Blog

May 12, 2021

6 Ways Machine Maintenance Helps the Environment

By Stan Riddle

Environmental technology concept. Sustainable development goals. SDGs.

The idea of maintaining machinery and maintaining the environment may sound like science fiction, or like apples and oranges. However maintaining equipment can have a direct, positive, measurable, and meaningful effect on the planet, the plant, and the people who own and work on them, if executed properly.  How?

Machinery that is designed properly, and installed and maintained with precision WILL:

  • Minimize the risk of environmental damage – Simply stated, efficient machines not only require less energy, but reduce the risk of toxic materials being spilled into groundwater, burned into the atmosphere, or placed into landfills.  Leaks, blown seals, excessive lubrication, and more, are not only inefficient, but have a negative effect on our environment.
  • Reduce production costs – Reduced downtime, reduced power consumption, waste, scrap, rework-all of these are benefits of machines that are efficiently operated, and precisely maintained.
  • Require less man-hours to maintain – While it may take a little more time to design and install equipment with precision, that time will be more than offset by less maintenance.  This can free up maintenance people to focus more on precision maintenance tasks, such as inspections, lubrication, and other tasks to make equipment run efficiently, and last longer.  It is not an excuse to reduce maintenance staffing, but a better way to utilize the talents and skills of people.
  • Reduce health and safety risks to maintenance people – improving and increasing the life of machinery means a longer time between heavy-maintenance tasks such as rebuilds and large-scale repairs.  It is much easier and safer for the technician to check, calibrate, and perform preventive maintenance than it is to perform heavy maintenance tasks.
  • Use less energy –  It is basic physics that a machine that is designed to work efficiently will use less energy.  Energy that is wasted, either due to inefficiency, waste, misalignment, excessive vibration, or improper lubrication will generate wasted energy in the form of heat and vibration.  This heat and vibration is not being used to make things or provide materials and services – it is just wasted.
  • Last longer – Machine components that last longer mean bearings, seals, and other spare parts don’t end up in landfills.  Making a machine last 20 years, as opposed to 5 years, means less equipment being replaced, and less spare parts usage and storage.

How do we get there?  Invest in gathering information, and acting upon it.  One way is to identify and form a core team to look into:

  • What does it really cost to run your facility?  Power, downtime, frequent repairs, spare parts usage (and for which machines), etc.  You can not effectively reduce wasted time and materials until you identify what your costs are today.
  • Identify the machines that “give you the most trouble”.  Start small.  Identifying and fixing a core group of problem machines can help you make a difference in cost, build a sense of confidence, and make measurable gains in efficiency and productivity.  Once these machines are in better condition, you can move on to another group.
  • Maintenance training needs.  Not just training for the sake of fulfilling training hours, but identifying the real needs.  Do they know and understand precision maintenance practices, or were they just taught on the job by someone else who might have done it incorrectly?  
  • Perform real root cause failure analysis.  Just knowing a machine is a problem is not enough.  Investigating “why” a machine is a problem, and making improvements, is always worth the time.
  • Invest in equipment to perform precision maintenance and reliability.  The more you know about what’s going on inside the machine, and having a way to find and fix problems while they are small, is often the difference in a minor repair or a major overhaul.  Vibration analysis, laser alignment, oil analysis, infrared thermography, ultrasonic leak testing, motor current analysis – all of these technologies can make a huge difference in the quality, efficiency, and lifespan of equipment.
  • Switching to synthetic lubricants and performing oil filtration.  Increasing the effective lifespan of lubricants means less waste.

Investing a little time and money to improve the quality, efficiency, and lifespan of your equipment is better for the bottom line, your products, your workers, and your world.