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How to Maintain System Uptime, In a Down Economy

Bastian Solutions | 02 April 2009

I was reading Bob Trebilcock's blog article, Materials handling: What Modern’s readers say about conveyors the other day and something he mentioned really hit me as a truth.  Near the end of the article he makes a point that in a down economy, businesses start to maintain their conveyors instead of replacing them.  As the economy starts to squeeze the wallet, new conveyor sales start to fall but spare parts sales, according to Bob, could potentially increase 25% this year.  Bob was really focusing on just conveyors in this article, but really this idea of extending the life of conveyor can apply to the overall material handling system. At all the distribution centers that I have ever been to, the total process of moving goods through the system relies on several areas to remain functional.  Conveyor is an absolute must to keep functioning but so are forklifts, hand trucks, carousels, barcode scanners, tapers, and the list can go on forever.  In today's economy and speed in which business is ran, downtime can really hit the bottom line hard.  It can hit even harder if a business has had to reduce the labor force because of a lack of sales. To get a better idea of how to keep a system running, I approached a few of the Bastian Material Handling Field Sales Engineers to ask what maintenance steps they thought were important to do to add life to your system.  Here's what they had to say. Did you read the Product Manual?  Often, customers buy conveyors or lift tables, get them installed, and hit the start button.  They only time they refer to the product manual, is when that product is down.  Those manuals contain great information about what areas of the product that need the most attention to keep it properly running. You wouldn't drive your car for 20,000 miles without an oil change, right?  Products like conveyors, lift tables, forklifts, and even casters need to be properly lubricated periodically.  Just like a car engine, oil or grease is the life blood of these products.  Oil is meant to not only lubricate but to clean surfaces where friction occurs.  If your oil or grease is gritty or just plan worn out, friction can cause hot spots and sooner or later a failure will occur.  Some common types of material handling equipment that require oil or grease would be; forklifts, scissor lifts, conveyor transfer cases, high speed sorters, conveyor drive gears and chains, air compressor pumps, or caster bearings. Replace, Don't Ignore If you ask yourself what that funny noise is coming from the gear box… investigate!  Don't put off checking items that seem to be causing issues.  Investigate the cause and if it’s a bad or worn part, replace it.  A part with noticeable wear is waiting for the perfect time to shut the system down and according to Murphy’s Law, that will be at the least opportune moment. Don't Buy Cheap!  Sounds just like a salesman right?  With all kidding aside, cheap or used parts can work for a while.  But overtime, replacing those bargain parts will cost you more in the long run in labor costs and down time.  Your best bet is to buy new or refurbished manufacturer parts.  If you are looking for parts for your conveyor or other material handling equipment, Bastian offers a Spare Parts Store or you can Contact Us and we can help you get exactly what you need. Stock the Good Stuff Sometimes, replacement parts can be expensive, but they are necessary.  Things like drive motors on conveyors can cost hundreds of dollars and if they are a specific type, and can take a week to get.  Sure, almost anything can be shipped overnight, but talk about inflated costs.  If one of these parts goes down, the whole system is down.  The best practice is to keep a few of the high-end parts in stock just in case. These are just a few things to keep in mind when trying to maintain a system.  Your best bet is to read your product manuals, keep on eye on your planned maintenance, buy good manufacturer parts, and keep a few of the high ticket items on the shelves at all times.  By doing this, you just might keep that material handling system of your running a little longer.

Author: Bastian Solutions


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