Anyone Can Become More Proactive, Even Without Expensive Equipment

By Scott Hoff, Life Cycle Engineering

My former boss liked to say, “If you keep doing the same thing but expect different results, that’s insanity.” Doing firefighting maintenance and hoping for a different outcome, that’s insane. The issue might be financial: “There’s no money in the budget to buy a vibration analyzer(or some other predictive tool).” Another common roadblock is: “I don’t have enough manpower to do proactive maintenance.”

Don’t let budget woes or limited manpower drive total insanity in your workplace. You can uncover a lot of problems or potential problems just by using your senses. Start by doing the basics: look, listen, touch and smell. Here are some examples from recent visits to a client site.

Standing next to a furnace, I just happened to lay my hand on the control panel and I felt a vibration. I asked, “Do you know this piece of equipment has some vibration that doesn’t feel right?” The reply was “No, but I’ll have my guys check it out.” The guys discovered the fan cage had moved on the shaft and the support bearings were not supporting much.

While walking around, I asked about a leaking gear box. “What gearbox are you talking about?” the supervisor asked. We walked out to the line and I showed him. It felt a little warm, too. They took a temperature check and compared it to a similar gearbox on a very similar conveyor. The original gearbox temperature was almost 30 degrees higher.

We were looking at an assemble station and I asked about the pile of dusty stuff on the base of a machine. The reply was “I’m not sure where it’s from.” I didn’t know either but I would have someone look into it before it becomes an issue which relates to some unplanned down time.

The site had installed some nice digital temperature and level indicators on a hydraulic unit because of an issue they had experienced. I asked what the temperature range should be. “I’m not sure,” was the response. We asked the line tech and he wasn’t sure either. At the same time I inquired about the level indicator reading. The answer was the same. Someone had recently filled the unit because the oil level was so high you couldn’t see it in the sight glass. Oh, and the hydraulic unit was running. There might be a training issue here.

Walking the maintenance area we observed several large work piece carriers lying in a pile on a cart. I am sure there were at least seven of them on the cart. “Do you think the line needs these?” I asked. It turns out the line was ordered with 30 work piece carriers. Those carriers in the pile were almost 25% of the carriers from the line. I am sure it had an impact on the output of the assembly line. The response was “We’ll get someone on it.”

Just doing the basics – look, listen, smell and touch – is the beginning of a proactive approach. Act on what you discover and improve what needs fixing. Small things can make a huge difference.

Scott Hoff is an Asset Management Services Technician with Life Cycle Engineering. He has more than 35 years of experience in roles including maintenance mechanic, engineering technician and maintenance supervisor / planner. You can reach Scott at [email protected].

© Life Cycle Engineering, Inc.



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