is conveyed into the contact areas of rolling bearings and adheres to the surfaces of parts rolling against each other. Although lubricant separates the contact surfaces and prevents metal to metal contact, it also performs other important functions including anti-corrosion protection, heat dissipation, the flushing out of particles and contaminants, and support for the effectiveness of bearing seals. 

It is important that the right type and quality of lubricant is used – in the right amounts, at the right place and at the right time. Often equipment is over-lubricated, under-lubricated, lubricated when a machine isn’t operational, or given the wrong type of lubricant. Under lubrication can cause rolling bearings to wear out too quickly, whereas over-lubrication can lead to ineffective operation. 

Recognising that a reliance on human intervention is often the cause of ineffective and incorrect lubrication, Schaeffler has developed the CONCEPT automatic lubrication solution which is designed to reduce maintenance outlay by up to 30% when compared with manual lubrication, ensuring problem free production in the long-term.  Automatic lubrication means that roller bearings are supplied with the optimum quantity of lubricant and set to the correct lubrication intervals for the equipment. 

Lubricators in the range can be pre-filled with Schaeffler’s own, or third-party lubricating greases. 

Predict and prevent
Another consideration for maintenance strategies is to look at predictive and preventative maintenance. 

Unplanned failure of auxiliary units such as motors, fans and pumps can quickly shut down an entire production line but, due to personnel time and resource constraints, maintenance of these critical auxiliary units does still tend to be reactive. But what if there was a way of monitoring these auxiliary units remotely that could prevent unplanned failures? 

Schaeffler's OPTIME provides a plug, play and predict condition monitoring solution that enables automated data analysis of machines. Further, with low installation outlay the solution allows the implementation of condition monitoring for a high number of machines simultaneously, whose condition previously could not be cost-effectively monitored. 

The OPTIME system comprises wireless, battery-operated sensor units, a gateway with SIM card, analysis software on an IoT hub and an app, or web-based dashboard.

The installed sensors record vibrations and temperature data which is used to determine the relevant Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). They connect with one another automatically to form a mesh network. The data is transferred to Schaeffler’s IoT hub via the gateway where continuous, automatic analyses are carried out and recommendations for decisions and actions are sent to the user’s mobile phone or to the plant control room, directing them to the precise area where a repair is required.  

This means that operators of process plants have much more control because they can make decisions about the maintenance work that needs to be performed on which machines, and when – can it wait for a planned shutdown, or is an immediate intervention required to prevent a breakdown?  The purchasing function can also be more efficient and cost-effective, as parts and units no longer need to be held in stock for ‘just in case’ scenarios.

Schaeffler has written a white paper entitled ‘Is machine monitoring worthwhile?’ to serve as a guide and to offer tips, calculation examples, checklists and examples.  To register for a copy please go to: www.schaeffler.de/whitepaper

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