Avoid unplanned downtime with screen media maintenance

By |  October 29, 2020
Photo: Major

Check screen media for critical signs of wear every couple of weeks at first, then more frequently toward the end of its expected lifespan. Photo: Major

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

This concept applies to a lot of things, but not necessarily to the aggregate industry.

So much valuable material is processed every hour that letting anything break without preparation can be a recipe for a costly headache. It’s not uncommon, for example, for producers to wait until screen media panels break to change them out, but that might not be in an operation’s best interest.

With this in mind, here are a few tips to keep costs low when it comes to your screening equipment.

Don’t just let it go

Why shouldn’t you wait until screen media breaks before changing it out? While doing so allows a producer to get every bit of life out of the panel, this approach can also lead to issues larger than the cost of replacing a screen media section and the associated unscheduled downtime – if not caught quickly.

Contaminated material piles are the most obvious problem resulting from broken screen media left unchecked. The longer no one notices a broken panel, the more material falls through that isn’t supposed to. This either necessitates reprocessing the contaminated pile, or it could mean complaints and potential claims from customers if material is sent out with the problem unnoticed.

Another less obvious issue is increased wear to the screen box structure that can result from a broken panel. That broken media can cause a concentrated flow of material to fall straight through the opening. This can mean wear to the machine structure if the equipment continues to operate for extended periods.

In addition, while unscheduled downtime is obviously costly, it’s also a stressful rush to repair the problem and start production back up. A hurried environment can be detrimental to both employee morale and jobsite safety, because workers rushing to finish a job without proper precautions leads to a higher risk of injury.

The value of staying proactive

Keeping a close eye on screen media is the best way to make sure an operation can either replace the panel before it breaks or be ready to change it out as soon as it fails.

The typical wear life of a panel is two to four months, but it can vary from two weeks to two years depending on conditions. So check screen media for critical signs of wear every couple of weeks at first, and then more frequently toward the end of the expected lifespan. Also, look at wire diameter and whether wires are developing a flat top, especially in high-wear zones such as the feed end and center area of the deck.

When possible, large operations should try to change screen media during scheduled shutdowns. The benefits of this approach come from being able to complete multiple tasks at once and spread out the cost of lost production, the ability to plan labor resources and avoid overtime, and, of course, eliminate unexpected downtime.

If data is available, try to schedule a shutdown a few weeks before the expected screen media failure in order to maximize the lifespan of the panel without the risk of it breaking unexpectedly.

A sitewide shutdown may not be feasible for smaller operations. This makes frequent inspections even more important so crews do not miss the moment screen media fails. Otherwise, operations will have to deal with out-of-spec production and delays from unscheduled maintenance.

Having an idea of when screen media will fail also allows operations to order replacements ahead of time. The worst-case scenario is when media fails without a backup on-site.

Partnerships & proper training

Aside from tonnages and abrasive material, improper installation is a major factor affecting screen media lifespan. Look into whether a local dealer offers training seminars. Some work with screen media manufacturers to provide practical tips for estimated wear life and other ways to improve screening profitability. A partnership can mean less downtime and the comfort of following expert advice.

Lars Bräunling is director of product technology at Major.

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