Whether it’s your personal vehicle, a motocross bike or a horizontal machining center, the best defense against Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong will go wrong at the worst possible moment”) is Preventive Maintenance (PM). This is no surprise to most machinists, but for one reason or another, this vital production element is not always top-of-mind when the shop is cranking out orders at maximum speed. But ignore it and Murphy’s Law will always bite you in the end.
What’s the best way to make sure your machining equipment is continuously performing at the highest level?
The Perfect Solution
Why not let Athena, the first digital assistant specifically designed for manufacturing, track your Preventive Maintenance for you? When your mind is on other things, Athena is multi-tasking and can automatically remind you of maintenance milestones. This ensures that no procedure is overlooked.
Have questions? Fire away.
Q: If Preventive Maintenance is so important, why isn’t more attention paid to it?
A: The fact is, operators might be too busy to remember (or simply don’t want to do) the maintenance on their machines. A quote we often hear from supervisors is: “The guys never want to do PM.” An inexperienced operator may not even have a clue as to what kind of scheduled maintenance needs to be done on a machine. Sometimes, the maintenance log has been lost as machinists jump from station to station.
Q: How does Athena help with Preventive Maintenance?
A: Athena can provide a PM checklist. This can be a simple list that is displayed once you ask Athena to pull it up, or it can be a guided checklist that requires the operator to confirm that certain aspects of the machine have been checked. This can provide traceability. If Athena instructs an operator to check a particular fluid level on a machine and the operator does not know how, a photo, diagram, video walk-thru, or voice guide can help. Even novice operators can understand fully what needs to be done. With no guesswork, Preventive Maintenance is done consistently and on time.
Q: Our maintenance record is okay. Why should I consider Athena for PM reminders?
A: Is “okay” good enough in today’s competitive environment? If Athena can make it easier to get Preventive Maintenance done, it should be of interest to everyone involved in the manufacturing process. Athena is like another set of hands, alerting you to scheduled events and reminding operators to do certain maintenance tasks on a timely basis – before problems occur. What if a nearby shop has already discovered Athena? With constant PM reminders, their equipment will always be in optimal condition. Will yours?
Q: Are the consequences really all that bad?
A: Whether you work in a facility with two CNC machines, 50, or more, nothing can bring production to a screeching halt faster than unscheduled downtime. When routine maintenance is neglected, it can lead to machine failure and a dead line. In a big shop, stations downstream of the affected machine can be starved for parts. The entire line can be compromised, not to mention your reputation for on-time delivery.
Downtime in a small shop can be catastrophic. Can you afford to have 50% of your output on hold while one of your two machines is down for repairs? In addition, machine tool repair costs, especially when out of warranty, can be very expensive and time consuming. That can really hurt the profit margins of a small shop.
Q: What Preventive Maintenance time frames does Athena track?
A: Athena can be programed for various intervals such as daily, weekly, three months, six months and annual schedules. Just ask Athena for a PM checklist and you will receive a prompt to determine which specific schedule you want to see.
Q: Can you give specific examples of items on a typical PM schedule?
A: Schedules will vary since Athena is programmed for each specific type and brand of CNC machine. However, all critical components on a machine require some kind of maintenance. The guideway system and ball screws on a CNC machine need to be manually greased or lubricated via pump. The spindle of your VMC may require lubrication as well. If it’s equipped with a chiller, that fluid needs to be maintained.
If you have a turning center, greasing your power chuck needs to be done periodically. Your hydraulic unit on the machine needs proper fluid and pressure for optimum use and your coolant tank needs to be cleaned to keep it from going rancid, not to mention any belt or chain adjustments of your conveyor for it to operate freely. All of these critical components can start to make noise, vibrate and impact machine availability and productivity if not maintained.
Q: Does Athena send an alert so Preventive Maintenance downtime can be scheduled?
A: Yes. Athena can even issue JIT reminders for ordering the proper spare parts. These might include reminders to procure batteries for your CNC control cabinet, coolant thru spindle bag filters, way wipers and other consumables.
Q: We are a top-level shop that makes maximum use of data to improve performance. Can the Athena Preventive Maintenance function help with that?
A: Absolutely. Athena can log PM data and keep it for future reference so analysis of machine performance can be conducted at any time and trends can be tracked. Athena can help shops at all levels, from those who still use paper processes to those that are totally digitized.
Q: We’re a small shop and Joe has tracked our PM for decades. Why consider Athena?
A: Just how much longer will Joe be around before retirement? All that knowledge will walk out the door with him. Loading key portions of his expertise into the Athena program will ensure new operators hired in the future will have the benefit of his years of service and keep Preventive Maintenance up to his high standards.
Have more questions on how Athena can help with Preventive Maintenance or any aspects of your shop’s operation? Click here to Contact Us. We’d enjoy the chance to answer your enquires in person.