The true cost of fabricated parts

By |  July 8, 2022
Imperfections in fabricated shaft components can lead to excessive heat, resulting in bearing failure and premature wear of other components. Photo: Haver & Boecker Niagara

Imperfections in fabricated shaft components can lead to excessive heat, resulting in bearing failure and premature wear of other components. Photo: Haver & Boecker Niagara

While a fabricated component seems to make sense at first because it can often cost less than an OEM part, those savings are often short term. Minor imperfections in the part or lower tolerances for stress placed on a machine can cause the component to fail prematurely, resulting in additional replacement costs on top of unscheduled maintenance.

While the part may function, it often adversely affects the production of the machine, diminishing the throughput and limiting profit potential.

But the potential damage from an imperfect part doesn’t stop there. Imperfections could start a chain reaction that leads to damage in other parts.

This is especially true for shaft components, which form the heart of a vibrating screen. For example, if the shaft shoulders are not machined within OEM tolerances, an operation could see problems within hours. This slight difference in size can cause the shaft assembly stackup to be too tight or too loose, leading to excessive heat or wear of the shaft components. This can cause bearing failure or premature breakage of shaft or body components.

This chain reaction of issues could result in maintenance costs far greater than the price of the fabricated component. The cost is compounded by the fact that the source of the problem is rarely diagnosed on the first pass. Most operators miss the true cause of the problem and begin fixing the symptoms – a cracked panel, a cross member or sections of screen media. The damage is destined to repeat and those parts must be replaced again.

These symptoms might become obvious within 48 hours, while the root cause might take a month before it’s realized. By the time technicians find the issue, the cost of the initial part fix could be greatly multiplied and be much higher than what the OEM counterpart would have cost.

Take tension rails as an example. Customers might wonder why their screen media is breaking after just a week of use, whereas before it lasted a month or more.

An OEM representative visits the site and finds the operation has been buying tension rails from a local fabrication shop to save money. The tension rails looked correct but were not tensioning the screen media properly across the screen deck, causing the sections to break.

What saved the operation a few bucks up front on new tension rails ultimately cost it thousands of dollars in screen media and downtime. In addition, if the faulty part caused the vibrating screen to operate incorrectly, there’s a good chance stratification didn’t occur correctly and that materials would have to be rescreened or discarded.

If operators do notice a problem soon after installing a fabricated part, they can prevent further damage by shutting the machine down quickly. However, this still results in costly downtime, as mechanics order parts and make repairs.

Any vibrating screen downtime eats into profits, particularly for operations in the midst of production season or a mining operation, where a few hours of lost time can result in tens of thousands of dollars in lost profits. This alone would quickly offset any savings from choosing fabricated parts.

Stick with OEMs

While it’s good business practice to find ways to save money, site managers should not compromise the quality of vital equipment. The risks of expensive repairs and time wasted are just too high.
Choose carefully when looking at replacement parts. While fabricated components are usually cheaper and may appear to work correctly, any variance could result in damage and downtime.

Continue to work with OEMs to guarantee a supply of reliable parts and the backing of a company with the resources to solve problems quickly. The right choice means more uptime, more profits and the assurance that a part will only make a machine run better.

Duncan High is the division manager of processing equipment technology at Haver & Boecker Niagara’s Canadian operation.

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