PLANT operators are often under pressure to keep production running at the expense of routine and necessary maintenance.
That’s according to Eben Pretorius, HOD of the SEW-Eurodrive’s Service division, who said their focus is on making money in the immediate term rather than investing in a maintenance programme to ensure better long-term performance and equipment reliability.
“Busy people onsite don’t always understand the real value of regular maintenance, so they often take unnecessary risks.”
He said it was to help counter this attitude that the company offers a range of services to help users to take better care of their industrial gearboxes (IGs), gear motors, as well as controllers and variable speed drives (VSDs).
The starting point of this offering is Field services and Site assistance, which provides breakdown and problem solving support for users of SEW-Eurodrive equipment.
“For mechanical drive trains, this service includes oil sampling and analysis, vibration and thermal inspections, laser alignment, as well as internal and external inspections along with onsite strip and repair work.”
Pretorius said customers often start to experience minor issues such as oil leaks with their equipment a few years after installation due to lack of maintenance. This is an ideal time to do a site survey of the drive equipment in use.
During an onsite walk-through of operating equipment, for example, company service specialists will typically take oil samples from the gearboxes, do vibration analysis to determine the condition of the bearings and whether the gears are meshing properly.
“We may open some of the inspection covers and inspect the gears for wear, and if there are alignment issue, we can re-align the drive train, which is necessary to ensure that bearings and seals do not fail prematurely,” he said.
After looking at the equipment onsite, a report is produced summarising the condition of the equipment and the remedial action necessary to improve reliability. The problems identified are clearly explained and maintenance procedures suggested.
“We highlight where urgent action is required and also point out less critical issues that can be dealt with during the next scheduled shutdown.”
He said that by adopting the recommendations, equipment performance and reliability will improve, unscheduled breakdowns can be avoided and the life of the installed equipment can be extended.
For ongoing support, SEW-Eurodrive offers plant operators Service Level Agreements (SLAs). The information from an onsite survey is used to identify units that most need proactive services and how often equipment condition and maintenance requirements need to be looked at.
“Typically, we suggest a visual inspection every three months and a more comprehensive equipment survey every six months.”
He said that while no one can guarantee a machine won’t fail, SLAs and using SEW Eurodrive’s DriveRadar condition monitoring can help predict when a failure is likely to happen on a unit, and which of the units are in good condition and unlikely to fail.
“From vibration analysis, we can pick up if a bearing is worn and about to fail, and from oil analysis, we can see if the lubricant is contaminated. By responding quicky to such issues, unexpected and more serious failures can almost always be avoided.”
“DriveRadar is a connected solution for data-based predictive maintenance that automatically collects data from field equipment and uses it to track tends, monitor equipment condition and predict potential failures. It prevents unforeseen failures in operation, detects and tracks wear rates and minimises downtime.”
In terms of response times when an emergency arises, Pretorius said they can react very quickly.
On field service work, if a client needs a service technician at 8pm and we have an SLA or an Field Services order, we can send someone immediately. If a replacement gearbox unit is required, we are often able to build that unit overnight.
“We once had a call from a customer on a Saturday, we built the required replacement in Johannesburg in three hours on a Saturday afternoon. Our field technicians picked the replacement up at 5pm on Saturday and drove for two hours to the site. The plant was back up and running by 4am on Sunday.”