Four Maintenance-Friendly Designs to Consider in New Machines

Financial controllers and maintenance workers live in different worlds. One works to keep the numbers in order, and the other does his best stop leaks. One works in air conditioning, and the other makes sure the air conditioning is running. Despite different aims and environment, the two need not differ when it comes to what equipment to purchase: what typically works best for one works best for other.

Specifically, machines that are well designed and equipped with better-quality parts cost less in the long term and provide fewer maintenance headaches. The result is a win for both departments.

While controllers may not want to spend an extra 25 to 30 percent on a better machine, differences in design can cost tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars in differing energy and maintenance costs over the machine’s life, which either make up for the initial price difference or surpass it.

Maintenance can help controllers identify which designs and parts will end up costing extra during a machine’s life, so it’s vital to confer with them before purchasing new equipment. For an idea of what maintenance personnel might point out, here are four things to look for when considering in new machines—things worth extra up-front cost:

Easy Access for Maintenance

Consider machines with easy access to important components. (If you’re unsure which components are important, ask.) Components that need replaced more often, such as curve wear strips on conveyors, should likewise have easy access. Poor access results in unwanted consequences. Repair can take longer if something goes amiss. Employees may have to strain themselves in uncomfortable positions or handle components and tools awkwardly, putting them at risk for injury. And frustration can thwart routine maintenance, thereby shortening the equipment’s life and making it more likely to fail.

Easy Parts Replacement

Also consider how hard it is to replace machine parts due to their size or make. Oversized parts are more difficult to handle and take more time to replace. They also tend to be more expensive. We encountered such a problem with log decks, which were typically designed with bearings so large crews needed a crane to lift them. Our design scrapped the large bearings and instead incorporated 3-7/16” flange bearings, which were much more manageable and less expensive.

Easily Obtained Parts

Specialty parts likewise tend to be troublesome. Not only do they cost more than standard parts, but they come with a host of risks: what happens if the company producing these parts goes out of business? What if you need a replacement but the company is backlogged and can’t get you a replacement in a timely manner? What if you simply hate doing business with this company? In any case, you’re stuck. Thus, it’s generally better to opt for machines with OEM standard parts.

Equipment Durability and Dependability

The more maintenance and repair a machine requires, the more money it will consume. So, don’t be lured into buying cut-rate machinery—you can’t afford to shut down your processes and keep buying new parts every few months. Consider, too, that while the maintenance department is making repairs, it’s neglecting routine maintenance of other equipment. Lower prices due to poor design and cheap components mean big headaches.

Concerning machine quality, Leon Krzmarzick, director of engineering at Delta Technology in Phoenix, noted, “Attempts to save money by using lower-tier hardware rarely achieve that goal and end up costing everyone involved due to downtime and redesign expenses.” The first step to obtaining reliable equipment, he said, is to identify well-designed wear items. Developing a spare parts lists and maintenance schedules also help to minimize downtime, he said, and monitoring equipment helps identify problems before they worsen, as well.

Purchasing equipment with maintenance in mind will likely mean paying more for your equipment. But the investment pays dividends in terms of maintenance costs.

For a full list of maintenance-specific designs to consider, check out this article on the Reliable Plant Conference & Exhibition website.

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