Keeping Old Machines Running Like New
EP Editorial Staff | January 12, 2016
Hydro Inc. incorporates small, continuous improvements with careful maintenance coordination to achieve long life from a diverse collection of machines.
By Michelle Segrest, Contributing Editor
If Hydro’s machines stop running, its customers’ businesses stop running.
Customers count on Hydro Inc., to get their pumping systems back online. Whether it’s repairing, replacing, or upgrading the pumps and parts, dependable operability is the main artery that flows directly to the heart of the company.
For almost five decades, Hydro Inc., a premier worldwide engineering-services company, has helped manufacturers do more than just repair their pump components and parts. It retrofits and upgrades and finds ways to make the parts work better, smarter, faster, and more efficiently than ever before. Since founding the company in 1969, no one understands the significance of maintaining the machines that make this happen for its customers more than Hydro’s CEO, George Harris.
“One of the most critical areas in all our operations is the proper and consistent operability of our machine tools,” Harris said. “These machine tools are the lifeblood of what we do on a daily basis. Without them, we could not service our customers.”
It is so vitally important, Harris said, that Hydro has developed and standardized a global preventive-maintenance program for all of its operations, which include two facilities in Chicago and service centers in Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Houston and Beaumont, TX. International centers are located in England, Korea, Australia, Malaysia, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, India, France, and Dubai.
“This program allows Hydro to maintain each machine tool in excellent working condition, to meet the stringent accuracies and tolerance requirements, and to allow our experienced machinists to be as efficient as possible,” Harris said. “The program helps us to identify areas that need improvement, areas that need upgrades, and areas where replacement is necessary. The program provides important data and metrics to allow us to make better decisions in our everyday production. We are continually engaging and training our people and improving the process and procedures to give us the best path to be responsive and to better service our customers.”
A team at Hydro’s 40th St., Chicago, location deconstructs equipment to check for cause of failure before determining a repair strategy for a pump that failed after limited usage.
Creative management for diverse machines
Hydro’s business is broad and diverse. The company serves its customers through part repair and replacement, reverse engineering, review and analysis, designing, casting, molding, machining, inspection, testing, welding, and troubleshooting. This kind of range requires a wide variety of machines, all of which have an impact on the manufacturing process.
In its two Chicago facilities, Hydro uses horizontal and vertical band saws, horizontal engine lathes, milling machines, OD and ID grinders, surface grinders, radial-drilling machines, vertical turret lathes (VTL), horizontal boring machines, Mazak CNC lathe machines, CNC milling machines, and balancing machines. The machines are productive, most of them running two shifts consistently, but they are not new. The equipment ranges in age from 8 to 35 years. With this kind of mileage, machine maintenance is critical.
It makes sense for facilities that have many of the same kind of machine to train professionals to specialize in repairing that one type of machine. But this is not practical in a facility with so much diversity. Therefore, much of the maintenance at the two Chicago facilities is outsourced, with skilled coordination from an experienced team and the leadership of shop manager Nick Dagres.
Hydro’s overall maintenance philosophy is simple, Dagres said. “We want to be proactive in identifying and preventing breakdowns before they occur and keep the machines in the best operation condition at all times.”
This is accomplished with daily, weekly, and monthly preventive-maintenance checks from all of the operators at the beginning of every shift.Various metrics are used to measure overall performance and reliability. Hydro measures overall downtime for machine availability and the costs of downtime versus utilization.
The routine checklists include inspection of the switches, cables, noise levels, and especially oil levels. Lubrication is immensely important, particularly with the older machines. There is lifetime lubrication technology available today for some new machines. Older machines do not have this. “Oil level is the most important thing. It must be up to the mark,” Dagres said. “These machines are old. If there is no lubrication, the machine will break down sooner. Simple as that.”
The operator has ownership of his machine and is the first person to recognize any problems, Dagres said. “When they turn on the main switch, they check the noise level and try to feel the machine to be sure it’s running normally. They have day-to-day contact with these machines and know them well enough to identify any difference in the sound, speed, or running condition.”
Based on this philosophy, autonomous maintenance is the core of Hydro’s maintenance best practices.
The second of the eight pillars of TPM (Total Productive Maintenance), autonomous maintenance uses a structured approach to improve the skill levels of personnel so that they can understand, manage, and improve the equipment they work on and the processes surrounding them.
Rather than having dedicated maintenance technicians, the autonomous method is the core concept of TPM, which gives more responsibility and authority to the operators and releases the technical personnel to do additional preventive and improvement work.
Some traditional maintenance programs allow machines to run until they break or become due for maintenance. They are then handed over to the maintenance department to make the necessary repairs. In sharp contrast, the autonomous-
maintenance approach allows individual operators to perform simple, safe, maintenance routines on their machines. These activities can include lubrication, bolt tightening, cleaning, inspection, and monitoring.
However, all problems cannot be solved with familiarity and feel. Hydro incorporates computer numerical control machines (CNCs) to signal key problems that require immediate attention. “The operator goes through the checklist and makes corrections when problems arise,” Dagres said. “If they feel it’s something like oil level or noise variation, they first try to correct it themselves. If something is worse, the operator comes to me and we coordinate with our outside maintenance manufacturers to make the adjustments and repairs.” When larger problems arise, they are signaled electronically with alarms from the CNC machines.
“When the water filter is bad, there is an alarm from the CNC machine. This is how we know,” Dagres said. “Oil levels are also checked this way. If it goes before the marking, the machine will stop by itself. It’s automatic.”
Alarms signal when immediate attention is required. “If the green alarm goes off, it could be that the oil level is low,” Dagres explained. “The red alarm sounds if something internal is in trouble like, for example, if the motor or gear is breaking down. It blinks and then gives a red alarm that tells us we need to fix this problem immediately. Of course, the CNC machines must also be maintained.”
Because of the diversity of the various machines, Hydro mostly uses outside vendors to maintain its equipment. This requires strategic coordination and exceptional relationships with vendors.
“Our machines are our pride and our bread and butter, so we must keep them running and in good condition,” Dagres said. “We have to take care of them and use good sense. Each and every minor detail like oil, grease, noise levels…everything must stay on target to keep the machines running. One of our machines may have 1,000 parts. We try to fix one or two parts here and there, but we cannot replace the entire machine so we continuously make small changes to keep them up to the mark.”
Small improvements, continuous results
Kaizen is the practice of continuous improvement using small and quick fixes, often to achieve consistent long-term results. The Kaizen system was originally introduced to the West by Masaaki Imai in his 1986 book Kaizen: The Key to Japan’s Competitive Success. Today Kaizen is recognized worldwide as an important pillar of an organization’s long-term competitive strategy.
It has been misunderstood that Kaizen equals small changes. In fact, Kaizen means everyone is involved in making improvements.
“We practice the Kaizen method and constantly are making small improvements,” Dagres said. “We tackle each issue one by one and try to avoid breakdown maintenance. Sometimes it’s just a small switch. One time out of 100 that switch may not click, so we check this and fix it during our preventive processes.”
While Dagres and his team are more than capable of fixing small things, they generally turn to the outside experts to resolve any major problems that may require breaking down a machine and making extensive repairs. According to Nick Dagres, “We manage the problems, but we do not do most of the maintenance in house. We have to coordinate with many vendors and have quick turnarounds from them.”
Dagres described an example in which a machine had an electrical wire that was broken and was creating a spark. “That machine required one entire week to take apart all the cables and electrical system and install the new one,” he said. “We had two options. We could have kept it in house and used outside electricians.
“But instead, we sent it to be repaired and switched to a different machine so the work could continue.”
In this case, even though there was the added transportation cost, it was more productive and cost effective to get the repairs accomplished faster outside the shop and use the reserve machine to keep operations rolling.
“If a machine reaches a point where it is not operable, we shut it down to perform a full in-depth repair and upgrade of that machine to bring it back to a higher running condition,” Dagres said. “The machines are old but in very good condition since they are well maintained. However, it is sometimes a challenge to obtain replacement parts because a lot of the equipment is old. We have a 30-year old VTL (vertical turret lathe) that has a carriage that goes up and down when operating. The carriage rate is 20,000 to 25,000 rpms. The whole thing moves with the motor and is held together with a nut and screw. The screw finally wore out after 30 years of operation.
“We called an outside maintenance professional who took the machine apart. We actually were able to make some of the parts that we needed to fix the machine. It took special materials and special skill to get it manufactured. We divided the work into separate segments to get the most work done in a short time instead of doing it in sequence. This reduced the cycle downtime from two months to 10 days. When things happen, sometimes you have to divide the activity to get it done in parallel to reduce the cycle time and keep the machine running. This was a big machine and there is not enough room to have very many of them. We must keep it running.
“Work was not stopped. We had a variety of activity happening with multiple vendors to get it fixed sooner. Now it’s running as good as before.”
The maintenance professionals at Hydro know the value of combining skilled workers, smooth coordination, and continuous improvements to keep machines running so that they can help their customers stay in business. They perform preventive maintenance with mostly outside sources and work together to prevent breakdowns.
“The kind of work we do requires special skills,” Dagres said. “When a new machinist arrives, we stand with him and show him how the machine works and how it operates. We give him the checklist and train him on how to fix problems that may arise. Our goal is to continue maintaining our preventive program so that the machines will run another 30 to 40 years.” MT
Michelle Segrest has been a professional journalist for 25 years. She is co-owner of Business Discovery Services Group in Birmingham, AL, and spearheads the company’s Marketing Services division. She has worked as a journalist in the industrial processing industries for eight years and has covered manufacturing-facility processes in 26 cities in six countries on three continents.
Hydro Earns First PTLA Certification
In September 2015, Hydro Inc., made history by becoming the first recipient of full certification of the new Hydraulic Institute Inc., Parsippany, NJ, Pump Test Lab Approval (PTLA) program.
This new industry standard is designed to assist pump OEMs and other pump-test laboratories to improve their current laboratory procedures and policies by working with a third-party auditor to develop and maintain accurate, uniform, and repeatable pump-testing protocols. The program also helps participating organizations adhere to the requirements of the international test laboratory accreditation standard (ISO 17025) concerning test-measurement equipment.
Hydro’s state-of-the-art test lab is dedicated to the needs and requirements of the pump aftermarket. Because Hydro is independent, it is able to offer unbiased recommendations in every test situation.
Hydro’s testing capabilities enable it to work with customers to develop and implement engineering modifications designed to improve the performance of critical pumps and then to verify that performance in the lab. Because the test lab is dedicated to the aftermarket, there is flexibility to schedule tests to meet the needs of the customer.
Hydro is capable of testing horizontal, vertical-submersible, and some reciprocating pumps. It can test pumps up to 5,000 hp and can achieve a maximum flow of 42,000 gpm. All testing is completed in accordance with HI 14.6-2011 and API 610 (or other relevant standards such as ASME and ISO).
The testing facility includes an above-ground tank that is 48 ft. long with a 12 ft. dia. and has the capacity to hold approximately 38,000 gal. of water. The tank can be pressurized to 100 psi to match a field-suction condition. The tank pressure can be depressurized with a vacuum pump.
The Hydro test lab has these key features:
- complies with API 610 and Hydraulic Institute standards
- capable of testing horizontal, vertical, and submersible pumps
- maximum of 5,000 hp
- variable-frequency drive: 2,300 to 4,160 V
- flows as high as 35,000 gpm on the horizontal loop and 42,000 gpm on the vertical loop
- state-of-the-art data-collection system.
The test lab, located at Hydro’s 40th Street Service Center in Chicago, strategically serves pump users throughout North America and supports a variety of industries including oil and gas, power generation, fossil, and steel.
“The driving force of this new certification is the changing pump efficiency regulatory environment and the opportunities to decrease the energy consumed by motor-driven systems, such as pumps, through regulation and voluntary labeling initiatives,” said Institute executive director Michael Michaud.
The program has been designed around the new “Hydraulic Institute Program Guide for Pump Test Laboratory Approval” (HI 40.7–2015), which summarizes the key elements of this voluntary program. The guide is available at no cost in the Hydraulic Institute eStore. Any qualified domestic or global corporation, research institution, or laboratory can participate in the Pump Test Laboratory Approval Program.
Facilities must have in-house capabilities to conduct pump performance tests to the Hydraulic Institute Standards for Methods for Rotodynamic Pump Efficiency Testing (HI 40.6–2014) standard, personnel who understand the Institute’s standards and pump-testing techniques, and quality systems that ensure continued best practices after the audit. As part of the program, qualified laboratories agree to periodic audits of their facilities, records, equipment, and personnel to determine compliance with the HI 40.7 program guide and HI 40.6 standard.
In addition, the program promotes an increased level of assurances to pump end users, as well as energy advocates and electric-power utilities who are working with the Institute to develop an energy-rating label that accelerates the adoption of premium efficient pump systems.
The Hydraulic Institute serves as a resource to member companies, engineering consulting firms, and pump users worldwide by developing and delivering comprehensive industry standards and expanding knowledge through education and tools for the effective application, testing, installation, operation, maintenance, and performance optimization of pumps and pumping systems.
Eight Pillars of TPM
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a tool that is guided by eight pillars that help to maintain good product quality with the available machines for manufacturing companies.
Pillar 1—5 S Technic
TPM starts with 5S. Based on five Japanese terms that all begin with the letter “S:”
- Seiri—organization, sort
- Seiton—tidiness, systemize
- Seiso—cleaning, sweep
The idea is that problems cannot be clearly seen when the work place is unorganized.
Pillar 2—Autonomous Maintenance
This pillar is designed to train operators to be able to take care of small maintenance tasks. This frees the skilled maintenance professionals to spend time on more value-added activity and technical repairs. The operators are responsible for upkeep of their equipment.
“Kai” means change, and “Zen” means good (for the better). Kaizen is all about making small improvements on a continuous basis. It is designed to involve all of the people in the organization. The principle behind is that “a very large number of small improvements are more effective in an organizational environment than a few improvements of large value.”
Pillar 4—Planned Maintenance
The primary goal of planned maintenance is to focus on preventive actions to eliminate equipment failures and breakdowns. This ensures equipment availability and reliability and minimizes the cost of maintenance.
Pillar 5—Quality Maintenance (QM)
The objective of this pillar is to overcome the deficiency in the quality system to achieve and maintain defect-free products. QM activities involve setting equipment conditions that preclude quality defects, based on the basic concept of maintaining perfect equipment to maintain perfect quality of products.
Pillar 6—Education and Training
It is important to have multi-skilled employees with high morale who are eager to come to work and perform all of the required functions effectively and independently. Education is provided to operators to upgrade their skill sets. It is not sufficient to only “know how” but they should also learn to “know why.” The goal is to create a factory full of experts.
Pillar 7—Office TPM
Office TPM must be followed to improve productivity and efficiency in the administrative functions. This helps to identify and eliminate losses. It includes analyzing processes and procedures to increase office automation.
Pillar 8—Safety, Health, and Environment
The focus of this pillar is to create a safe workplace and a surrounding area that is not damaged by process or procedures. This pillar will play an active role in each of the other pillars on a regular basis.