Aligning machines and installations is actually one of the best investments you can make for the environment! Everyone understands that reduced energy requirements have an obvious connection to the environment and reduced need for oil, coal and gas etc. What one might not consider are all the other positive effects of correctly aligned machines.
For each day that the service life of bearings, seals and other wear components can be extended the manufacture of that spare part is delayed, so to speak. If over a period, let us say five years, you can halve the use of replacement parts you also reduce the energy consumption required to manufacture those parts by roughly half. The shipping requirement of these “unmanufactured” replacement parts disappears as well, which is also a saving. And the consumption of materials is also reduced. Frugal on resources in every way.
If you are the manufacturer of the replacement part it might not seem so positive to begin with. It might be more interesting to consider the effect of a correctly aligned machine tool. Think if you could reduce the numbers of waste workpieces by five percent for example. You would not just increase the available machine time, but you would also reduce the amount of raw materials used. The service life of the tools would probably also be extended. The upwards spiral continues.
A leaking seal in a pump caused by misalignment, means that unnecessary amounts of liquids are spilled. More lubricant may be required in order for the machine to work satisfactorily. In other words, a correctly aligned machine is more frugal with resources in every respect. If these liquids are also environmentally harmful and a serious breakdown with leakage into the environment can be avoided, your alignment has also made an environmental contribution. Even if it only covers minor leakage. “From tiny seeds..”, as they say.
Peter Bengtsson and Peter Lundahl work with preventative maintenance at Akzo Nobel Functional Chemicals AB in Stenungsund. Aligning machines using lasers is a given for the majority of larger industries today, but smaller companies have a lot to gain as well. Especially as the costs of current measurement systems are extremely reasonable.
“Together with vibration control, machine alignment is the largest cost saving within maintenance work”, explain Peter and Peter.
The department for Functional Chemicals has about 100 connected machines. They use nearly 7000 kW per hour (6000 hours/year). The total energy cost is then: 6960 kW x 6000 h x 0.3 SEK = 12,528,000 SEK/year (2005).
If the energy reduction with a good alignment is 1% (125,280 SEK), the investment is repaid within 3–6 months.
In addition, there are 20 sheave/pulleys with an energy consumption of 600 kW per hour (8000 hours /year). Total energy cost for these: 600 kW x 8000 h x 0.3 SEK = 1,440,000 SEK/year.
1% energy reduction corresponds to 14,400 SEK, but for sheave/pulleys this can mean savings as much as 5–10%. Here the repayment period is, in other words, even shorter. Total saving more than 140,000 SEK/year!
(1 SEK roughly equals 0,10 EUR/USD)
Paper mills such as Stora Enso in Fors run their machines around the clock with a production value of 85,000 SEK per hour. They appreciate that the availability of the whole process has increased by one day a year thanks to alignment with Easy-Laser®. This would represent a saving of over 2 million SEK per year (1999).
Another example is manufacturers of large diesel engines such as MAN/B&W, who align hundreds of engines annually using Easy-Laser® systems. Engine failure due to incorrect alignment is one of the most frequent causes of repairs and time in dock, which can give losses equivalent to 1.5 to 2 million SEK per ship. MAN/B&W make the conservative estimate that they avoid twenty or so breakdowns a year through alignment using Easy-Laser®.
A lot of money can be saved in engineering workshops through continuous maintenance and checking of the machinery. Correct machine geometry guarantees that the manufactured components hold themselves within the tolerances. On the other hand, a faulty machine gives problems with several damaged components, extra time for adjusting faulty components or extended machine time to manufacture surplus. A machine that is correctly set saves raw materials, means that you can meet delivery schedules and produce more at the same time. It is also easier to plan production if you know that you can rely one hundred percent on your machines. In the final analysis that may be a major competitive advantage for your company.
(1 SEK roughly equals 0,10 EUR/USD)
Stora Enso in Sweden has focused on developing a program for preventative maintenance since 2003. Their previous maintenance manager took the first step towards large savings for all sheave/pulleys.
"We soon realised that an investment in Easy-Laser® BTA would give great savings”, says Jan-Ove Westlund at the department for mechanical maintenance at Stora Fors AB. He continues:
“Since we started using the BTA to align our sheave/pulleys we can safely say that the consumption of belts and pulleys has reduced considerably. This has even meant greater machine availability. If, like we do, one has 250 sheave/pulleys, it is easy to understand what this means. In that the tool is also extremely user friendly, in principle self instructing, means that it is really utilised to its full."
The savings that could be counted:
It has been proposed that laser alignment equipment should be purchased by the maintenance department of a large company in Great Britain. It would be used on the connecting shafts between all motors and pumps, mixers, fans, compressors etc on site to ensure they are correctly aligned.
The current system used for shaft alignment is a straight edge. This is relatively inaccurate since it depends on the judgement of the human eye. There are four ways in which the shaft alignment can differ from the ideal situation of being perfectly aligned; horizontal and vertical offset where the rotating axes are parallel but not colinear, and horizontal and vertical angularity, where the two shafts are meeting at an angle. It is extremely difficult to get all 4 within acceptable limits of accuracy when aligning with just a straight edge. Typically the shafts will be misaligned by about 0.5mm using this technique. However, using laser alignment will typically reduce the offset to less than 0.1mm and the angularity to less than 0.1 mm/100 mm (angularity is measured as a ratio of the gap between the shafts to their diameter).
The bare minimum that would be saved in the secondary plant is (figures as per 2002):
Traditionally, maintenance departments do not sing their own praises. Maybe that should change? In many companies the maintenance departments are still considered to be a necessary expense instead of a profit centre. This perception is starting to change as improved maintenance procedures demonstrate cost savings that go directly to the company’s bottom line by reducing the energy costs and improving reliability.
One example is Lake Erie Steel, a large steel mill in Nanticoke Ontario, who recently purchased an Easy-Laser®, dual beam, shaft alignment system. This system gives them the ability to align the 14-foot long Jack Shafts on their water cooling towers. Spanning the 14 feet coupling to coupling is not a problem for the Easy-Laser®, which is capable of shaft alignment over a distance of sixty feet. In the past a contractor had done this work using a single beam system that could not span the required distance of fifteen feet from the motor to gearbox.