Below is an email I just sent to a new customer that is installing a large new kiln. What would you add to this?
One of the biggest problems I see with machinery reliability, across all locations and industries, is improper or substandard installation. This is often a weak base, lack of proper attachment to the foundation, poor coupling/shaft and drive belt alignment, poor coupling choices by the manufacturer, excessive pipe strain on pumps, excessive operating speeds… it’s a long list.
I am confident that fully 80% of all reliability problems can be completely eliminated, before the machine is ever placed in service, by careful review of the proposed machinery, and proper attention to detail during installation.
Manufacturers often “get it right” but just as frequently “get it wrong.” There is an assumption they know what they’re doing – and usually they do – but initial cost (and profit) is always a prime consideration. The critical components are normally fine (except alignments), but auxiliary equipment is often sacrificed for the sake of economy. This often results in higher operating speeds for pumps and fans (faster is usually smaller & cheaper), weak bases, and lack of system stiffness (square or rectangular ductwork in particular).
Once a machine is operable, one of the biggest hindrances to proper “condition monitoring” (tactile, visual, vibration, temperature) is overly-restrictive safety guards. The easiest way to “protect” workers is simply to throw a guard over everything (fans and pumps), or to set up a fence that completely surrounds the equipment. This is usually quick and economical…. initially. But reliability is often sacrificed because the operators can’t “lay their hands on” the bearings, and the bearings can’t be directly accessed for collecting quality vibration data or checking temperatures. Guards that cover only the rotating components are practically non-existent, because that approach is more expensive and owners don’t really expect – or demand – anything different.