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Seven Top Tips for Pulp & Paper Plant Preventive Maintenance

Pulp and paper mills are harsh environments full of dust and heat.  Eliminating or reducing their effects is critical to the healthy performance.  Preventive maintenance means equipment failures that result in production downtime and lost profits can be kept to a minimum, or prevented entirely.

Between 60% and 80% of all equipment malfunctions are caused by incorrect maintenance.  Maintenance should include basics like detailed cleaning, lubrication, and alignment, as well as the following procedures.  Here are our top seven tips for ensuring maximum system availability throughout a pulp and paper mill, adapted from a longer list by the Swiss-based ABB Group, which provides systems and services for control, plant optimization, and automation in pulp and paper as well as other industries:

1. Keep it clean
Dust can cause inaccurate measurement and overheating of critical electronic components.  It can be controlled using thoughtful industrial design and air-wiping devices.  Control system equipment must be sealed to prevent failures that can be caused by dust-coated electronics.  Keeping things clean also means other problems are easier to spot.  Cracks, leaks, loose connections, and other problems are more easily found if the item is not covered in a thick layer of dust.

2. Be systematic
Good preventive maintenance is based on detailed record keeping.  A logbook should track what was checked, why, what was found, and any action taken.  Such records are the platform on which preventive maintenance schedules are based.

3. Inspect regularly
Weekly checks on quality control scanners should include inspecting sensor windows for damage or wear to assure accuracy.  Monthly maintenance and verification as well as annual inspection should complement regular maintenance on scanners and sensors, ensuring that they give reliably optimum performance.  Equipment should be inspected while operating to minimize downtime and detect operational defects that cannot be assessed on stationary equipment.

4. Apply regular maintenance drives
Variable speed drives keep pulp and paper plants moving, and regular preventive maintenance is vital to maintain their health.  Keeping drives and motors clean ensures they do not overheat and helps maintain peak efficiency.  Tracking drive operation remotely lets you monitor drive system parameters, parameter changes on-line measurements, software changes and upgrades, remote guidance, and written instructions sent to the maintenance PC.

5. Upgrade motors
Motors are another essential in the drive chain, and motors designed for high reliability will help minimize downtime.  A new motor for process industries has a 20% to 30% greater cooling surface than its predecessor, reducing the internal temperature considerably, and giving longer component life.  With improved cooling, bearing grease lubrication intervals are 50% longer.

6. Assign the right people for maintenance
A key strategy is to control who implements the preventive maintenance procedures and to have an agreed planned program of work.  The best results are achieved when maintenance-minded personnel with the required training are given personal ownership of this important duty.

7. Provide the right training
Employees should be trained in correct normal operation so as not to exceed machine parameters, and in what to do when problems occur.  Shift engineers need to know all about plant operations.  Training staff only when equipment is commissioned, and failing to maintain current training can lead to more service calls and needless production delays.

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