Finding a need for Post Delivery Engineering

Finding a need for Post Delivery Engineering

I have great respect for the hard-working maintenance people that keep our customers’ plants up and running. Their jobs are not easy. Usually, they are so busy being “firefighters” that they never have a chance to get involved in “fire prevention.”
Something breaks. They fix it. Usually, as my friend Murphy would assure you, it will break at the least convenient time. So, when it does break, the maintenance professional’s job is not to stop and wonder why but just to get the d#@*ed thing fixed. Now.
The good news is that maintenance people have learned to cope. They are quick to diagnose what the immediate problem is and quick to get the right replacement unit in place so that the machinery can be restarted and work can begin again.
The bad news is that they sometimes can lose sight of the fact that something is inherently wrong with the machinery – and that, by using some fundamental root cause analysis thinking – they can cure the illness, not just fix the symptoms.
Over the years, I have observed that when you talk to a plant maintenance team they all can tell you just which items need to be frequently fixed. There are usually few secrets. They all have had similar experience reacting to the repeated, expected crisis on the XYZ machine, the one that needs a new frimitz every two weeks.

Here is where I part company with my maintenance friends. I have the time and take the time to wonder why the same thing keeps breaking.
Usually, when we look into it, we find a need for what I call “post delivery engineering.”
It all has to do with design objectives and economic reality. Some equipment breaks down repeatedly because an important component has been designed to do the job adequately under most circumstances but does not have the inherent strength and stamina to last under real world stress in the plant.
For example, we encountered one pneumatic cylinder on a food processing machine that was suffering from chronic premature failure. When I was conducting a training session at the plant, every member of the four maintenance teams were familiar with the repair and had experience with replacing the unit. All of them viewed this problem as just “the way things are.”
In truth, they had no reason to go looking for more trouble than they had – and found it easy enough to fix it when it broke rather than preventing it, possibly, from breaking.
When our team looked at the situation, we saw that certain engineering flaws, caused by compromises in the original design, created the situation that led to the problem. The OEM designers had mounted a cylinder in such a way that caused it to potentially stress a mounting point. This gave it a shaft that would eventually wear out too soon.
In fact, that was the mode of failure on that component on that machine. We re-engineered the mounting point and changed the non-essential specs of the cylinder.
As a result, failure rate went from frequently to nearly never.
This is but one example. We have accumulated many over our years in the fluid power business.
The examples are not limited to fluid applications by any means. This is a situation that is frequently encountered by MRO specialists, regardless of what areas and technologies they are involved with.
The general situation that causes these recurrent problems lies in the mentality sometimes encountered in original equipment manufacturers. They are challenged to engineer to a price point, not to create the most elegant solution.
I am confident that design engineers know better. Sometime, however, their managers or their organizations just don’t let them do better.
As a result, they build something that is “good enough.” It goes into service and performs as promised.
Sometimes, however, “good enough” isn’t. Maybe the machine is installed a little off kilter. Maybe, the user is attempting to coax too much performance out of it. Maybe, it has been engineered for one shift per day – and it’s running two. Who knows? But the result is a challenge that the MRO pros have to cope with all too frequently.
That’s when the chronic premature failure syndrome sets in. And, when it deals with fluid power, especially, IBT Fluid Power Group can help.
Send us your walking wounded, your nightmares. Let us look at all the chronic problems related to fluid power: the cylinder that fails too often, the pump that overheats and needs a shut down, the valves that don’t quite operate properly. Send us the tough ones.
We’ll be happy to talk with you to see if there is some way that we can help straighten it out for you.
If we can, we would be privileged to provide a quotation for the new approach. If we can’t, there is no charge or obligation.
But, we are confident, based on past experiences, that we can probably help you. Let’s talk soon and find out.
You can reach me at IBT.

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