Six Steps to Increasing Plant Up Time
Avoid unplanned downtime with a common-sense approach to your preventive maintenance.
By Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
Unplanned downtime. It’s an operator’s worst nightmare. It’s costly. It’s embarrassing. And, it’s avoidable. In today’s economic environment, many operators are trying to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of their equipment. The challenge is to understand the difference between prodding a machine to peak efficiency and pushing it beyond its limitations. The first option leads to more tons per hour, more efficiency, and a better bottom line. The second can grind a plant to a halt, resulting in lost production and profits.
To avoid this costly scenario, remember these basic tips for keeping your plant up and running.
1. Operate equipment within its design parameters. Understand the key limitations to each piece of equipment. For example, review the crushing capabilities, volume limitations, and horsepower for each crusher at your operation. Based on the mineralogy of your deposit, know which engineering factor is most likely to limit the equipment’s production rate and respect it.
If pushed beyond intended operating conditions, equipment fatigue can set in. This damage is permanent and progressive. It often leads to premature equipment failure.
2. Practice preventive maintenance. Equipment manufacturers provide handy reference guides to their equipment with daily, weekly, monthly, and even periodic maintenance recommendations. These guidelines are developed to prolong equipment life and should not be relegated to the bottom of a drawer or filing cabinet. Keep them posted prominently and ensure that they are being followed.
When inspecting a screen, for example, check the screen tension, fastening system, and supporting structure. If using spray nozzles for dust control, check to see if water pressure has created an uneven wear pattern on screen media. Planned downtime can be arranged to work with, not against, the site’s production goals.
3. Identify the cause of equipment failure. As one crushing expert told Aggregates Manager, “Anyone with minimal mechanical aptitude is capable of changing a broken crusher part when it fails, but nine out of 10 times, the same crusher part will fail again because no one was able to identify and eliminate the root cause of the initial failure.”
By inspecting failed parts, gathering information from operations and maintenance personnel, and observing equipment trending information prior to failure, underlying problems can be pinpointed, and corrective action can be taken.
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