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The Maintenance Jigsaw

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Ambersil CatalogueRecently I received an invitation from a well known exhibition organiser to participate in a maintenance feature and submit editorial with company overview- good opportunity. However, my enthusiasm changed to being perplexed when the invitation turned out to be for The maintenance schedule involves many components, each as important as each other to deliver reliable, productive and efficient production. Whether it is ‘invisibles’ such as training, timely schedules, and back-room activities like the engineering workshop; or physical ones: tools, components, parts, and chemicals; each combines with the others to deliver a service greater than the sum of its parts. Should one piece be missing, sub-standard, or overlooked, then it is often the case that the trinity of ‘reliability, efficiency, productivity’ is compromised resulting in increased maintenance frequency or breakdown.

To say that lubrication is the primary focus of the chemical constituent of a maintenance process is not incorrect often a squirt of grease or top-up of oil is all that is required to complete the works order, but should more extensive servicing be called for it will require some component or part of production machinery to be taken apart, inspected, and replaced in order to identify if it is the cause of (or likely to cause) problems.

This is where the maintenance chemical options open up revealing the true extent of the choice: cleaners/degreasers, lubricants, anti-corrosion, metal cutting, welding, wipes and more.

Cleaners and degreasers are designed as a critical first stage of the servicing process, ensuring that all lubricant, grime and dirt contamination is removed allowing the clean surfaces to be inspected without the risk of dirt obscuring faults, getting into close-tolerance gaps and preventing recontamination during re-lubrication and assembly. So a maintenance schedule needs to start and finish with cleaning to ensure a thorough job.

Key Fact: Lubricants and greases degrade with use and time, the rate at which depends on a great number of variables; the lubricant may become compromised by micro-erosion metal particles or external grime. Should re-lubrication now be carried out, contamination and old lubricant will mix with the new resulting in inefficient operation and, at worst, a light grinding paste which quickly destroys components. It is good working practice to completely degrease and clean in these situations to avoid decreased machine life, unplanned down-time, and inefficient operation.

A poor quality cleaner or the wrong cleaner is sometimes selected, whether it is due to perceived cost savings or simply using the same cleaner as has always been used, in either case more product will be used as cleaning efficiency is reduced, but the real cost is more easily seen in lost time- waiting for the chemicals to remove the grime. With lower quality products, the active ingredients may be present in reduced quantities than in ‘premium’ brands, such as Ambersil.

Once maintenance has been carried out and completed, and fresh lubricant applied to moving surfaces (without contamination from old lubricants as a top quality cleaner has been used), then components can be restored to their operating position. A final clean before installation with a general cleaner (such as Ambersil Amberclens) will remove any remaining soiling deposited from hands or during re-installation. Job completed.

The technology behind cleaning chemicals is complex: through the manipulation of chemical formulations specific cleaning properties can be displayed: fast evaporation, foaming action, grease removal, dry deposit removal, material compatibility, and so on. Typically solvent and citrus based cleaners are better at removing greases and heavy/light oils, with water based products able to remove drier or staining materials. Material compatibility must also be taken into account.

So next time you think maintenance, don’t just think lubrication – cleaning and degreasing is just as important part of the process.

Ambersil offers the most comprehensive range of industrial cleaners and degreasers backed up by lubricants, anti-corrosion, metal cutting, welding, paints, and more maintenance chemicals which are all available nationwide through key distribution partners. The comprehensive MRO range enable engineers and buyers a single source supply where cost savings may be had without compromising on premium quality and top-line performance.
Many products are specified to military, aerospace and industrial standards including NSF food industry registered products.

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