5 Energy-Saving Tips For Manufacturers

Are you worried about the current oil prices? If so, you should stop worrying as the price won’t last forever. Actually, OPEC has almost no influence on electricity or natural gas. The fact of the matter is that the old coal-based power plants increased electricity prices in 2016. However, the problem is that energy efficiency is really important for you should you want to stay ahead of the competition. If you are a plant manager and you want to save energy, we suggest that you follow the tips given below.

Process Heating

The US Department of Energy suggests that plant managers can cut down on the heating costs through the implementation of some energy-saving measures. As a matter of fact, process heating includes 30% of the energy consumed in this sector. Therefore, if you save energy in this area, you can make a significant impact.

Moreover, you can monitor and control your air-to-fuel ratio and exhaust gases in order to save a lot of energy. But if your plant requires lots of hot water, it’s a good idea to use a solar-water heating plant to preheat the process water. This is another great way of saving a lot of money.

Motors and Equipment

Machine drives accounts for over 22% of power consumption in the manufacturing sector. If you want to cut down on your operating costs, we suggest that you analyze the system and shaft losses. In addition, you can also consider upgrading to a system that is more efficient.

At times, you may have to replace the equipment to achieve your targets. But you don’t have to spend a huge sum for each upgrade. As a matter of fact, you can hone the mechanical performance of the plant through the alteration of the operational or maintenance procedures.

Lighting

Typically, building-performance experts consider lighting as the main source of energy consumption. For energy saving, you can opt for fluorescent bulbs, fixtures, LED tube lights, and skylights, just to name a few. However, you don’t have to replace all of your lighting systems in order to save energy.

Utilities

You may not want to overlook utilities as far as saving energy is concerned. What you need to do is review your usage plans and then get in touch with the service provider to find out if they can provide alternative procurement or other option that can help you save money.

Actually, some utilities offer attractive incentives for the installation of energy-saving improvements. It’s also a good idea to contact the competitors. You can also negotiate with them to get the best deal.

Employees

For energy efficiency, employee behavior also matters. You may want to let your employees know your goals and progress. Don’t forget to appreciate them for playing a role in the achievement of your goals. You will see that they have great insights. As a matter of fact, studies show that upgrades for energy efficiency help workers become more productive.

Long story short, when you are planning an energy-saving program, you may want to look for opportunities that can help you reduce cost. Next, as the operating costs come down, you can invest in an energy saving infrastructure like a solar energy system. Hopefully, the tips given above will help you save on energy costs.

Common Causes That Lead To Transformer Failure

A Transformer is the heart of power distribution system as its main function is to deliver the power without changing the voltage frequency. No doubt, it is available in different classifications and has the ability to bear the high voltage load, but they also have some operating limits and going beyond them may cause their failure. The damage not only limited to the device itself, but also to the overall system, application or man working over the device. In an order to limit these losses, you first have to understand their main causes. So, let’s get to know about them first.

Common Causes Of Transformer Failures Are As Follow:

Overloading: One of the main reasons behind the transformer failure is overloading problem. Each and every unit has a nameplate that displays the load it has the ability to bear and when any of your application exceeds that load, so, it may lead the device to failure due to overloading. In an order to give your device protection from the same, you have to operate it below the nameplate volt-rating or buy the device that has the capacity to bear the load of your application.
Oil Contamination: Contamination in oil can be the major reason behind the transformer failure as it results in sludging and humidity in the oil that further leads to the problem. Therefore, it is important to filter the oil after a while to ensure the smooth and long-lasting performance of the device.
Line Surge: Voltage Spikes, Line Surges, Line Faults are some of the common reasons that can cause the transformer failure. Therefore, it is important to pay proper attention to the surge protection as it helps to avoid such problem in no time.
Winding Failures: This can also be the reason behind the transformer failure and it basically occurs because of the turn-turn, open winding phase-phase or phase-ground fault. In an order to prevent the condition of the short circuit or winding failure, it is important to ensure all the windings or cores are properly connected to each other.

These are a few reasons that can cause the transformer failure and their easy solution to prevent the condition. So, keep them in your mind while installation, operating or maintaining the device for the very next time as your safety is in your own hands and compromising with it is like dicing with death, which nobody wants.

3 Keys to a Successful Preventive Maintenance Program

Preventive maintenance planning and practices influence most major maintenance department activities in a manufacturing environment. Here are some examples of this.

Equipment downtime is largely affected by preventive maintenance or the lack there of.
Repair work orders are subjected to the influences of the preventive maintenance program.
Purchasing and inventory are affected by preventive maintenance for routine replacement of expendable spares as well as repair parts required for unexpected downtime.

As evidenced by the points above, preventive maintenance should be “first base” for any maintenance department. Unfortunately sometimes routine preventive maintenance activities often do not get the attention or credit they are due. This is a mistake. So what are the keys to a successful preventive maintenance program?

1. Careful Planning of the Preventive Maintenance Program

Planning a preventive maintenance program involves the following:

Determine tasks and intervals needed to maintain the equipment.
Ensure that the appropriate resources are in place.
Schedule maintenance personnel for maximum preventive maintenance wrench time.
Understand how scheduled equipment downtime and maintenance personnel scheduling interface.
Manage spares effectively.
Select a scheduling and accountability system (preventive maintenance software, CMMS software or equivalent)

Determine Maintenance Tasks and Intervals

A good preventive maintenance (PM) task list contains the following components:

The equipment item.
The task(s).
The person the task is assigned to.
A task interval.
A start date and due date.
Optional: Detailed instructions and pictures if needed.
Optional: Task completion sequence.

Begin with your equipment list. Next gather appropriate tasks for preventive maintenance task lists from OEM manuals or online manuals when possible. This is a good place to start, especially with newer equipment. In some cases, the equipment warranty is dependent upon following the OEM recommendations. Another source of tasks is the maintenance manager’s experience and intuition. Yet another source is branch locations running similar equipment.

When developing a task list, consider the reusability of the task descriptions. Reusability refers to using the same task description on potentially multiple equipment items. The benefit is that there are fewer tasks, no duplicate task descriptions and better reporting and analysis of PMs. Consider these examples:

REUSABLE task description: Lubricate Roller Chain(s)

NOT REUSABLE: Lubricate Roller Chain(s) on Conveyor #1

In the first example this task, Lubricate Roller Chain(s), is appropriate for any equipment with a roller chain. In the second example, Lubricate Roller Chain on Conveyor #1, is only appropriate on the Conveyor #1 PM task list. Imagine how cumbersome your preventive maintenance software management efforts become if you are not using reusable tasks. Another example that may cause problems later is naming conventions such as 30 Day PMs or Weekly Tasks. This creates unneeded redundancy, as the interval (30 in this case) is included in the PM record already. Additionally there is no task description here that refers to the actual work performed.

How do you create reusable tasks? Begin with the most generic tasks you can think of and create these first. Examples could be Inspect, Clean, Lubricate, etc. After these task descriptions have been created, go to the next step and create tasks that are somewhat more specific. Here are some examples: Check Wiring, Replace Lubricant, Lube Chains. Continue with increasingly more specific tasks always trying to avoid including the equipment or equipment component in the task description. Eventually, for specialized tasks that are only performed on specific equipment, it may become necessary to include a component of the equipment in the task description. Keep the task description short and focused on the actual task. Obviously if the task description is short, it may not fully describe the job. This is where detailed instructions and pictures are used.

Next, determine what interval units are needed for your PM system. Calendar-based PMs usually will use a day interval. For example every 7 days Lubricate Roller Chain(s). Other tasks may be demand based or based upon the actual runtime of the equipment. In some cases, hours or minutes may be appropriate. As you gain experience with this set of PM tasks and intervals changes to the tasks and intervals may be warranted. Consequently choose a system that makes editing existing PMs simple and without historical data loss.

Ensure that Adequate Resources are in Place

Listed below are resources you need for a successful preventive maintenance program:

Trained and available personnel.
Adequate spares, expendables, lubricants, drive chain, bearings, etc.
Time in the production or equipment runtime schedule to perform PMs.
A motivated team of maintenance professionals.

Personnel must be trained and capable of safely performing the required work. Vigorously enforce proper lockout/tagout procedures. Stock on hand for expendables and other spares used for PMs has to be adequate. Inadequate spares not only prevents completion of the PMs, but also hurts motivation when personnel attempting to perform their job are hindered by a lack of spares. As such, the purchasing department has to have an ordering system that stays ahead of preventive maintenance spares requirements. Additionally an accountability system (CMMS) helps track spares use for restocking purposes. In summary, show your maintenance technicians how important you believe preventive maintenance is by providing the materials and training needed for these important tasks.

Time is a resource. Time must be available so that personnel can perform their work. This may require scheduling changes so that maintenance personnel are available during scheduled equipment downtime. Given the right resources, your maintenance team cannot help but be motivated to succeed with equipment maintenance.

Use a Maintenance Software Solution to Track and Manage Maintenance

Now that the tasks, intervals, personnel, training and scheduling are established it is time to load the data into a preventive maintenance software system. With so many CMMS choices, it is important to do your research carefully. Approximately fifty CMMS companies go out of business annually and fifty more replace these. Choose a well-established long-term CMMS company that has a proven record of accomplishment. Ask the following questions when choosing a CMMS:

How long has the CMMS company been in business?
How flexible is the preventive maintenance system?
Are there different task list formats available?
Is it possible to automate task list issuance?
Do technicians have the ability to close their own PMs while maintaining the integrity of the data?
Is it possible to close PMs without leaving the plant floor?
How easy (or hard) is it to adjust preventive maintenance task schedules?
Are labor and parts costs easily summarized and reported?
Is there an objective way to know how to optimize task lists or task intervals based upon downtime or reliability data?

When evaluating a CMMS it is best to run a demonstration copy of the proposed system with your own sample equipment and tasks. Use the system for at least 30 days. Issue preventive maintenance task lists to your personnel. Get their buy-in by demonstrating the usefulness of the system. Prove to yourself and your maintenance technicians that using the software makes both of your jobs easier. Most importantly confirm that this system has the potential to improve equipment availability and reliability.

Consider support and training as part of the initial investment. CMMS software training is well worth the investment as it brings the maintenance department up to speed quickly with the CMMS and instills confidence in its use. This leads to better compliance in entering and updating data.

Price is important, however the real cost benefit of CMMS comes not from the initial investment in CMMS but in the ongoing use and benefits derived from that use. Some CMMS software solutions are subscription-based. Others are a one-time investment with a perpetual license. While there are several factors to consider in CMMS selection, initial investment (price) should be a low priority when the budget allows. Ask yourself this question: “Do you want to trust millions of dollars in equipment assets to a cheap CMMS?”

2. Implement Your New Preventive Maintenance Program

Now it is time to start reaping the benefits of your new preventive maintenance program. Here are a few questions to consider when implementing your new PM program:

Should tasks lists be printed, emailed or simply viewed through a tablet or smart-phone?
How are tasks closed and what data should be included?
Who should close the preventive maintenance tasks as they are completed?
What will you use the system when maintenance personnel are absent?
Should spare parts lists be included on the task list?
If spares are included on the task list, should stock levels automatically draw down when the PM is completed?

The answers to these question come down to company policy, industry requirements, regulations and personal preference.

3. Assess and Adjust Your Equipment Maintenance Program

Constantly assessing your preventive maintenance program is an integral part of managing this system effectively. Equipment runtime schedules change, equipment demand changes, personnel change, maintenance technologies and procedures change. Your primary assessment tool is equipment maintenance data. The longer you use your CMMS system the more data it accumulates. Assuming that you chose a CMMS that provides extensive analysis and reporting, this data is now a valuable decision-making store. Use this data for OEE (overall equipment effectiveness) and reliability analysis. Choose a CMMS that uses MTBF (mean time between failures) to suggest preventive maintenance task intervals. Using real runtime data to set PM task intervals eliminates guesswork.

Being a proactive maintenance manager you should be adjusting to these changes as needed. Here are some things to look out for and some ideas on how to react. Keep in mind that sometimes there is no substitute for an experienced maintenance manager’s intuition.

Equipment Runtime Schedule Changes

In some situations, preventive maintenance can only be performed while equipment is in a scheduled shut down period. This creates a problem for maintenance scheduling. Here are some ways to manage this situation.

Non-maintenance machine operators can complete some simple maintenance procedures such as minor lubrication tasks.
Double-team certain equipment when it is down.
Adjust maintenance schedules.
Use automated maintenance devices, such as lubricators.
Implement preventive maintenance procedures during unscheduled downtime.

Equipment Demand Changes

Equipment demand relates to more than just runtime schedule changes. Demand reflects the actual time equipment is running and how much work it performs during the scheduled period. Obviously triggering PMs based upon calendar days would not be appropriate in these cases. It is best to trigger PMs in this case based upon runtime hours, cycles, cuts or whatever the appropriate meter unit is for that equipment. Consequently this equipment should have a counting device or be connected to the system that automatically triggers preventive maintenance work orders through an OPC compliant data connection.

Select a CMMS software solution that reads OPC data directly from the equipment then automatically responds with a preventive maintenance work order at exactly the right moment.

Personnel Changes

The best way to overcome this inevitable change is to have detailed listings of preventive maintenance tasks, intervals, spares requirements and history. Make sure this information is available to pass on to the new person. The more organized your system is the easier is to move seamlessly through this change. Once again, a good preventive maintenance software solution addresses this need.

Additionally, ongoing training and cross training in various maintenance processes can offset personnel change issues.

Changes in Maintenance Technologies and Procedures

An example of this type of change could be a new sensor that provides critical maintenance data to an OPC server. This data in turn indicates the correct PM interval. Another example could simply be running the equipment only when needed. This action saves energy resources and may reduce wear and tear on the equipment.

Software is constantly improving. Desired options with preventive maintenance software solutions are as follows:

Is there a role-based permission capability that allows the maintenance technicians to close their own PMs?
Is there a mechanism to validate PMs closed by technicians?
Does the ability to temporarily assign tasks to an alternate maintenance technician exist?
Is it possible to gather runtime data through an OPC compliant data network and issue work orders automatically.

Summary

Preventive maintenance is the one of the primary responsibilities of the maintenance manager in a manufacturing environment. Many maintenance department activities are affected by, and rely on a successful preventive maintenance program. More importantly, success of the manufacturing facility as a whole is directly proportional to the quality of the design, implementation and management of the preventive maintenance system.

Top Tips to Choose the Best Connectors

From smart phones to sophisticated machineries that manufacture them, you can find an electrical connector in many forms. If you are an electrical industrialist or purchase engineer, it is essential to have some key factors in mind before making your final choice.

Here are a few essential aspects to check while choosing a connector:

Power

Power of the connector is a determining factor. The market offers a wide range of connectors with different power-ratings. Identify your requirement and choose the one that meets the purpose.

A low power variant may not give you the expected efficiency and on the other hand, a high power connector can even damage the entire system.

Density

The density of a connector is yet another influential factor in the present day. The higher the connector density, the more compact your machine design will be. This is especially important in case of complex machineries. In order to keep it solid at the same time give exceptional performances, it is essential to choose a high-density connector.

Temperature Resistance

Another important feature that adds to the quality of a connector is its capacity to withstand high temperatures. Most of these connectors are used in intricate machineries and they undergo immense heat exposure during their functioning. High-end connectors are often passed through multiple levels of testing to ensure its temperature resistance.

Speed

The transmission speeds of connectors are quite significant for their overall performance. Many of the latest connectors ensure to meet high transmission speeds. ExaMAX High Speed Backplane Connectors are one of the best you can get in the market these days.

Mating Features

The mating features of any connector play an important role in determining its performance, quality and durability. Before you choose your connector, ensure that you scout through specifications to analyze its mating features. The angle of mating, the number of mating cycles, etc. will be clearly mentioned in the specifications, which help to find the one matching your requirements. Mating cycles are especially important for connectors that are mated and unmated frequently. For a USB connector the mating cycles will be in thousands where as for a board to board connector will have a lesser mating cycle.

The easiest way to decide on a connector is often to choose the best brands. The connectors manufactured by prominent brands will have all major certifications, which makes it trustworthy. In that case, you will not have to compromise in terms of quality and safety.

The Decline & Rebirth of American Manufacturing

With manufacturing jobs moving overseas, the loss of industry has cost many Americans their livelihood and resulted in a sharp economic decline. The effects of that decline have been felt in recent times as American manufacturing has once again come into the lime light as Americans have begun to ask, “Where has American-made gone?”

From 1998 to 2013, America lost 5.7 million factory and manufacturing jobs to overseas facilities and the outsourcing of materials, products, and goods needed for the manufacturing industry.

Many supporters for keeping manufacturing overseas have stated that bringing the manufacturing jobs and process back to America would be a waste of time since robots and automation have replaced many of the jobs that were lost in the 1990’s.

Their argument is valid and they do bring up a good point of how much the manufacturing industry has changed due to technology, but there are still positive aspects to bringing manufacturing companies back to America.

In recent years, people have demanded more and more for products and goods made in America in an attempt to bring the manufacturing companies back to American soil. These demands are slowly being answered as more and more manufacturing companies are finding ways to bring their manufacturing processes back to the United States while still minimizing additional business costs.

The companies that have already taken the plunge have shown that just because they are moving back to American soil doesn’t mean they have to have additional costs and raise their prices.

Even those companies that have revolved around automation like Tesla have found a new way to create American jobs. They are doing this by coming back to American soil, opening up new manufacturing plants, and creating new jobs within the manufacturing industry. Automation and robots can only do so much and with the rise in technology there is a new need for operators and people who know how to perform maintenance on these instruments.

As a direct result of the few companies who have already taken the plunge and come back to American soil, there has been a rise in the American economy. Manufacturing jobs still make up a good portion of the job industry in America. About 8.8 percent of total employment is made up of American manufacturing jobs and more are headed this way.

Companies like Tesla are working to bring back their manufacturing jobs to hard working Americans. Tesla has already invested five billion dollars into its Gigafactory. Not only has the factory resulted in an influx of money being spent right here in America, but it is projected to offer ten thousand jobs when it is finished.

The Gigafactory will be responsible for manufacturing lithium ion batteries. This is a plant where a lot of the production is automated and yet the decision to move their manufacturing plant back to their home soil has resulted in an increase in jobs.

The estimation of ten thousand jobs does not even account for the additional jobs that were created in the process. By building a new plant facility, that means more jobs for contractors, builders, and construction workers. Outside of the plant, distributions centers here in America will be employed to move the finished products to buyers. The trickle down effect of this one company had undoubtedly had a positive effect on the American economy.

Other companies have already made the move back to American soil. In 1991, the family owned company, Bicycle Corporation of America moved the production of its bikes fully off shore. This cost many people their jobs and while it saved production value within the company, it had a negative impact on the local economy.

Two years ago that same company decided to bring back a small portion of their production process back to America. The Bicycle Corporation of America moved from China to South Carolina and employed one hundred and fifteen people in their facility. This year they are projected to produce three hundred thousand bicycles in South Carolina, which is the same as they made back in 1991.

The Bicycle Corporation of America does operate at a third fewer employees than it used to, but that didn’t mean that their decision to move back to America was wasted since their product gained value as a made-in-America product.

They are bringing in more revenue into South Carolina and have continued to flourish and keep up with the low cost benefits that came with moving their productions off shore.

When it comes to American manufacturing, the argument that bringing home companies won’t result in a boom in jobs like we saw in the 1990s due to automation and robots is true. However, it does make a difference and it does bring home an increase in overall economic stability and increased socioeconomic growth, even if it is not the same swell we saw during the 90s.

We might not ever return the era of manufacturing we saw before off shoring became the standard, but we can see a new era, one that comes with new kinds of jobs. These jobs will also allow us to be an industry leader with the advancing technology used in the manufacturing industry.

We don’t need to avoid the subject of American manufacturing. Nor do we need to have unrealistic expectations of what it could mean for bringing manufacturing back to the United States, but we can look to the future and embrace the change and find a new way to have our products made in America.