Factory automation has created many areas along the assembly line that are unmanned by human workers. Traditionally, workers using the equipment everyday spotted spontaneous problems. This was in addition to stringent preventative maintenance protocols. With that hands-on attention gone, companies have come up with other ways to detect problems that pop up in the line between inspections. In many machines, those detection devices are sensors.
Sensors are small electronic devices within the machines that monitor certain components for trouble. They can monitor fluid levels, vibrations, filter saturation, suction force and other factors deemed vital to the machine’s operation. The sensors are configured to send a warning in the form of a light, sound, or message signal when the critical level has been or is close to being reached. They allow maintenance time to reach and fix the problem before it becomes a crisis worthy of shutting down the line.
Sensors are a way to monitor the machines between inspections and to reduce the number of equipment breakdowns. The sensors also streamline the preventative maintenance process by giving data on the equipment function without having to intimately inspect the machine each time. Some sensors may give inspectors a look into the machine processes that one could never have before through continuous measurement features. With them, you can track deterioration rates of parts to better manage your spare parts inventory, for example. Ultimately, the sensors can increase the life of the machine.
Why Preventative Maintenance is Still Needed
Of course, preventative maintenance is still necessary. The sensors themselves must be inspected periodically to ensure continued functionality. The machine itself will still have other components that are unattached to the sensor. These must be inspected as well. Then there are calibrations, cleanings, and other adjustments that the sensors cannot perform. Sensing technology is only meant to aid is reducing breakdowns and cutting time off your regular inspection schedule.
Sensors are the little electronic eyes within the machine that are popping up in everything from cars to laptops. Thus, their appearance in manufacturing equipment was inevitable. Prudent plant managers and preventative maintenance workers can use the technology to make improvements to their schedules, inventories, and plans. The ultimate result is savings in time, money, and equipment life.
Eagle Technologies Group is an industry leader in the design and installation of factory automation systems worldwide.