Written by ERIKS, a leading, innovative supplier to the process industry and to equipment manufacturers, fulfilling the twin roles of specialist and broad MRO supplier; with over 90 years experience, operations in 27 countries and 500,000 unique industrial products
The latest edition of Manufacturing Digital is available now
With only a finite quantity of raw materials and minerals at our disposal, industry has to change. An important issue for all manufacturers is how to achieve sustainability throughout business operations by employing enhanced products, services and processes.
Sustainable development is not something that can be achieved in isolation; rather, it requires a holistic approach to meet the challenges of a broad range of issues, from investing in enhanced MRO (Maintenance, Repair & Overhaul) to increase efficiency, to developing innovation and exploring specific areas of improvement, such as offering energy-saving solutions and reducing friction in power transmission systems. The challenge, of course, is how to increase efficiency without causing unwelcome rises in the cost of products and services.
Using the right gearboxes, drives, couplings and motors increasingly plays a major part in keeping costs down. The designers and engineers of today’s belts and drive chains have consistently pitted their wits against the elements in order to devise ever-more powerful ways to increase performance, power and product longevity. As a result, exceptionally robust wedge belts are now available that have been tested under the most challenging conditions.
With many industries currently focusing their attention on sustainability, belts using alternatively sourced, environmentally-friendly raw materials have grown in popularity and it is now possible buy a wrapped V-belt that consists primarily of renewable raw materials. Alongside the ecological advantages of manufacturing using vegetable oils, mineral fillers, chalk and cotton yarn, these new generation ‘eco-belts’ can still offer high strength and stability with minimum elongation properties, as well as long service life and operational reliability. It’s important to appreciate, however, that eco belts cannot yet operate to the same level as a standard wrapped belt in demanding conditions and that their life span is not equivalent.
While the specification of improved components offers one method of increasing efficiency, the addition of one particular component offers another. The variable speed drive will not only save energy but also reduce shock loading on belts with features such as ‘soft start’ and programmable ramp times, minimising both maintenance and operating costs. Statistically, using a Fenner QD Inverter to vary the speed of an electric motor can deliver significant energy- and cost-savings. Variable torque applications - such as centrifugal pumps and fans - running continuously over a long period offer the biggest savings opportunities, with a 20 percent reduction in speed, resulting in a 50 percent energy saving. Motor efficiency is also enhanced by upgrading to an IE3 motor, which offers even greater energy efficiency than the IE2-rated motor now required within the EU.
Finding efficiencies and reducing waste can also be accomplished by reorganising and optimising MRO. One highly effective cost-saving option is to outsource your purchasing because, if you choose an established and experienced partner, it won’t just be buying on behalf of your business but also for its own activities. Your outsourcing partner will therefore be able to negotiate extremely competitive prices from a range of suppliers and may even be able to negotiate lower delivery charges.
Increased inventory control can also bring down MRO costs, but this is a more complicated activity and needs to be carefully planned; if reducing an inventory causes downtime because certain parts are not readily available, costs will actually rise rather than fall. However, as long as plant-critical and fast-moving items are identified and lead times properly understood from the outset, the potential to cut costs is strong.
And there are further benefits; for example, efficient monitoring of stores information might, for example, highlight a sudden increase in the use of a particular spare part, leading to the identification of a potential problem on a machine before it becomes critical. This knowledge can be applied in conjunction with predictive maintenance procedures to bring significant improvements to production line availability.
Good store management is critical, as anyone who has made their way to the storesand discovered that an urgently required replacement item is missing or unusable knows only too well. To avoid costly downtime, vital parts need to be readily available and in good working order. An easily accessible, well organised, on-site store, full of well-maintained parts, saves time and money. A poorly managed store presents a catalogue of problems; components can end up sitting on the shelf for six months in the wrong conditions until they are in an unusable state, while busy engineers can often be too busy to update the paperwork when they collect replacement parts, leaving no record that the store item in question now needs to be replaced.
A good outsourcing partner can evaluate and sometimes redefine what is and isn’t a critical part, enabling you to operate more compact and efficient stores. It can not only source components but also replace, repair, or simply manage the problem until a planned shut-down is due. Crucially, the right partner will also keep looking for opportunities to optimise MRO on an on-going basis, making sure that you get the best out of the relationship.
So there are plenty of opportunities to strengthen your business by enhancing the efficiency of your manufacturing processes. Better still, you can reduce waste and increase productivity while simultaneously integrating environmentally sustainable products and systems into your operations.