How to Make the Most of Your Vendor Relationship: Working With Vendors to Diagnose Mechanical Problems

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In our previous article, we discussed how to diagnose problems with your equipment. You need all the data points to form an accurate conclusion, and you need to contact the machine’s vendor to diagnose the problem’s cause best.

It’s crucial that you contact the machine’s vendor while troubleshooting. They’re the best source of information. They know their machines inside and out (literally) and have data references from hundreds or thousands of installations. They’ll know whether your problem is a one-off incident (and therefore likely not the fault of the machine) or part of a larger pattern.

We’ve put together six suggestions on how to best advantage yourself of your vendor’s knowledge. When you contact your vendor for help in diagnosing a problem:

Share the History of the Machine

Your vendor will want to know the machine’s history: How long the machine was in use. If it was being used as designed. Any changes made to speed, tension, and motor RPMs. The last time a part was changed. Et cetera. Too often, when the vendor hears about the problem, they receive second or third-hand information, which has been colored with opinions and agendas. Rather than passing on what others have told you, get your eyes on the machine yourself and, if possible, get your vendor out to look at the machine.

Relay Information on Progressive Failures and Other Problems

Smart vendors design their equipment to fail in an orderly process. In BE&E’s SMART Conveyors™, for example, the paddle fingers are designed as the first fail point when something obstructs the conveyor. If the object obstructing the conveyor is small, the fingers will flex back, but if the object is larger, the fingers will bend permanently or break. The next fail point is the paddle. It will likewise bend and spring back if it hits a small obstruction. But if the obstruction is too large, the paddle will stay bent; the paddles are designed to bend back in their frames. After the paddles come the tabs. If the object obstructing the conveyor is too large and too well lodged, it will break the paddle frame off the tab. Once this happens, it’s a crap shoot whether the chain or the shaft will break next.

If a shaft broke in one of our conveyors, we’d therefore ask whether the maintenance personnel noticed any of these components fail and, if they had, whether they had ignored them.

It’s because of the progressive nature of these fail points that we recommend daily inspections of our conveyors. The inspections take mere minutes and can reveal smaller issues before they escalate. All personnel has to do is open the inspection door and watch for the white paddle. When they see the paddle a second time, they know the chain has performed a complete loop.

Maintenance personnel should address small problems when they discover them, even if it means shutting down the conveyor. We know nobody wants to halt production to fix something small, but it takes minutes to take the rivets out of a top panel, unscrew two bolts, remove a paddle, and replace it. It takes much more time and expense to replace a chain or shaft. It’s minutes vs. hours. It’s a few dollars vs. thousands of dollars.

Don’t Filter the Data

Give the vendor all your data, even if you don’t think it’s important. Your conveyor broke for a reason, and somebody along the way probably noticed something that they thought wasn’t a “big deal.” Rarely do machine failures occur instantaneously; there are always signs that something bad will occur. So do yourself a favor and don’t make the same mistake. Relay all the information you have. Say your chain broke, for example. Relay how worn it was before it broke, how long it was being used, whether you calculated how many times it went around the sprockets, etc.

Provide Broken Parts and Media

If your vendor can’t make it to your site to see the issue for himself, take photos and video of the machine. Do the same with broken parts. And don’t throw the parts out. Your vendor may want you to ship them to him so he can study them up close.

Accept That What Went Wrong May Not Be the Vendor’s Fault

Many hands touch equipment after it leaves the vendor’s production facility. Carriers may mishandle it. Installation crews may put it together incorrectly. Someone at your facility may have run something through the conveyor it wasn’t designed to handle. Maintenance crews may not have maintained it to the vendor’s specifications or may have changed the conveyor without consulting the vendor.

Give Feedback

Vendors can’t know what’s going wrong if you don’t communicate with them. By telling them the good and the bad, you do them and yourselves a favor. By providing feedback, the vendor can change the design of their machine, and the next time you order, you’ll get an improved version.

Interested in learning about the performance of our machines? Contact us now and find out!

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