Dick Puhl reports on a one-stop repair for food & beverage processing equipment
From initial preparation to packaging, the food and beverage manufacturing sector incorporates a very broad range of advanced technologies into highly sophisticated processes. For many enterprises, processing equipment must endure long, punishing production runs that require precise operations and sanitary conditions. All of these requirements make the effective and timely repair or replacement of equipment a critical necessity.
Given the vast array of mechanical and electronic parts involved, the seemingly straightforward task of maintaining equipment often presents a logistical nightmare that involves farming out components to a variety of speciality repair shops with variable capabilities, quality, pricing and turnaround time.
Fortunately, the repair services industry is responding by broadening its capabilities to provide more of a one-stop-shop service for food and beverage processing companies, often with facilities strategically located near major manufacturers or manufacturing regions.
Food and beverage processors often incorporate manufacturing technologies that are subject to unusual requirements. For many production line configurations, plants are dependent on the entire line of equipment running harmoniously.
The motors used for food preparation processes such as grinding, mixing and conveying must often operate without fault for long intervals. These motors, many of which are electric, need the proper AC and DC drives to operate efficiently and keep energy costs under control. Some motors are exposed to harsh conditions such as washdowns, and must be protected from overspray. Pump motors may be fully enclosed, making routine maintenance more challenging.
Modern processing plants often incorporate HMI panels and SCADA systems to control equipment automatically and remotely. Food processing lines often use HMIs to store recipes that can be recalled or adjusted on the fly.
PLCs are used to automate many electromechanical processes, providing systems such as ovens and bottling operations the ability to communicate via sensors and other devices, regardless of equipment manufacturers. This capability is providing food and beverage processors with “smart” processes that improve control, flexibility and economies.
Given the variety and complexity of machine components, repair or replacement often involves sending specific components out to speciality repair shops. For example, a hydraulic component repair shop does not have the capability to also repair motors; a motor repair shop cannot replace power supplies, I/O, memory or communication cards in sophisticated PLC systems; and robotic equipment must usually be repaired at a dedicated facility.
However, where these services can converge are with larger international repair service companies. Due to size and expertise in many industries from automotive to aerospace, these larger firms are equipped to offer an array of repair services under one roof. For the food and beverage processing industry specifically, it is rare to find a repair service company that offers the full gamut of repair and replacement services. This includes the repair or replacement of components, including major manufacturer brands for the mechanical (servo motors, gear boxes and gear reducers, brake assemblies, vacuum pumps and blowers, air/fluid pumps, ballscrews) to the hydraulic (pumps, motors, cylinders, rotary actuators, servo valves).
In addition, the company should be equipped to handle sophisticated electronic components including, replacement of controller cards for power supply, I/O, communication and memory, as well as HMI control panels. For robotic elements, K+S draws on its extensive expertise in the automotive manufacturing industry.
Regardless of the type of part, it is important to look for a repair company that will conduct an initial evaluation to identify the probable cause of failure, and then repair and test the part according to the manufactures specifications and test procedures.
Proximity of repairs
K+S Services, for example, has pursued a strategic model of expansion by opening new locations in close proximity to existing major plants worldwide. The company now operates 12 facilities across the globe, including North America, Mexico and Europe. More than just a storefront with a lone representative that coordinates with a larger office, these repair facilities are fully equipped and functioning shops with managers, technicians and spare parts at each location.
Proximity, after all, has many advantages for the manufacturer. First and foremost, having a repair service in close proximity means repairs can be completed faster and the maximum possible uptime maintained. Today, most manufacturing plants need replacement parts quickly due to decreased on site spare parts inventory. In the event of an emergency, turnaround time is practically negligible. Cases exist where a part has been picked up in the morning, repaired, tested, and returned that same day.
If physical proximity in terms of location has its benefits, there is no relationship closer than having a repair service representative stationed within the plant itself. With the company’s Smart Total Asset Management Program (STAMP), customers are assigned a full-time, on-site account manager to serve as a one-stop facilitator and manager of all repairable assets within a specific plant. This includes tracking all repairs, expediting when required, shipping or delivering to and from the nearby repair facility, maintaining database integrity, streamlining and stabilizing procedures, generating a wide variety of reports and keeping the customer informed throughout the process.
Dick Puhl is the director for K+S Services.