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Explaining EAM and Enhanced Maintenance Plans

Explaining EAM and enhanced maintenance plans

Since people recognize conveyor belts without much explanation, they make excellent models for demonstrating different types of failure modes asset experience.

Conveyor belts have a rich history in manufacturing and process industries, but they also come up a fair bit in pop culture. How many movies, TV shows or cartoons exist where the protagonist, slowly ushered to his or her death by a conveyor belt, must escape the maw of a fiery furnace or a hydraulic press?

Somewhere, an OSHA safety compliance officer just shuddered.

Back to the real world – in an age of mass production and automation, conveyor belts serve virtually every industry. Miners use conveyor belts to move coal from a dig site out into the open air. Conveyor belts carry all sorts of edible goods and bottled drinks through processing in food and beverage manufacturing. Newspapers convey their latest editions onto trucks early every morning. Could the automotive industry even exist as it does today without Henry Ford's assembly lines, powered by conveyor belts? These devices are so common and so unconsciously popular, they’re practically Americana.

Since people recognize conveyor belts without much explanation, they make excellent models for demonstrating different types of failure modes asset experience. Operators, managers and engineers can combat these issues with the help of enterprise asset management solutions, as well as predictive and proactive maintenance programs.

Prematurely worn-out components

Conveyor belts typically see heavy use, regardless of the industry, as they represent one of a few different modes of transportation goods experience during their time in plant. As such, it's not wholly uncommon for conveyor belt components to break to the point of replacement.

Without the proper EAM safety nets in place, a finicky conveyor belt could cause unnecessary downtime. Belt breakage doesn't even need to occur – Mziwethemba Mtshazo, CEO of Dazoforce Mining and Construction, told Mining Weekly "belt slip" not only requires immediate and time-intensive realignment, but it can damage rollers and raw materials too.

"However," Mtshazo stipulates, "it is not as simple as just moving rollers backward and forward – it is about what causes the belt to misalign."

EAM solutions like root cause analysis could unearth the catalyst lying at the heart of the problem, so asset owners and managers know exactly what galvanizes failures instead of simply paying time and time again for spare parts. Additionally, predictive maintenance utilizes thermographic and vibration monitoring technology to capture and analyze nearly unnoticeable changes in performance. If a conveyor begins to show signs of deficiency, operators and supervisors can keep a close eye on trends to schedule planned downtime for needed repairs.

"CMMS allows access to an asset's failure and repair history."

Proactive maintenance takes it one step further – PM-enabled technology like CMMS software draws data from many reputable sources to map out a maintenance schedule that works best for both the asset's manufacturing and the plant’s production requirements. CMMS allows operators and maintenance professionals access to an asset’s failure and repair history, not to mention information gleaned from the OEM.

Production slowed to a halt

Out-and-out downtime isn't the only trouble manifesting itself on the business radar. Small inefficiencies in performance can quietly enervate productivity. For instance, according to, industrial conveyor belts move at a rate of around 5 meters per second. If, say, a conveyor belt used for coal mining slowed to 2 or 3 meters per second, that means significantly fewer resources were mined on a given day.

Again, EAM solutions like root cause analysis would investigate the many possible causes and narrow down the suspects to find the true culprit. Perhaps the weight of the raw coal isn’t being distributed evenly across the belt, pinching the cover against the rollers and forcibly decelerating the whole operation. Maybe the concussive force of a load of coal landing on the belt is damaging components throughout. RCA will get to the bottom of it by employing historical data.

Additionally, predictive and proactive maintenance programs only stand to strengthen RCA by providing operators and repair personnel with the tools to visualize past performance and attain real-time visibility into conveyor belt functionality. By tracking conveyor belts and every other asset or component businesses oversee, these solutions maximize reliability, optimize maintenance decisions and reverse course on inefficiencies as they evolve into full failure events. Experts at ABS Group estimate condition-based maintenance programs could save asset owners 15 to 20 percent or more on costs associated with asset upkeep compared to reactive, fixed-time maintenance.

Acquiring used assets for unique jobs

Like we said, you'd be hard-pressed to find a large-scale business in any industry without conveyor belts, but the same could be said about other assets as well. Manufacturers supplying customers with unique products may onboard assets like conveyor belts that weren't originally commissioned for their operations. While a mining company may be able to shop for assets available to their particular trade, perhaps a small commercial cupcake baker could be forced to use conveyor belts that weren't originally made with cupcakes in mind.

"EAM ensures out-of-the-box thinkers don't break the bank as they develop their patchwork production lines."

As we've learned, improper use of assets could result in some pretty serious problems, but small, unique businesses trying to build up their operations may be looking for creative ways to get the same efficiencies their larger competitors enjoy with used assets. And so long as they meet all their respective safety and quality assurance regulations, who’s to say they shouldn't?

Enterprise asset management ensures these out-of-the-box thinkers don't break the bank as they develop their patchwork production lines. CMMS software provides users with a centralized database of information filled with up-to-the-minute operational information and organized for easy access from a desktop terminal or on the go from a mobile device. Should a batch of extra-chunky double fudge cupcakes weigh down a conveyor belt cover beyond what it can handle, maintenance personnel and supervisory staff can be notified in an instance, thereby encouraging a fast recovery process.

Moreover, by utilizing predictive and proactive maintenance at the inception of a production line, small manufacturers retain reliability and uptime even when they depend on older, seasoned assets. Wisely purchasing lightly used equipment shouldn’t force businesses to be profligate with their tight budgets. Predictive and proactive maintenance protect businesses from extravagant repair costs and repeated downtime events that severely disrupt operations.

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