Preventive and regularly scheduled maintenance is vital to the efficiency and life of large machinery. Heavy machinery makes it possible for traditional industries to operate on a large scale. Mining and agriculture are among the global industries that could not exist in today's world at the scale they do without the use of large machinery to support their operations. 

Benefits of Maintenance

Preventive maintenance preserves the value of the equipment. Keeping machines in good working order extends equipment life and keeps operators safe. It also ensures the availability of the machinery.

Early detection of problems allows repairs to be made before the situation worsens. Machinery that does not need to be taken offline for extensive repairs will avoid production interruptions. Regular inspections and analysis can be used to predict and prevent component failures that may create safety hazards and machinery breakdowns. 

Safety

Good maintenance is important for worker safety. Large machinery maintenance can be dangerous. It is often conducted in close contact with running machinery. The conditions can be closely confined and unhealthy. The work is non-routine and subject to human error. There is often time pressure involved as well. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 15 to 20 percent of industrial accidents and 10 to 15 percent of all fatal industrial accidents are related to maintenance operations.

Preventive maintenance and scheduled equipment overhauls can diminish the chances of large machinery breakdown and thus lessen the risks that technicians face in onsite repairs. Accidents in the workplace are also significantly reduced.

Following are five tips for large machinery maintenance.

1. Keep Daily Records of Use and Oversee Operation

Large machinery wear and breakdown are often made worse by unskilled handling. Keeping records of machinery use and monitoring daily operations can help pinpoint when and where the machinery is being used by inadequately skilled operators. 

A new way to oversee the operations of large machinery is via GPS. The device tracks movement and records it in digital records, which are organized to be easily retrieved. Problems can be caught early, and breakdowns can be prevented.

2. Maintain a Schedule of Planned Maintenance

Components break down, and wear is inevitable. Establish forecasts for the expected life of all components and replace them on schedule. Part replacement must be done by knowledgeable technicians. 

Bearings are key components of heavy machinery equipment and can be easily damaged or worn. Bearing housings should be regularly maintained, including inspection for corrosion and wear, and replaced when necessary. A maintenance log should also be kept to ensure regular checks are not missed and compliance is measured.

3. Lubricate and Clean Frequently

Working heavy machinery requires daily maintenance. Some components, especially moving parts in engines and power trains, demand frequent lubrication. Other components, such as hydraulic lifts and bearings, must be monitored and lubricated at the first sign of need.

Contamination can lead to machinery breakdown. Water is a major source of corrosion. Lubrication prevents corrosion. Maintaining seals and replacing filters will help keep lubricants free of contaminants.

4. Inspect and Monitor Components for Wear and Damage

A planned maintenance schedule can predict component wear. Visually inspect components on an ongoing basis to monitor wear and prevent equipment failure. Components that must be replaced ahead of schedule may signal a larger problem that needs to be diagnosed. 

Check belts, pulleys and chains for alignment and condition. Inspect gears and sprockets for broken teeth, cracks and misalignment.

Fluid analysis should also be part of a regular maintenance schedule. Analysis of used lubricants and other fluids is an excellent way to diagnose problems and prevent machinery wear and breakdown. Identifying contaminants in the fluids can lead analysts to the source of wear and damage.

5. Protect Equipment During Storage

Large machinery should be stored under cover whenever possible. Motors, turbines, mixers and other equipment should be rotated frequently. Inspect idle machinery for rust, condensation and contamination. Don't forget to check all lubricants. Oil-mist lubrication is a good solution for the damaging effects of warm, humid environments.

About the Author

Jayde Ferguson writes for Statewide Bearings, a leading bearing manufacturer in Australia.