Machine failure is a normal, expected part of the manufacturing process. However, it’s also a costly part of factory automation. From line shutdowns to product delays and even product defects due to the machine failure, costs can rise quickly. That’s why you must stay on top of problems, even before they occur. Here are just five of the many indications of an assembly machine’s eminent failure.
- Listen for abnormal sounds. Manufacturing floors are loud places, but the people who work on them quickly grow accustomed to the sound of the machines they use. Oftentimes, machinery (their motors especially) emanate a sound that differs from its normal noise. The sound is subtle at first and grows as the problem worsens. Stop and inspect machinery at the first sign of an audible change.
- Take notice of unexplained heat. There are a number of things that cause enough friction to heat up the metals and other materials used in factory automation. In some areas, heat is expected. But, heat rising from an area that is normally room temperature or colder is a sign of a problem. In addition to friction, electrical issues can also generate heat. The machines should be stopped in order to lubricate or perform a repair. Otherwise, the heat could lead to a fire or seizing of the machine itself.
- Check for cleanliness. Keeping machines clean is key in a factory. In addition to providing a safe workplace, the cleanliness will also help you spot another early sign of machine failure — leaks. Wetness or dust leaking from a seam, gasket, or other part are all a breach in the machinery. So, an unclean machine may not be a signal of lax maintenance staff, but instead the machine’s signal that something is wrong.
- Monitor production speed. Slowdowns signal machine failure just as automation speed increases do. Resistance due to several factors, such as lubricant leakage, can cause a speed decrease. Meanwhile, loose rings are one cause of an increase in production speed.
- Feel for unnecessary vibration. Vibration analysis is one way that plant managers and maintenance teams detect mechanical failures in automation machinery. The change in vibration from the norm is a sign that the machine might have anything from loose parts to lubrication issues.
All companies have their own preventative maintenance and inspection procedures to catch problems in the machinery before they reach crisis capacity. However, the assembly line workers, and others around the machinery, on a regular basis should be made aware of these five things and other small signs that the machine is headed for failure.