Third-Party Preventive Maintenance: A Smart Decision for Efficient Automated Welding
by Bob Steinke and Bob Rickel, The Lincoln Electric Company
Nothing throws off a manufacturing schedule as quickly or drastically as downtime from an unscheduled equipment failure. That’s why diligent, regular preventive maintenance, or PM, is crucial to the success and efficiency of any manufacturing operation.
Another question to ask is whether or not the service provider offers all of the services you need. Are they able to not only inspect and clean your equipment but also offer parts and repairs, computer diagnostics, service upgrades and weld testing on automatic equipment? Centers that strictly focus on automated welding system maintenance and repairs typically offer a turnkey approach to PM, providing a full range of necessary services.
Next, investigate what processes they use to perform maintenance, cleaning and repair. A good shop won’t service a dirty machine and instead will disassemble and clean it first, using a proven washing and drying process.
Environment-friendly degreasing is another must in this era of environmental regulations. Not all shops offer this benefit, so be sure to ask your prospective providers if the process they use is environmentally safe.
Perhaps one of the most important parts of any preventive maintenance program is the testing performed after cleaning. At many service centers, technicians simply power the machine up after maintenance to ensure it works. That’s as far as testing goes.
But, there is more to robotic welder maintenance than simply powering up a clean machine. The best providers will perform thorough testing on all robotic components to ensure the units are ready to go back on the line and do the job they are meant to do.
Also ask if the provider is able to update the equipment’s software to the latest version as part of their PM activities. The most up-to-date software keeps your production line running efficiently and smoothly and gives you access to the latest capabilities of the system. Potential upgrades might involve updated communication protocols for use with other plant equipment, faster communication between the welding system components or updates to the welding waveforms for specific applications. If you’re servicing the machine’s mechanical and automation components, you might as well also request a software upgrade for potential gains in productivity or operational efficiency.
Recently, the RASC team announced it is expanding its facilities, doubling its shop space and adding additional work at test stations, as well as new staging areas for incoming and outgoing work.
“We expect to increase our throughput and even further decrease our already-quick turnaround time,” Steinke says. “We expect the new areas to be fully operational by this summer.”