was known, identification of when and what to replace would be easy. Emerging technologies can be retrofitted to provide enhanced levels of information on the status and condition of wear parts. Diagnostic technologies such as

thermography and vibration analysis are helping identify changes in equipment performance, but these still require the maintenance team to inspect the equipment. IO-Link is an embedded technology which is being increasingly added to presence and proximity sensors to provide additional performance or status information. The big benefit of IO-Link is that this

by Mark James, senior product marketing manager, RS Components M

aintenance is unavoidable in any manufacturing environment, but the

approach to the task of maintenance is what will affect the impact of downtime on business operations. Downtime can come at significant cost, and is probably the single biggest source of lost production time – with the greatest expense being caused by unplanned downtime. In fact, recent research by Oneserve, in conjunction with UK manufacturers, highlighted that each manufacturer experiences machine downtime every 2.5 months, which can take anything from eight to 72 hours to resolve and cost around £12,000 in downtime. This is why employing predictive

maintenance strategies can make a dramatic difference to day to day operations. Exploring different technologies, products and supplier solutions can reduce reactive maintenance and increase productivity – both vital to remain competitive in a global market.

IDENTIFY THE RIGHT SOLUTIONS It’s clear to see that the best approach for modern maintenance is a combination of planned and preventative measures, avoiding reactive maintenance whenever possible. There is a plethora of solutions available to help in this area: from handheld test and measure equipment that can be used by operatives to monitor variables such as pressure and temperature, to sensing products that monitor machine condition


and alert operatives to potential issues. When it comes to smart solutions, the latest sensors allow integration with connected machines, with cloud computing platforms providing data to determine the health of the machine, enabling prediction of potential points of failure for breakdown. IoT will fast become the main element in the creation of an effective predictive maintenance strategy. But it’s not all about technology.

Making intelligent product selections can also help avoid breakdowns. For instance, choosing to fit long-life bearings helps negate downtime, as bearings often fail prematurely largely due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the user. Studies undertaken by SKF show that 16 per cent of bearing failures are due to incorrect fitting, 36 per cent to poor lubrication and 14 per cent to contamination. Collectively, these problems contribute directly to the remaining 34 per cent of failures, which are due to bearing fatigue occurring well before the operating life quoted by manufacturers. While bearings may be viewed as a commodity purchase when maintaining conveyor systems and production lines, unplanned downtime caused by failure are far more costly than the component itself.

MAXIMISE DATA Big data is an over-used phrase, but with reference to maintenance it’s clear that if the current condition of all wear parts

RS Components T: 0845 720 1201

Exploring different technologies, products and supplier solutions can reduce reactive maintenance and increase productivity – both vital to remain competitive in a global market

data is invisible to the machine, and is captured via a gateway. This allows IO- Link enabled sensors to be added to existing equipment without extensive re- work. The status data can then be extracted and displayed via a separate PLC or IPC, allowing the operations team to gain useful insight on the process or production line.

LOOK TO COLLABORATE The effect of collaboration between a business and its suppliers must never be underestimated, and is crucial when it comes to effective plant maintenance. Working alongside a supplier as a partner means working as a team to make sure machines are always online. Don’t be reluctant to lean on supplier knowledge and insight so that replacement parts are available as and when they are needed, and explore managed inventory services – which is growing within the UK. In recent research conducted by RS and the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS), 68 per cent of the survey’s respondents said managed inventory services improved business by reducing the time spent raising individual orders, providing better visibility of stock and spend, and improving productivity. Close supplier collaboration has huge benefits when it comes to both predictive and unplanned maintenance. Keeping abreast of technology

evolution and solutions, planning how best to structure and deploy maintenance teams, and ensuring the right parts are available when required are all critical to an effective maintenance strategy. Working with a knowledgeable distributor that works closely with leading brand specialists to advise on specific applications, and can offer guidance, will be invaluable for accessing the right products and knowledge to optimise a maintenance programme.


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