Cleaning & Checking

In manufacturing we need to be confident in our equipment: that it is capable - able to perform within tolerances - and reliable. We then have to operate it correctly!

In a 'traditional' working environment different groups of people have different perspectives on equipment:

  • 'We get paid to make things - looking after equipment is somebody else's job!'
  • 'I would fix it - if you only give me the time!'
  • 'I need the machine running - just do a temporary repair for now!'
  • 'I'm not cleaning that - its from the other shift...'

There is so often a vicious circle of neglect and deterioration, fuelled by ever more urgent need to fulfill over-due orders caused by unexpected breakdowns and high scrap. We know it doesn't make sense - but, right now, we need to keep the customer supplied!

How to break out of this? One way is to undertake a Clean & Check activity with a team of people representing operators, fitters, setters, electricians and all other interested parties. 

Simply wandering around a piece of equipment with a sheet of paper and a pen isn't enough. Inspection will be superficial, and many problems (or potential problems) will not be immediately obvious, or may be hidden underneath the grime. Cleaning enforces scrutiny and uncovers all sorts of problems. In this example a team scrutinised a CNC lathe and it's associated feed unit.
Every problem was noted on a checksheet - there were 36 problems in all. The checksheet helps to break the problems down by:
  • System: Pneumatic; hydraulic; lubrication; mechanical; electrical or 'other'
  • Classification: loose, leaking, worn, broken, dirty or 'other'

Gathering such data enables patterns to be detected and priorities for action identified.

Wherever possible the problems were rectified immediately, even if only temporarily. All details were recorded - not only the problem, but the causes. There's no point in - for example - replacing a broken lamp cover if it is going to get damaged again through being knocked with a stillage. A temporary countermeasure may be to replace the cover, but a more lasting solution may be to re-site the lamp or guard it against knocks.

If immediate action could not be taken (for long jobs, or where no spares were available) the problem was tagged for easier identification later, and a copy of the details logged onto a system.

These were some of the problems found:

Door on sound-insulated cabinet for bowl-feeder broken; interior dirty Cracked bracket on chute mounting

Perspex guard dirty - obscures view;    swarf / dirt in outfeed

Shrouding for wires inadequate / damaged

Cables & pipes on floor; damaged by swarf being ground in by shoes Cleaned & restored!
At the end of the activity we ended up with a clean machine, partially restored. Some people take this opportunity to paint the machine; others wait a while until it can be demonstrated that the new standard can be maintained!

In order to maintain the lathe, a maintenance standard was established:

Over the following weeks, more data was gathered which enabled the time for maintenance (rather than restoration) tasks to be accurately determined, and the improved performance of the lathe was charted.


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