Plant Shutdown Reminders
COVID-19 has resulted in some idling their manufacturing facilities. Proper shutdown of manufacturing equipment is key to ensuring a quick startup when the work starts again. Below are a few reminders when shutting down your equipment. Keep in mind this is not an exhaustive list, but our goal is to trigger some reminders for our customers so they can be ready to roll when the time comes.
Proper shut down of a machining center or any machining equipment is critical for ensuring it will fire up with the same accuracy as it had before shut down. Although looking back at my machining days, there were some hopes that the equipment would be more accurate when we came back, but those wishes never came true.
1. Check or change the batteries in the controller. Some controllers have unique battery packs, so you will need to proactively check to confirm that the batteries are available for your controllers. The last thing you would want to do is lose all of your programs. If possible (and always a best practice), make sure to regularly back up the programs on a thumb drive, but to avoid reloading after a full shut down, get the batteries replaced.
2. Fill the way lube & oil the ways. After cleaning the machine, it is good practice to lubricate the ways before idling the machine. Turn the way lube on and cycle the carriage several times before shutting down.
3. It is also best practice to empty the coolant if you are going to be down to avoid bacteria and fungus buildup. I remember the early days of my career, we had Kingsbury machines with 20 spindle heads, and they used a ton of coolant. When we left for more than a weekend, the smell would be overpowering and take weeks to get back to normal even after flushing the system.
4. While you are at it, clean the chips and other sludge that will inevitably build up in the coolant tank.
5. Clean and lightly oil the tombstones or part fixturing to avoid oxidation or rust.
6. Follow the manufacturer recommended shutdown protocol for disconnecting power to the machine.
Industrial Wash Systems
Wash systems have wash solutions in massive tanks (depending on the system size), so you will want to consider the best strategy for emptying based on the length of the shutdown you are considering. More than a few days, and you will likely want to remove all solutions from the reservoirs (most have a wash tank and a rinse tank).
• Empty the systems. If you have a stainless-steel system, there will be no more work required. However, if you have a mild steel system, you will want to apply a coat of rust inhibitor or WD-40 to prevent rusting.
Central Coolant Systems
These systems tend to be very high capacity. Despite the waste of fluid, it will be best to empty the central system to avoid bacteria buildup in water-based coolants. Emptying is a best practice. Regardless of a water-based or oil-based coolant, the recommendation will be for you to empty the tanks and flush the system with water to remove as much coolant as possible. Dried coolant is sticky and difficult to remove.
Paint, dispensing, and RTV systems
It is important to purge all of these types of systems to avoid the materials from drying in the lines, guns, or dispense mechanisms. Neglecting the cleaning of the equipment will result in major headaches when you return for startup. Our recommendation for these systems is that you check the equipment care recommendations to ensure you don’t use chemicals or tools that could cause damage.
Wet filtration systems
It is recommended that wet filtration systems be cleaned and prepped before complete shutdown. This will prevent the hardening of the materials that could cause permanent damage to the systems. Also, this minimizes potential startup issues and ensures the equipment is in the best possible condition for startup.
Air, Electric & Water Services
Depending on the extent of your facility shutdown, it could be best to turn off all air, electricity & water supplied to your equipment. After you have turned the air and water off, it will be best to empty the circuit. Leaving the services connected could result in an air line blowing out. The blown air line will result in running the air compressor unnecessarily. Disconnecting the water will also prevent the potential of a component failure that would result in flooding. For the electricity, (after you have confirmed a good battery is in the controller), move the disconnect to the off position after an appropriate shutdown protocol has been completed. I have gone home for a weekend and returned to a facility full of viscor (diesel fuel simulating fluid). It was awful, and the plant manager was not too happy with me either.
The best practice with assembly equipment will vary depending on the type of equipment. Here are some considerations:
1. Cover the Station – If there are parts in the station, they will need to be covered. It is also important to cover tooling in the station to avoid the buildup of dust and debris that can inevitably settle with a lack of activity.
2. Home Stations & Robots – Return all stations and robots to their home positions before covering.
3. Release all air on the equipment.
4. Purge all parts from the equipment.
5. When disconnecting air from vertically oriented pneumatic devices, be certain to support the tooling so that it does not cause damage or injury.
Equipment with PLC’s & Robots
1. Backup PLC programs
2. Backup machine parameters (HMI settings)
3. Change batteries on PLC
4. Change batteries on robots
5. Backup robot programs
Facility Environmental Considerations – It will be important for the equipment to maintain a stable temperature. If a stable environment is not maintained, the equipment could build up condensation.
Other considerations – If you have equipment that has a long start-up period, you might consider a plan for continuous operation or a regular startup of equipment that is temperamental when shut down for long periods should have a person assigned to cycle the equipment periodically.
The shutdown list for manufacturing equipment is meant as a guide or starting point for consideration in the idling of your facility. We highly recommend you consult the OEM for a complete guide to shutting down the equipment to ensure the most efficient startup or restart of operation.
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