Plant Engineering recently published a list of the most-read stories of 2017 and the essential guidance that these stories contained. Here are four issues that engineering, maintenance and plant operations professionals often dealt with on their journeys to boosting efficiency and increasing productivity.
Reducing welding mistakes
Defective, misplaced or missing welds can wreak havoc on an industrial business, according to the experts at Miller Welding. One single metal-melding mistake can lead to loss of revenue or create safety hazards for welders themselves. Routine welding mishaps can even sully entire production processes, as errors are repeated, affecting product quality and negatively impacting the bottom line.
Plant Engineering offered some potential solutions, advising welding supervisors to ensure cables are delivering enough voltage to torches and check gas pressure and flow. Operational leaders should also train welders to pay attention to material fit points and anti-spatter usage, as both variables have an impact on weld quality.
Promoting better motor maintenance
The average 20-horsepower model consumes almost $6,000 worth of electricity per year when running continuously at modest speed, according to research from the Department of Energy. A normal operation might employ multiple motors of this kind, as well as far more powerful iterations designed to power the heaviest shop floor assets. This reality requires operations leaders to devote considerable resources and time to addressing motor efficiency.
This topic was at the center of a February 2017 Plant Engineering piece, which urged industrial firms improve motor performance by implementing preventive maintenance measures, including visual evaluations and winding tests. The publication also recommended the use of advanced recordkeeping systems.
Preventive strategies have become standard across the engineering, maintenance and plant operations spaces, according to research from Plant Engineering. The magazine connected with more than 320 U.S.-based maintenance professionals in 2016 and found that 78 percent were responsible for overseeing preventive practices, including those pertaining to motors.
Embracing prescriptive maintenance
In an effort to streamline maintenance activities, operational leaders have begun adopting prescriptive asset management methodologies, which involve leveraging advanced sensor technology associated with the internet of things to closely track equipment and address small mechanical kinks before they devolve into disastrous defects.
More than 8.3 billion pieces of IoT technology are in use today, with more than one-third owned and operated by enterprises, according to the analysts at Gartner. Industrial firms make up a significant portion of these enterprise IoT users, affixing advanced connected equipment to assets of all sizes in an effort to reduce the risk of downtime.
Plant Engineering addressed the rise of prescriptive maintenance plans and the unique web-enabled devices that facilitate them, which constitute the industrial internet of things, or the IIoT. The publication advised companies looking into prescriptive slowly implement tracking technology and pair advanced devices with proactive maintenance policies designed to support continuous improvement.
Constructing an effective maintenance schedule
No matter the maintenance methodology in place, little can be accomplished without proper scheduling. Unfortunately, many industrial businesses discover this the hard way, according to research from Plant Engineering. More than one-quarter of the respondents involved in the 2016 study cited poor scheduling as the primary roadblock to maintenance improvement.
The publication addressed the issue of schedule design in an article published in April 2017, suggesting that organizations conduct considerable research before attempting to design asset management timetables. Firms must first quantify the volume of maintenance backlog, evaluate baseline capabilities and identify actionable maintenance windows even before compiling draft schedules. Following deployment, operational stakeholders should meet with technicians once a week to discuss upcoming work and ensure finalized maintenance timings are met.
Of course, enterprises with robust asset management systems have an advantage here, as such software can analyze maintenance data and generate automated maintenance schedules. Roughly 25 percent of the businesses that responded to the Plant Engineering survey used this methodology.