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September 1, 2008
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Solution Spotlight: Equipment Reliability Made Visual

Seeing is not only believing, it’s about doing things right!

We’re seeing it throughout industry. In lean operations, where a major focus is on maximizing overall equipment effectiveness, reliabilityfocused maintenance practices have taken their place alongside 5S and Standard Work concepts as a cornerstone of world-class organizations. Just as 5S is used to stabilize the work environment, and Standard Work is used to stabilize work practices and procedures, Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is used to stabilize equipment performance and reliability.

Visual devices are widely used in 5S, Standard Work, Quick Changeover, Kanban and other lean techniques. They also should be considered as an important component of proactive maintenance strategies.

Incorporating visual devices into an operation’s reliability program can help lead to many benefits, including simplified training; improved quality; faster troubleshooting andrepairs; fewer unplanned MRO purchases and reduced inventory; and improved safety and employee morale. Plus, virtually anyone has the ability to detect abnormalities. And, it’s easier than you might think.

0908_solution1Simplify preventive maintenance
A good starting point is to use signs and labels to identify preventive maintenance (PM) points and to provide basic cleaning, inspection and lubrication instructions.

Using visual devices to identify PM points and provide detailed instructions is especially important if your company has implemented an autonomous maintenance program. When responsibilities for routine care and inspection are transferred to equipment operators instead of trained maintenance professionals, it’s critical to clearly define tasks and checkpoints.

For example, improper lubrication—too little or too much—is a major cause of equipment failure. A simple lube label can save a company significant costs in motor repair and replacement. Color-coded markings can be applied to zerk fittings and grease guns to guard against using the wrong type of lubrication. Oil level indicators can be applied to sight tubes to simplify oil management. The use of green and red striped labels placed behind the sight tube lets the operator easily detect when oil levels are too high or too low.

Optimize predictive maintenance
Even when maintenance personnel retain control of predictive maintenance (PdM activities—as opposed to equipment operators— the use of new and relatively inexperienced technicians can lead to an increased risk of errors and omissions. Maintenance workers also must learn how to use an ever-growing, increasingly advanced number of sophisticated PdM technologies such as vibration analysis, ultrasound and thermal imaging.

When performing predictive maintenance, it’s critical to take measurements at the same exact place each time. To ensure that the location for readings remains consistent—regardless of who conducts the inspection—you can apply predictive maintenance targets on your equipment systems.

Reliability technicians often use inspection routes to streamline their PdM tasks and maximize efficiency. One drawback to this approach, however, is that a technician may not be familiar with each and every piece of equipment, and the proper readouts may vary across different machines. Gauge labels help to alleviate this obstacle by making it clear to anyone at a glance whether a temperature or pressure is within normal operating range. These types of visuals make it so easy to detect abnormalities that anyone walking by a piece of equipment becomes a potential inspector, facilitating early detection of potential problems.

For example, visuals can help to detect when chain tension is too loose—as well as when to replace the chain. When tension slackens, links from the chain should be removed, and the adjustment block can be shifted to restore proper tension with the shorter chain. Once a specified number of links have been removed, the edge of the block extends outside of the green area, clearly indicating that the chain should be replaced.

Speed troubleshooting and repair
Visuals also can speed troubleshooting and repairs. Including “to” and “from” information on equipment ID labels can make it easier to trace lines in electrical systems and pipe networks. As a result, repairs can be completed faster and the risk of errors and potential injury to personnel can be reduced.

You can make repairs even more efficient by ensuring that the proper replacement part and its location in the storeroom are clearly identified, ideally by putting the information right at the point of need. To reduce search time—and ultimately reduce downtime—clearly label shelves and bins in stock rooms and tool cribs. Where possible, use graphics and/or photos on your labels for faster recognition and to help avoid pulling the wrong part.

To enhance safety and reduce hazards, many companies are posting graphical lockout procedures, including instructive photos, right on or at their equipment. Posting hazard warnings and safe work instructions directly at the point of need is the most effective way to reduce accidents and injuries at your plant—and is as important (if not more so) than classroom or computer-based safety training.

Promote error-free setup
When restoring equipment to operation, how can you ensure efficient and error-free setup? Visuals are the answer. Operator control panel labels and alignment aids help to simplify machine settings and positioning. Labeling the rotational direction on gears and shafts, for example, will help you avoid costly setup errors that can damage or destroy motors and drive systems.

Make your own visuals
You may be surprised to learn that all of the industrial-grade visuals referenced in this article can be created using Brady’s MarkWare™ Lean Tools software and GlobalMark® printers—at a fraction of the cost of having them printed by an outside vendor.

MarkWare software uses template wizards to speed and simplify the design and layout of custom visuals. The software includes over 1000 safety and industrial pictograms, and even lets you import your own logos or photos. Data imported from spreadsheets and databases can even be included on your labels.

The GlobalMark line of printers can print multiple colors without manual ribbon changes, and can even print photographic images. These printers output to a wide variety of media, including permanent- and repositionable-adhesive labels, tags and kanban cards, magnets and more. The printed visuals stick to a wide variety of surfaces including floors and walls, and they withstand harsh industrial environments and outdoor conditions. GlobalMark printers are also available with a built-in plotter cutter that allows you to easily create cut letter door signs and even paint stencils.

With these capabilities and more, it’s easy to see why the Brady system is the ultimate make-it-yourself visual workplace for lean and world-class operations everywhere. MT

Brady Corporation
Milwaukee, WI