How to Downtime-Proof Your Furnace Operations
Unplanned equipment downtime can be a costly and painful experience for any production facility or lab. Downtime can result in major disruptions in process and product flow within a business and often times the critical part(s) required can take weeks or even months to arrive. Additionally, time to diagnose, possibly schedule a specialist to troubleshoot, and later install part(s) once available, add even more cost and time. Failure of a part due to lack of maintenance can result in other components being negatively affected as well, compounding repair costs even higher.
These lengthy delays are especially frustrating for industries that use specialized equipment for their processes. The high-temperature vacuum furnace industry falls into that “specialized” equipment category and both routine and custom components can take a long time to manufacture and assemble. This translates into extended lead times and potential furnace downtime for the facility that does not stock adequate spares.
The three main forms of maintenance performed by most businesses are reactive, predictive, and preventive. One of the major differences between these three maintenance forms is that with preventive and predictive maintenances there are controlled up-front cost that has been identified and taken into account for future expenditures. Whereas, with reactive maintenance, the cost and financial losses are undetermined until something actually breaks. These kinds of damages incurred through reactive maintenance may have a much farther reach within the manufacturing/production chain than the immediate business housing the furnace. Delivery schedules to customers, or planned completion dates for funded projects, may not be met, causing further financial and logistical headaches.
According to the Fabricators & Manufacturers Association, many businesses often talk about preventive maintenance but may not practice it fully.4 In 2016, unplanned downtime was assessed to be $260,000 per hour across all businesses. 2
What can be done to downtime proof your furnace operations?
- Consult with your furnace manufacturer to determine which furnace parts have the highest risk of wearing out.
- Consult the operation manual of your furnace, and refer to the maintenance and spare parts section.
- Purchase spares of the consumable components to keep your shelves stocked. Lead times are long for most spares, as these are often custom in nature. Therefore, stocking spares at your facility is critical to minimizing downtime disruptions.
- The optimal method to minimize downtime is to have your furnaces professionally inspected for wear and performance. MRF offers a free email or phone diagnostic service, and we have field service technicians available to send to your facility to inspect your equipment.
Scheduling for preventative and predictive maintenance while keeping spare parts stocked on shelves, is critical to keeping your facility productive and running smoothly. This is especially true for high-temperature vacuum furnaces. Due to the extreme heat used in the furnaces, hot zones will gradually and naturally wear out. Because the hot zones are unique and oftentimes customized for each furnace, the lead time to order replacements usually takes weeks and even months depending on the specific furnace and design modifications required.
Major parts that require regular preventive and predictive maintenance and replacement include (but not limited to):
Refractory metal heating elements and shields
- Stainless Steel
Graphite heating elements and shields
- heating elements
- fibrous shield packs
- graphite hot rods
- graphite mounting hardware
- graphite bolts, nuts, pins
- Molybdenum disilicide elements0
- Fibrous alumina silicate insulation
- NiCr heaters
- Kanthal heaters
- Inconel heaters
- O-rings and other vacuum Seals
- Ceramic parts
- Pumping fluids
- relief valves
Prepare in advance and avoid unplanned furnace downtime. Schedule a consultation below with one of MRF’s technicians to inspect your furnace and ensure your operations run productively for years to come. Already know what you need? Click on the link below to place an order today!