Eliminating equipment downtime – or maximising uptime if you prefer – remains one of the key drivers in any production or warehouse facility.
Given that profit is so often squeezed out of the last few percentage points of productivity, it’s easy to see why.
Yet downtime of several days at a time, whether for routine maintenance or because of unexpected issues, still remains a common challenge in many facilities.
Outside of this, if safety checks are needed on electrical components, it is not safe – or even possible in many cases – for this to happen without an entire line being halted. And where pneumatic systems are concerned, it may take a specialist maintenance technician to identify the source of any leaks or other issues, then fix and prepare the system ready to re-enter service.
Much has been – and still is – written about the importance of maintenance and in particular, preventative maintenance, in negating the risk of unscheduled downtime. This commonly focuses on processes such as condition monitoring and root cause analysis, which enables failing components to be identified and replaced before they can cause a line stoppage.
All well and good, but what if the need for stoppages for even routine maintenance could be removed ?
Larger conveyor lines handling heavy loads have traditionally been driven by a single motor driving long conveyor sections. All is fine as long as the motor functions correctly. But what happens when that motor needs routine maintenance, or breaks down unexpectedly ?
Intervention on a single motor or mechanical element typically require locking down an entire conveyor while a spare part is sourced from stock. If the required spare is not available then downtime lasts until it can be sourced, installed and configured. All this time, overall output, missed order deadlines and profitability are being impacted.
Recognising this, leading player in the sector such as Itoh Denki have developed modular motorised roller systems for conveyors and diverters. If an issue occurs, a motor roller drive or an individual diverter cassette unit can simply be removed from the line and replaced with a spare which can be rapidly reconfigured to minimise downtime. The diverters have been designed to be easy to repair with tasks such as motor and belt replacement able to be undertaken by an in-house technician, without the need for a specialist engineer – especially as they are typically powered by 24V DC power rather than pneumatic power.
Using networked controllers, it is possible perform predictive maintenance through the acquisition real time data on the power consumption and life cycle of motorized drive rollers, enabling imminent failures to be detected and pre-empted.
The need for preventative maintenance on these systems is virtually eliminated too, meaning the only time the line really needs to stop is for a major overhaul or reconfiguration.
And all that will be music to the ears of works and operations managers seeking to minimize downtime and remain competitive in ever more challenging times.
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