Technician Talk

What causes equipment failure is the lifelong question of most maintenance supervisors I know. In my quest for answers I decided to interview a few of our technicians regarding some causes of failure to manufacturing equipment. Typically, most causes of failure can be attributed to power surges, over voltages or just normal wear and tear. Our technicians have opened my eyes to some habits you should avoid when operating your equipment.

The first technician I spoke with is named Mike and his specialty is repairing HMI’s such as touchscreens and he also repairs medical equipment. There are two main reasons he tells me that touchscreens are sent in for repair. First, using objects other than your finger to press commands on the touchscreen. Most commonly operators will use an ink pen repeatedly to press the touchscreen for commands. Better yet many operators will use a screwdriver or other object to further damage the touchscreen. These foreign objects, even a capped pen, will puncture holes in the membrane of the touchscreen and even destroy the LCD. Secondly, there are many operators who open the touchscreen up in hopes of replacing a few components and making the unit work again! Mike’s recommendation is to only use your fingers and let the professionals handle the repairs. It will save you time and money in the long run. Trying to repair your own equipment often results in further damage.

To say Dan is experienced in industrial electronic repair would be an understatement. He has been in the repair business for over 30 years and is one of our drives specialists! If it is electronic and on a production line he has repaired it. Dan’s best piece of advice has painful consequences if you do not take note! Dan told me he was once on the phone with a maintenance tech walking him through some basic solutions to why a 100 HP DC drive was overheating. He told him to blow out the drive with some compressed air and call him back if the drive was still failing. The maintenance guy took a 2 ½ foot air wand to blow out the drive, he shoved the wand into the heatsink in the live drive and needless to say he got a little shock therapy. He went to the hospital after the jolt and was luckily okay! Dan came in to save the day by replacing the heatsink and some of the component’s to repair the drive. The moral of the story is to be careful where you poke and prod. Take care of your equipment properly and before attempting to clean the unit, always cut the power!

My final stop was with Scott, one of our hydraulic and pneumatic wizards. Typical issues he sees with pumps, blowers, valves and cylinders are contaminants inside the unit or faulty seals. Recently, Scott was in the process of breaking down 2 vacuum pumps when he noticed a bird’s nest inside the vacuum that was burnt to a crisp. The reason the units were sent to us for repair was due to a fire. In the process of examining the vacuum he came to realize  that the birds were the cause of the fire. Not only did this fire destroy the vacuums it also caused detrimental damage to many other units in the production facility. With tedious precision Scott was able to clean and rebuild the units to perfection. Sometimes repairs can be as simple as replacing a few seals or it could consist of a complete overhaul and rebuild to a unit. Preventing such accidents such as a fire in your production line could be as easy performing a weekly or even monthly inspection of your equipment. Finding the nest before the fire would have saved the company thousands and thousands of dollars.

Recapping what I have learned

  • First, never use foreign objects to press the screen commands on your touchscreen.
  • Secondly, an air tool is not the appropriate equipment for poking a heatsink while the drive is still live. Always turn the power off!
  • Thirdly, weekly and monthly inspections can save your company thousands and thousands of dollars.

There are plenty of stories of failures occurring at production facilities. These are only a few. Stay tuned for more tech stories and ways to prevent breakdowns from happening. Until then, don’t be a hero. Let the professionals who are trained in repair handle the dangerous work!

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