This phrase is likely to be heard in many heat treating departments when it comes to equipment maintenance as the need to get production out is a major priority in this highly competitive industry. Equipment deterioration is inevitable and requires continual maintenance to keep it running as long as possible. One of the reasons that a heat treater all of a sudden faces unplanned equipment repair and replacement costs is a failure to create and implement a comprehensive preventative maintenance plan.

According to Reliability Center Inc. (Hope-well, Va.), the most important reason for a preventative maintenance program is reduced costs achieved by:

  • Reduced production downtime
  • Better conservation of assets
  • Reduced overtime costs
  • Minimizing large-scale repairs
  • Reduced cost of repairs by reducing secondary failures
  • Reduced product rejects, rework and scrap
  • Identifying equipment with excessive maintenance costs
  • Improved safety and quality conditions

Most manufacturing facilities would benefit from a good preventative maintenance program. Preventative maintenance is planned plant and equipment maintenance, which is designed to improve equipment life and avoid any unplanned maintenance activity. Preventative maintenance can be compared in its simplest form to a service schedule for an automobile. It includes such activities as lubrication, cleaning, adjustments, and minor and major component replacement to extend the life of equipment and facilities. Its purpose is to minimize breakdowns and excessive depreciation.

Equipment and facilities should never be allowed to go to the breaking point. An example of the problems created by "letting things go" is illustrated in the article entitled "Three-Step Maintenance Program Helps Keep Continuous Furnaces at Optimal Performance" on page 35 in this issue. The heat treater was getting poor quality product from his furnace and needed to correct the situation. An inspection and testing of equipment showed that the furnace was not air tight, had insulation missing or badly deteriorated, had cracked radiant tubes and many other items in disrepair. The steps applied to correct these problems including identifying existing problems and performing semiannual and annual maintenance brought the equipment back to peak operating efficiency. In fact, the owner of the heat treat facility claims an improvement in production capacity of over 35% and an increase in furnace efficiency of more than 30%.

It's clear that maintaining equipment now rather than later can pay big dividends.