The top entry-level tools for facility maintenance

November 30th, 2016

You've succeeded in bringing your plant management and decision makers on board with a plan to make maintenance more predictive and reliable – a big step in improving facility productivity. With this new reliability centered maintenance program, you have the potential to cut costs, get more out of your equipment and employees and lower downtime across the board. The next question is, where do you start?

Nail down the kind of tools you'll need to carry out maintenance routes and asset testing. These items should be powerful enough to take accurate readings and provide actionable information, but also straightforward enough to train your team on best practices without requiring massive hours of training. It might also help to use tools that won't break the bank – especially when you start out, you want to be able to to deliver a return on investment to ensure your plant maintenance program receives continual support from management.

Let's look at three of the best tools to get started.

1. Ultrasound probes
No facility maintenance program is complete without ultrasound. In fact, these tools should be the first ones on your list and the ones you lean on the most for your typical maintenance route schedule.

One of the great things about ultrasound is that you can find tools that are ideal for beginners and ones that are advanced and sophisticated enough for more experienced technicians. That means you can upgrade your ultrasonic program as your needs require.

The best ultrasound tools also include data tracking and trend analysis, which are crucial to glean meaning from raw sounds. As you learn how to use the tools, you'll begin to recognize certain noises that should and should not be there. But by comparing sound files and data to previous baselines, you'll get a deeper understanding of what your equipment and assets sound like as they wear.

Bottom line: Ultrasound can get you started and, in many cases, give you all the information you need to take action.

Make sure you have the tools to keep your factory running well.Make sure you have the tools to keep your factory running well.

2. Infrared thermometer
The ability to examine an item for heat characteristics also proves valuable for a new maintenance program. While ultrasound can tell you that a problem exists and pinpoint certain issues like steam leaks and bearing friction, sometimes it can be hard to use those tools to pinpoint the exact location of an issue, especially when it's part of a larger asset. When that happens, you need additional items to give you more information.

Infrared measuring tools can provide a picture of an asset's heat – crucial for finding problems related to friction and lubrication, in particular. For example, when a piece of machinery is overheating due to poor lubrication in some area, ultrasound can tell you there is an issue, while infrared can pinpoint it and tell you that some component, like a bearing, is overheating.

Bottom line: Infrared thermometers can finish the job when ultrasound alerts you of some kind of problem.

3. Grease caddy
Poor lubrication practices run rampant in all kinds of factories and plants – not just too little grease, but too much, the wrong type or grease that's poorly maintained. Best maintenance practices are about avoiding asset failure so you don't have to incur downtime and unwanted costs. Once your ultrasound and infrared tools pinpoint existing flaws, you should take care to improve your technique so those issues don't recur.

Lubrication tools combine ultrasound with lubrication practices to help technicians apply just the right amount of grease to a given piece of equipment. Over- and under-lubrication both increase friction and decrease asset reliability. These tools keep you within manufacturer guidelines. But it's also important to make sure you're using the right type of grease for the job – usually the asset maker will dictate exactly what to rely on.

Bottom line: A grease caddy prevent some of the most common issues in bearings and other friction-heavy assets.

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