What You Need to Know About the Little Things

By Joe Meaney
You’ve placed the order; new equipment is ready to ship; and your confidence level is high—soon your lab will be operating trouble-free. Or will it? Too often, it’s the “incidentals” that keep a lab from operating at peak performance.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a new investment or that nagging question, “How can we do it better?”Examining and addressing the variables as well as the equipment in the manufacturing process can dramatically improve performance.

Look for the little things or the overlooked things that keep your lab from performing to your expectations.

New Equipment Installation

If your plans include new equipment installation -- create a plan, take ownership of the project, and understand all of the details, including:

• Electrical

• Pneumatic

• Chilling requirements

• Plumbing / water specifications

• Space requirements

It may sound obvious, but making sure that you have enough electrical power available, that the air compressor is the correct size, and that the chilling requirements can be achieved will help you avoid problems and delays. Work with both the machine vendor and your contractor to plan the best location for the utilities drop and for the plumbing. If you have all the correct connections, but they’re located on the wrong side of the machine or on the wrong side of the space, delays and reduced performance can and will result from this simple oversight and lack of pre-planning.

Maintenance

For all equipment—new installations or equipment that has been installed for several years—you and your operators should understand their routine maintenance program. It’s also good practice to review the manufacturer’s written suggested preventative maintenance procedures every few months.

Periodically reviewing the correct procedures keeps them fresh in everyone’s mind and prompts action on items that may have otherwise been forgotten. You don’t need to be reminded that new equipment is a major investment—but once equipment isn’t “new” anymore doesn’t mean that it should be ignored until a major problem (that may have been easily avoided) occurs. You may find it beneficial to create a maintenance log that can be posted near each machine to remind everyone what should be done regularly to keep machines running at peak performance.

Training

One of the easiest ways to learn how to run and maintain your lab’s equipment is to take advantage of equipment manufacturer’s training opportunities. These classroom trainings provide a wealth of information and usually provide attendees with much more detail than can be learned from a manual.

And while it sounds simple, remember that when you’re setting up equipment for production, follow the recommendations of the manufacture. Temperature settings are critical for optimum performance. Tooling set up on a generator will determine if accurate curves and thickness are repeatable. When using replaceable bit tooling, bit diameter, tool diameter and the correct procedure for installing the bits are very important for optimum performance.

Consumables

No matter what consumables you have for which machine or process, there are three general keys:

• Rotate stock

• Store according to manufacturer’s specifications

• Order and replenish as needed – this helps avoid rush shipment charges and out of stock situations.

Written for LabTalk by Joe Meaney, director of technical services, Satisloh.

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May/June LabTalk 2017