Maybe it’s because I’m a Yorkshireman

By Wayne Hunter, operations manager at Emmegi (UK).

It might be because I’m from Yorkshire, but if I spend money on something I want it to last, so I make sure I look after it.

I don’t see that being any different at home or in an industrial or workplace setting, and that probably explains my mission to encourage our customers to look after their machines as well as they possibly can.

Every machinery manual – whether it comes from Emmegi or any other manufacturer – will include comprehensive routine maintenance guides. Most of these are basic procedures around cleaning and lubrication, and come with simple instructions. If they are carried out in line with the schedules we set, they can make a significant difference to the performance and longevity of the machine, eliminating avoidable service calls and adding years to the useful life.

In my experience, when a machine is first installed, the trained operator will stick pretty rigidly to the schedules and all is well. But problems are more likely to occur over time when factories get busy – as they are now – or when a new operator takes over and they don’t study the manual properly, which in a manufacturing environment isn’t safe practice.

Poor maintenance and cleaning can have a direct impact on the safety of the operator if they can’t see clearly through a safety door and miss alarms and emergency stop lights, and that is something which no employer can afford to overlook.

From a commercial perspective, poor maintenance can prove extremely costly. When our engineers are called out to repairs and even for routine servicing, they see all kinds of failings which are entirely avoidable. For instance: bearing failure and damage to racks directly attributable to lack of greasing; broken pneumatic pipes and electrical cables caused by protective energy chains being allowed to become full of swarf which rubs against them; and valve failure when condensation isn’t drained from the water traps and water travels through the pneumatic system and damages the valves themselves.

We also see angled machining heads which are overheating because they haven’t been greased properly, limit switches which don’t work because there is a build-up of swarf around the switch so it doesn’t make contact with the striker, and swarf on the machine beds which can damage the material itself.

In automatic machining centres, scrap conveyors are much more likely to fail and stop, or limit the operation of the machine, if they aren’t maintained or cleaned properly. If scrap collecting bins aren’t being emptied or offcuts being cleaned away, then collisions can occur with moving parts, and there is always a risk of overheating if cooling fans and filters are not being cleaned.

Obviously, there are safety constraints around any kind of machine servicing and maintenance, and Emmegi guidelines clearly state that access should only be made when the machines have been isolated from the pneumatic and electrical supplies. Covers that protect the operators from moving parts are interlocked or secured with fixtures that require specific keys or tools to gain access and use of these should always be limited to authorised persons only.

At Emmegi (UK), we provide all kinds of training depending on the scale and complexity of the machine we supply, but that training will always begin and end with an emphasis on safety. We cover cleaning intervals, cleaning agents and recommendations on using brushes and vacuum cleaners rather than air guns because these can blow swarf into the machine and get into controls such as contactors, energy chains and switches.

We leave behind the manual to ensure that the customer always has a standard point of reference to go back to and a clear reminder of our recommended schedules. Adhering strictly to these will always save time and money in the long run.