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One of my job responsibilities is to provide clients with detailed procedures about modifying their oil-lubricated equipment with hardware to make simple maintenance tasks easier and more efficient. Tasks such as oil sampling, checking the oil level, top-ups and flushing can all be made simple by adding a few select accessories to the component in question. But what happens when the modifications can’t be made without significant changes to the component’s current configuration?
For example, suppose a quick coupler needs to be installed on the drain of a critical gearbox for periodic decontamination using a portable filtration unit. The only drain on the gearbox is located on the drive-end side of the gear case.
The gearbox is driven by a dry-sump chain covered by a guard. The guard has been installed as close as possible to the gearbox case, leaving only two inches of space between the two. The difficulty with this modification is that there is not enough room to install and utilize the selected quick coupler without modifying the chain guard in some way. This simple modification has suddenly become more involved. This brings up the question, “Do we continue with the modification and make the necessary changes to make it work, or do we cite inaccessibility as the reason we cannot proceed with the desired addition?”
Chain guards, motor mounts and covers play a significant role in safety and functionality. The object is to modify the “train” to ensure that maintenance tasks can be done with relative ease and consistent precision. Often, modifications need to be made to components that obstruct the access to specific porting locations on mission critical gearboxes. Cutting access ports and moving or disassembling train components to make necessary modifications is simply one segment in the goal for lubrication, maintenance and reliability excellence. Field-fitting hardware for maintenance tasks is important in any precision-designed lubrication program. Best practice recommendations need to be converted from theory and ideology to real-world situations where every train situation differs slightly from the next. The field technician making the modifications must have experience, ingenuity and an understanding of the best practice that is to be achieved. So why do original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) put ports in locations that are difficult to access during normal operation? Conventionally, precision-based maintenance tasks have rarely been performed on equipment such as gearboxes, pumps and mixers. Until recently, OEMs have not designed equipment with maintenance in mind. We are increasingly seeing new machinery equipped with sight glasses for checking oil levels, and certain OEM upgrades including high- efficiency air breathers and other modern lubrication hardware. End users need to push the OEMs to aide in equipment maintenance and increased reliability by designing and building equipment for optimum maintenance efficiencies.
So, back to the earlier question, do we proceed with modifications to train components that are hindering installations of reliability maintenance modifications? Absolutely! With no other options, we must still achieve our equipment reliability goals with strategic maintenance modifications, easy or not.