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Predictive maintenance technology saves time and money

Dec. 15, 2002
In this installment of What Works, DaimlerChrysler applies predictive maintenance to its new machinery at a new facility.

In recent years, many companies have come to rely on predictive maintenance (PdM) as a means of improving maintenance efficiency and minimizing downtime. DaimlerChrysler took that approach one step further by applying it to its new machinery at a new facility, saving the company $112,000.

"During the launch period of this new plant, we requested evaluations via vibration analysis and IR analysis as one of our criteria before we signed off on the equipment and took ownership," says Terry Kulczak, maintenance advisor for DaimlerChrysler's Toledo North assembly plant, "We had already settled on the DLI Engineering system for this task because we had good success with it at our Durango plant in Newark, Del."

For the Toledo North plant, Kulczak's team used the Bremerton, Wash.-based DLI Engineering's PdM system to evaluate more than 600 pieces of equipment, ranging from regenerative thermal oxidizer motors to water pumps, cooling fans and gearboxes. The system identified 106 pieces of equipment needing adjustment or new parts. Kulczak estimated that the maintenance costs to repair these defects would range from a minimum of $31,000 to a maximum of $112,000, not including production downtime losses.

Instead, the flawed pieces of equipment were replaced,under warranty. "Using the DLI Engineering software, we found some machines weren't up to spec. Some had bad bearings, alignment problems and improperly sized shims, which led to excessive vibration. These had to be changed out, and it was done under warranty. For us, PdM software proved to be a very useful tool," says Kulczak.

DaimlerChrysler used predictive maintenance to evaluate more than 600 new pieces of equipment at its new Toledo North plant.

The DLI Engineering PdM system used by DaimlerChrysler represents a new generation of maintenance tool and is a far cry from the run-to-fail maintenance schedules plant engineers used previously. Dean Lofall, product development manager for DLI Engineering, recalls, "When we started out doing machine condition analysis for the U.S. Navy in 1966, vibration work was manual. You'd have a group of engineers go on the ship for 10 days and gather the measurements via analog instrumentation tap recordings. The technicians would play recordings through a processor to produce a five-foot high stack of graphics. For the next three weeks, the engineers would go through the data, manually categorizing the machinery and making specific repair recommendations."

Technology has made gigantic advances since then. New field instrumentation measures torsional vibration, torque and horsepower, motor current, structural vibration, shaft alignment and acoustics with ever-increasing accuracy and fidelity. Equally important, a focus on portability has placed condition monitoring into the hands of production floor personnel. "With today's versatile and portable data collection systems, we're basically doing EKGs on machines," explains Lofall. "Just like when you go to the doctor, an EKG will detect problems early. Similarly, machines give off precursors, or early indicators, of future problems. Detecting incipient faults, whether on the production floor or at a distant location, is what these tools are about."

In addition to data collection and analysis, a PdM system provides easy access to information. "Connectivity is a big part of making PdM pay for itself," says Lofall. "It doesn't do any good to have the information unless it gets to the right people."

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