Reliability Training for New Technologies

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Reliability Training for New Technologies

Three technical upgrades for laundries, value of educating employees

CLAREMORE, Okla. — Most of you are probably familiar with the adage about training your teams on new skills … if you train them, you’re afraid they’ll leave, and if you don’t train them, you’re afraid they’ll stay!

Training employees in newer, better methods, skills and abilities, along with introducing new technologies, is a critical part of assuring continued improvement in your business.  

A picture going around social media recently is of a 1960s-era wash alley. Manual material handling was a back-breaking part of how this work got done.  

New systems with slings and conveyors, a higher level of automation in the alley as well as in processing pieces, and new technologies truly enhanced the productivity and safety of operations and helped protect and grow profitability.

In this column, I want to focus on the introduction of technologies available that will have an immediate effect on the reliability and condition monitoring of your equipment. 

The introduction of each of these will require some training of the users in your reliability and maintenance departments.  

Just a few new technologies can be listed here—there are many more as the evolution and development continues.

Infrared Technology: The use of infrared thermography has been on the scene at an affordable price for nearly 20 years now. The price continues to drop while the technology continues to improve.  

This tool can help you:

  • Spot issues long before they shut you down.
  • Locate leaks in water and steam lines.
  • Track the condition of bearings and motors so they can be proactively replaced on your schedule, not on the schedule the machine decides upon.
  • Manage the condition of your facility (HVAC, roof, insulation condition, etc.).

Training your employees is critical to getting the most out of this tool and technology. Not just anyone can provide the analysis of the pictures, so investing in a Level 1 certification course for one or two of your employees will pay back quickly.

Ultrasonics: This technology is inexpensive to implement at its most basic level but can pay back in less than a day. 

We know that the air compressor is one of the most expensive machines to operate in our plants, and air leaks in the plant and equipment put undue stress and strain on the compressor. Monitoring the air system using a whisper-detection system (about $300) can protect your compressor and enhance your profitability.    

Recently, a unit has been introduced that blends infrared with ultrasonics, giving you an even greater ability to spot leaks in the system, even calculating the cost of the loss so you can prioritize the work to attack the worst leaks first.

But again, training your team in the use of this technology is critical and should be a part of your purchase agreement for the unit.  

The current cost of these units is in the $15,000-20,000 range, so they’re not cheap. But in time, technology will improve, competition will be developed and it’ll come down in price.

Vibration Analysis:  Bearings, motors, pumps and other equipment are notorious for failing when you least expect. Each piece of rotating equipment can easily have its condition monitored using vibration sensing devices.  

The tracking of vibration trends in this equipment will give you early warning of imminent failure, allowing you to schedule the necessary downtime for repairs.

There are many vibration sensing systems on the market presently. The consolidation of several of the players will continue to happen as the technology improves and the price comes down, but implementing an initial basic system for your plant is not only reasonable in cost, but when managed properly it will help you extend your equipment life and maximize up-time.  

One of my favorite systems uses sensors that are magnetically mounted, so they can easily be moved from one piece of equipment to another in case you want to minimize your investment in sensing devices.  

But once you develop your system, set up your tracking, and see the advantages, you’ll want to keep them in place.

Oh, and did I mention training? Training your team and getting your system set up for maximum effectiveness should be a part of your purchase agreement for the system.

The Bottom Line: Don’t be afraid of training and don’t hesitate to try new technologies such as these three mentioned. There are many more.  

Don’t shortcut your training, as you’ll find that your employees will truly rise to the occasion when they see the benefits.  

Get your teams out to some trade shows, invite the vendors to your plant and take to the bank the gains your operation will experience!

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Matt Poe at [email protected].