IT IS A FACT OF LIFE THAT THE MORE specialised your equipment, the harder it is to repair or replace parts in the event of a failure. In the food industry, unexpected downtimes can be costly, which is why an egg grading facility turned to Rotamec – an electro-mechanical engineering service provider for engineered equipment – to deliver repairs and source spares.
The grading facility assesses each egg that reaches its processing lines from partnered farms before packaging. By checking for any imperfection with specialist equipment, grading ensures every egg is in optimum condition before it is packaged and delivered to customers.
Reducing downtime through the use of responsive maintenance was very important to this facility. Darryl Beecham, business development executive at Rotamec, takes up the story: “We have to react quickly to minimise downtime. For example, the customer required a double-sided open length timing belt to keep a conveyor operational after a failure of the OEM part. With the cost of downtime on this machine being around £3,000 an hour, lead time was all-important. In this case, the maintenance team decided to order two parts, one from us and one from the OEM, to maximise its chances of getting the machine back up and running the same day.
“We were able to deliver the belt within two hours, while the OEM took six hours. Our belt was quickly installed, and the OEM item was added to spares. All in all, we managed to save this customer around £12,000 in downtime costs.”
The egg grading facility operates varied motors and gearboxes. Reliable supply of a wide range of standard parts from a single supplier is important to help keep equipment running. Thanks to existing warehouse stock and in-house distribution capabilities, Rotamec can deliver standard parts quickly – typically the same day if required. Further, its inhouse machining capabilities mean that bespoke items such as shafts in various bore sizes can be easily produced too. Rotamec can offer 24-hour turnarounds on motors and gearboxes, so despite different configurations and equipment throughout the site, it can still offer reduced repair and sourcing lead times.
This customer does present some specific challenges, as Darryl explains: “One repair job required us to source specialist foam material that cushions the eggs during grading. The egg comes through to a sensor, where it taps against the foam, which detects any hairline cracks as part of the quality control process. Improper foam will crack the egg, so only an exact solution will do. The grading facility required replacement foam for the machine, but the OEM lead time was going to take too long, so we were approached. It was a bit different from the mechanical issues we typically deal with, but we managed to source the foam within the required timeframe.”
Both the grading facility and Rotamec understand that reducing downtime is one thing, but preventing it is another. This is why engineers from both businesses are building redundancy into maintenance and repair operations. By undertaking asset inspections and identifying ‘showstoppers’ – equipment that risks overall uptime if it fails – the engineers are prioritising maintenance to focus on the most critical assets. Rotamec has also enacted a policy of ordering spares from relevant OEMs during each repair, ensuring maintenance work is backed by a growing spares inventory.