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What NOT to do When an Agitator is Failing

Many processors make their own repairs to equipment, but in the case of agitators, the repair must be sound to avoid problems in the future.  Mepaco Service technicians are trained and experienced to troubleshoot shaft wear and are specialists in the repair of stainless steel.  Here is a list of what not to do when making your own repairs:

  • Do not ignore failing agitator – depending on their use of equipment, they need to schedule at least a temporary repair as soon as possible. Visit our blog to determine if your agitator is failing.
  • Incorrect weld repairs can cause the agitator to bow which causes run out and adds a new stress point in the agitator.  One incorrect weld repair may add another stress point in a different location.
  • Do not ask an inexperienced welder to make repairs. And experienced welder is required for agitator repair, there is a process of grinding out cracks, and cleaning procedures for proper repair of an agitator.
  • Don’t ignore straightening of the agitator after repair. It is very important for longer life of the agitator.

If you need to make a repair to continue production, be sure to schedule after care for the agitator.  You need an assessment to make sure the agitator is straight and that the welds will hold under stress.  We are currently experiencing long lead times for replacement agitators, so whether it is an after-event service call or a scheduled audit, it is important to have the agitator checked out to maintain production up-time.


How to Determine if your Auger / Screw Conveyor is Failing

If you have a transport, incline or metering screw, these conditions are symptoms of a failing auger / screw.

  • The screw is rubbing on the wall of the tub
  • There is a bow or wobble when running
  • The hanger bearings are wearing out prematurely
  • The wear pads are ground down beyond normal wear.
  • The gear box is hot.
  • The drive shaft is worn out prematurely.

Screw conveyors are important to keep product moving between processes, so pay close attention to these systems to stay ahead of maintenance issues. 

After any major incident, contact Mepaco Services to inspect repair. Mepaco Services may be able to make some repairs on site. Welding, straightening, stainless finishing can be performed on site.  However, re-machining a new piece, shaft or remanufacturing a paddle/ribbon, needs to be worked at the factory. 

It is important to assess the life and stress of the augers to make sure that you do not experience down-time. Mepaco Services can provide audits, service contracts or emergency repair to help to prolong the life of screw conveyors.


4 Tips to Address Emergency Downtime

Mepaco’s Service Team is often called out on critical downtime situations.  The goal for any food processor is to prevent these situations and if they are unavoidable, mitigate the time and cost associated with the breakdown.  To start with, here are the top four calls that Mepaco Services receive for emergency support:

Broken Shafts Agitators are failing when they start to develop cracks or start to rub the tub side wall of the processing equipment.  Agitators and shafts also fail when a tool or component drops into the equipment and damages the shaft or paddles. The damage is not always immediately apparent; a bent shaft may take months to start failing.

Gear Motors / Gear Boxes Oil leakage, hot temperatures and noise are all signs that gear motors or gear boxes may be failing. The motors and gear boxes commonly fail due to poor lubrication practices. They also may fail because of improper repair of the agitator and the gear motor and gear box may wear out prematurely.

Safety Devices Equipment is designed with safety modes and if the safety devices are damaged, whether accidental or environmental, the equipment will not operate.

Controls Internal programming errors, or physical damage to the HMI are also causes for emergency downtime.

In most instances, there are preventative measurements for processors to prevent downtime situations, but what can you do to mitigate the critical breakdown situation and get back online as soon as possible?

  1. Self-Repair of Shaft Agitator with After-Event Service Call Mepaco Services does provide emergency repairs, yet there is travel time and scheduling to plan. Some processors have maintenance capabilities to make their own repairs.  If the repair is viable by the internal maintenance team, be sure to schedule an after-event care assessment. Mepaco Services technicians will verify the repairs, fix if necessary and provide an assessment of the remaining life of the agitator. Agitators are a long lead parts component, so it is crucial to order the component if there is any indication that the existing shaft will not last.
  2. Emergency Replacement Program for Gear Motors / Gear Boxes Nord is a common component provider in Mepaco equipment. If your equipment has Nord gear motors or Nord gear boxes, the company does offer a weekend emergency expedite program.  There is a premium price for the service, but some processors choose the pay it to avoid the cost of lost production. In some cases, the gear motors / gear boxes may be able to be reconditioned, and after repair they can be used as a spare.
  3. Safety Device Failure While it is not recommended, some processors have engineered workarounds on broken safety devices to continue to run the equipment.  It is very important however, to schedule an after-event service call to return the system to the original safety features, programming, and controls. On new equipment, order spare safety switches, relays, and other controls devices so if there is any failure during transport, install or commissioning, that a new part is on hand to start production on schedule.
  4. Controls If there was unintentional change to the equipment software, in most cases it is possible for a remote programming repair or reloading of the original program.  If the HMI was damaged by condensation from high-pressure, caustic washdown or accidental, a replacement may be required.

The Mepaco Parts and Service team strongly urges processing customers to consider a just-in-case planning mentally for parts replacement. There are long lead times on agitators, cylinders, motors, gear motors, safety devices and HMI panels. 

After-event service calls or equipment-systems assessments are recommended to ensure production up-time and to alleviate safety risk.  If you have questions, or to schedule  service visit, call 920-356-9900 and ask for Mepaco Parts and Service.


Case Story: What Can Happen When an Agitator Problem is Ignored?

Case Story: What can happen when an agitator problem is ignored?

A high-volume pet food processor utilized a Mixer/Cooker in their operations which produced 45-minute batches.  The application called for 28 RPM and mixing cold product at 35 – 45 degrees. During the process of loading different ingredients into the Mixer-Cooker, a Vmag buggy fell into the mixer, causing damage to the agitator.

The processor made repairs to the bent shaft and paddles and was able to get the Mixer-Cooker back online into full production. 

Many processors assume that if the paddles do not rub the side of the tub, that the agitator has had a successful repair. But in many cases (and in this case), there was extensive damage and over time the shaft began to flex, causing the agitator to break. This failure completely stopped production.

There are a few choices to stay ahead of agitator care:

Preventative Maintenance:  Partner with Mepaco Services to inspect agitators to ensure the shaft is straight and look for stress and other damage.

After Event Care: Processors may be able to fix the shift to continue production, but contract with Mepaco Services to inspect the shaft and straighten if necessary.

Most importantly, processors should avoid emergency maintenance, causing down-time and lost production. 

It is not uncommon to have dropped tools into Mixers, so prepare for the event if it does happen.  Consider an audit to assess the life of the agitator and consider ordering a replacement so you can have duplicity for uninterrupted down-time. 

Delivery of agitator replacements are 3 – 6 months out due to the availability of stainless material.  Mixers, Blenders and Grinders are the work horse of the processing system, so be sure that agitator care and component availability are part of the maintenance program.

Mepaco Services offer on-site audits, training, and service contracts as well as emergency repair.


Maintenance Audit Discovers Repairs that Decrease Batch Time by 2 Minutes

We received a request for a maintenance audit on a high volume meat processing line that is a supplier to fast food restaurant chains.  The first round of inspection uncovered several maintenance issues:

SYMPTOM
A Pump Feeder motor kept tripping the breaker and caused constant down-time.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
The gearbox bearings were bad and was causing excess loading. The gearbox was replaced which fixed the issue. Reducing down-time for that Pump Feeder.

SYMPTOM
Mixers on the processing line did not pull sufficient vacuum.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Both mixers had multiple vacuum leaks through cracked welds, worn out seals, incorrect seals and improperly installed seals The seals were replaces and the cracked welds were repaired which allowed the unit to pull required vacuum 2 minutes faster, decreasing cycle times.

SYMPTOM
Inspection uncovered possible catastrophic failure of the agitators.  

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Both mixers had agitators with cracked welds. They were repaired during scheduled maintenance.

SYMPTOM
Vacuum Stuffers were underperforming.

RECOMMENDATION/REPAIR
Two stuffers in the processing line were underperforming and producing poor quality product due to lack of vacuum. Both stuffers had worn out pumps that were rebuilt and worn out seals that were replaced.  These changes gave the processor a 28% increase in throughput out of the stuffer and better-quality product without air bubbles.

The cost for the maintenance audit, including a detailed report was $2000, plus travel expenses. The result was savings in energy, down-time, batch turnaround and overall increased production. This processor in fact, contracts with Mepaco every six months for a maintenance audit to avoid unplanned delays and to make sure their line is running as efficiently as possible.

Learn more about Field Services

 

 

 


How to Increase the Life of Bearings

With the complex demands in food processing and production, safety, and quality, every component within food equipment is critical. Any machinery with moving parts will utilize bearings. Here are some tips to reduce wear issues and extend bearing life:

  1. Mount the bearing correctly after maintenance. Make sure shims are re-installed and that the shaft is correctly positioned, and make sure that the shaft and bearing housing have the correct tolerance. A bearing sitting loose on a shaft will cause significant damage to the shaft.
  2. Grease bearings according to manufacturer recommendations. A low RPM bearing on a mixer will not require grease as often than a grinder gearbox bearing. One grease schedule does not fit all bearings.
  3. Use the correct food-grade lubrication in the right quantity. Over-lubrication can blow out the grease seal, under lubricating can increase friction and cause failure. Seals protect bearing lubrication by keeping moisture, dust, and dirt out of the bearing; make sure seals are inspected and maintained properly.
  4. Check bearings regularly for excessive play and replace bad bearings before they cause damage to the equipment. Replacing a bearing is much less expensive than replacing a worn and grooved shaft.
  5. Choose the bearing type that will uphold to the food processing application.

    Standard bearings are steel ball bearings, mounted in a painted cast iron housing. Mepaco’s coating on standard bearings is a sealant with anti-corrosive benefits.

    In aggressive applications, food processors often choose polymer bearings. The polymer bearing has a moderate up-front investment – but the total cost of ownership is lower because it requires less maintenance when used in aggressive applications.
Visit Field Services for support!

Tech Tip Download: 3 Seal Trouble Signs

Mepaco's Field Services team have developed a quick-read download on the seal trouble signs that our technicians see in food processing plants. Also Learn about and compare Mepaco recommended seals commonly used on our equipment. 

Download the Tech Paper to learn about the Top 3 Seal trouble signs and what to do to fix them:

1. Product escapes or purges out of the seal

2. Downstream food contamination

3. Loss of vacuum

Our techs make hundreds of service calls to troubleshoot and make repairs to seals on all types of food processing equipment and in many applications.  If you have any questions or have seal related issues, give Joe Hertel a call in Mepaco Field Services at 920-356-7334.

DOWNLOAD TECH SHEET


Holiday Shut-Down Parts Planning [Infographic]

[Infographic] 7 Parts to Consider for Holiday Shutdown.

Tis the season: Are you planning maintenance during the holiday shutdown? Do you have a spare parts budget to use before year end?  

The infographic is a quick guide for common Mepaco parts.  Some items have a longer lead time than others.  Some parts are must-have inventory items.  If you have any questions about parts or timing,  contact monica.planash@apachestainless.com

Please have the model number and the serial number available for inquiries, and include the Apache/Mepaco part number on purchase orders.

Order parts now for your holiday shutdown!


Proper Operational Procedures Improves Dumper Performance

Depending on the complexity of the equipment and controls, there are a few options for production personnel to learn how to operate the equipment. The manual explains the operation of the equipment and its components. The customer can visit Apache for training and testing or contract with Mepaco Field Services for on-site training.

In one example, the production staff did not understand how to operate the HD3000 Dumper, causing the carriage to bind-up where cylinders weren't lifting in tandem. The issue was caused by incorrect operation.

Due to the operational configuration of the hydraulic cylinders, the HD300 dumper must be fully cycled (complete cylinder extension and retraction) each time it is used. The production staff was not fully retracting the dumper leaving the carriage 12 - 18" off the ground. This allowed the cylinders to start up unevenly and compounded if the staff did not fully extend the dumper. This caused the dumper carriage to misalign and bind against the dumper frame.

Once the carriage binds against the frame the only way to safely correct the situation is to lock out the hydraulic power unit, disconnect the hydraulic line from the overextended cylinder and allow the carriage to drift down until it is re-timed. Once the cylinders are re-timed the power unit can be operated to bring the carriage to the fully down position. Air will need to be bled from the cylinder that had the hydraulic lines removed.

Please call Joe Hertel, Field Services Manager, at 920-219-2286 if you have any questions about the operation of Mepaco equipment or if a training visit is necessary for new personnel.


Why Choose Mepaco for Replacement Parts and Service

Here are the top three reasons why spare and replacement parts should be purchased from Mepaco, your equipment supplier.

  1. Quality and accuracy.  While spare parts can often be found from all types of online and catalog suppliers, will they be the quality parts needed to function properly in Mepaco equipment? Parts ordered from Mepaco are accurate to that specific piece of equipment that will provide optimal performance in your equipment.
  2. Support. Mepaco's parts and service department have years of industry and field experience to support your maintenance team for questions, training or service.
  3. Relationship. Parts managers have a relationship with Mepaco's parts and service department.   We can help to answer your questions and provide preventative maintenance parts and make recommendations on long lead time parts.  We work with our customers to meet their timelines and minimize downtime.

Download Mepaco's Field Service Flyer!


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