How to keep your machines running smoothly

By Elumatec’s managing director Neil Parton.

Keeping your production assets in prime operating condition has huge benefits in terms of overall performance and economy. However, there’s a distinct difference between a machine where everything is working and one where everything is working well.

The aim should be smooth running where every component is working at the optimum level. Compare it to a beautifully engineered car, driven by an expert, who’s flowing through the gears with perfect control, applying just the right amount of force to the brakes, accelerating at a rate that doesn’t strain a single part of the whole, yet maintains the best possible output.

We’ve pulled together a few tips to help you apply these principles to the way you use your machines. The good news is that you don’t have to be an expert driver to feel a significant benefit. Some basic maintenance steps can make a huge difference to the productivity of your operation and the lifespan of your machinery.

Sort the swarf. As engineers, we’re taught to keep our workspaces clean and clear for safety and maximum efficiency, but this doesn’t just apply to where we leave our tools. Every little bit of swarf is also a potential problem. And, as the pesky stuff builds up, the likelihood of issues increases. Swarf in the wrong places causes resistance and increases the power required to move components, so ensure it’s always kept under control.

Use coolants. Coolants are perhaps the simplest and most cost-effective way to prolong the life of tooling or cutting blades, yet many machine operators don’t use them well. When operating with a mist spray system, make sure it’s set at the correct level. It’s a quick check that can have a big impact.

Check the oil. It’s such a basic thing yet our engineers are still finding situations where a machine has seized for something as simple as a lack of lubrication. Checks of oil reservoirs should be as much part of the daily routine as brushing your teeth. If it’s neglected the consequences in terms of downtime and spares can be massive.

Look after and replace tooling and blades. You can’t expect quality output when your tools are worn or when blades are blunt. You’ll spend more on rejects, reworks and QC complaints than you would on exchanging the worn tooling. What’s more, the sharper the blade, the less force needed to make the cut, reducing the workload on your saw, router or machining centre. Have spares available and make checking for wear and tear part of your routine.

Be smart with smart software. If you’re using CNC technology, it’s worth checking that performance is optimised. As an example, when using eluCad software, adjusting the feed and speed rates can both extend cutter life and shorten cycle times. There’s a double benefit of reduced operating cost and improved capacity. It’s not a major undertaking either. You can get online assistance from Elumatec’s application engineers to start seeing real improvements.

Don’t neglect servicing. Never think of a machine service as a ‘nice-to-have’. If you want to remain on top of your machine’s overall health and optimise its productivity, servicing is crucial. What’s more, potential problems can be spotted in advance – and sorted – before there’s an unplanned and costly interruption to your workflow. Reducing the likelihood of breakdowns with an annual service contract costs as little as £382 per year.

Seek help. It’s too easy to assume that there has to be a major issue before you try to solve it. But often, it’s the minor enduring issues that have a lasting impact on a business. If there’s a niggle, however small, or if you’re simply curious as to whether your efficiency is sub-optimal, ask an expert. Elumatec’s service and spares department will always be happy to assist.

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