Plastics processors know that it’s wise to be careful with a buck. Experience teaches if you can eliminate a problem with preventive maintenance, it is money well spent, since unplanned repairs and downtime cost about 10 times more than planned maintenance.

But maintenance programs aren’t perfect and equipment problems arise that can leave you and your best people scratching your heads. Auxiliary equipment problems can be especially tough because, although your best people are skilled at troubleshooting primary production equipment, most don’t have that much experience with auxiliary equipment.

Let me share three “head scratchers” from the Conair service team and ask, what would you do if:

  • Despite numerous system repairs by an HVAC technician, you continued to experience refrigerant leaks from a chiller?
  • Despite regular pump maintenance, vacuum pumps were straining and overheating, disrupting the flow of resin to production equipment?
  • Just before you start validation runs for a new production, a dryer with a perfect operating history starts failing? (Details: It can’t maintain its specified -40°F dewpoint. Instead, its dewpoint performance is all over the place, appearing to be tracking with local weather patterns.)

Obviously, Conair got involved on these three calls because plant personnel were out of answers. They were smart to call in help because solving each of the problems required a disciplined problem-solving process and two of the problems required diagnosis using specialized equipment. All of these things, and more, are now included in Conair’s new MachineHealth™ assessment process, a detailed auxiliary equipment assessment, diagnosis, and repair process that takes place in your facility.

So, here’s how that process, and a skilled Conair technician, solved the problems:

  • The problem with the leaky chiller was not readily apparent. It took a detailed assessment, including vibration analysis, to identify excessive vibration, caused by a failing compressor, as the cause of repeated pipe cracking and coolant leakage. Compressor replacement was needed to solve the problem.
  • The vacuum pump overheating problem was easier to solve, though the processor personnel didn’t know exactly where to look for it. The assessment identified clogged input screens on conveyor system purge valves as the cause. So, our technician suggested that, in addition to the regular pump maintenance they were already doing, personnel add a preventive maintenance program of monitoring, cleaning, and periodic replacement for the purge valve screens. The problem disappeared.
  • The leaky dryer had several problems. Processor personnel suspected a leak, but couldn’t find it. Our technician performed a complete MachineHealth assessment, involving dryer controls, vessel integrity, and air system integrity. The assessment identified numerous small leaks at the base of the dryer, which were fixed immediately. But the dewpoint problem persisted, so the assessment continued upward until the cause was identified a failed clamp and gasket in an 8-inch line feeding pressurized dry air out of the desiccant and into the heater. The resulting leak caused the system to draw ambient air (90°F/80% relative humidity) directly into the heater, from which it was pushed into the drying hopper. When the seal and clamp were fixed, the dryer’s dewpoint fell rapidly, surpassing even Conair’s -40°F specification. The plastics processor was then able to validate the process for production shortly thereafter.

Ensuring that every Conair technician arrives with the skill, training, and tools to solve “head scratchers” is a challenge. That’s why we developed the MachineHealth assessment. Built on decades of experience, these assessments include a disciplined inspection, calibration, troubleshooting and repair process, tailored to every type of Conair auxiliary equipment. They include the use of specialized measurement and diagnostic equipment. And, along with a concluding report, each provides the assurance that auxiliary equipment problems get solutions that work, including repairs and preventive maintenance recommendations.

MachineHealth assessments aren’t limited to repair calls for a single piece of equipment. The process can scale up to help you assess, update, calibrate, repair and plan maintenance for an entire factory full of auxiliary equipment, too.  But that’s a subject for another blog.

What would you do if? Solving three head-scratching equipment problems

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