Taking the Worry Out of Maintenance

By Gary Forger

Google the phrase “worries in 2019,” and some of what you get on the first page is: 
•    Top money worries
•    What worries the world
•    College hopes and worries

It does seem as if worry might be one of our biggest preoccupations these days. Unfortunately, worry also carries over into the world of material handling automation. Too many people think the most worrisome aspect of automation is – what if the equipment goes down? Often, all operations managers can think of is complete paralysis of their operation with no way to process orders. Yes, that can happen, but it is also highly unlikely. That’s because there are ways to minimize the danger, explains Greg Fahnestock, Director of Service/Support Logistics at OPEX. There is no one more on top of how to keep Perfect Pick® and Sure Sort machines up and running than Greg. He’s been with the company for more than 20 years and loves to talk about all of the current and future capabilities of his service and support teams. 

To begin, Greg points out that the world of automation maintenance is highly dynamic. Virtually every OPEX install today features software for monitoring each system. Data from the system is fed to the cloud for monitoring by OPEX Service. Providing OPEX with advanced predictive maintenance capabilities – including automatic alerts that foreshadow potential equipment issues.

The idea is quite simple – minimize worries about automation uptime. It’s a lot like the meditation app Headspace. Healthline, the health information provider, says Headspace “can help bring balance and peace across all aspects of daily life. Consistent mindfulness practice with Headspace can help you develop better focus, decrease your stress and become less reactive to your anxiety triggers.” Sounds like a well-rounded maintenance program, right? 

Predictive maintenance is the foundation of most “worry-free” maintenance programs today. It is predicting possible failures long before the fact that drives Greg and his team going forward. “We’re tracking parameters from voltage draws to motor temperatures looking for potential problems. That’s when the automatic alerts will take over,” says Greg. Then it’s just a matter of replacing the soon-to-be-affected component when it is most convenient for the operation.

As Fahnstock points out, iBOT®s are the primary focus of maintenance in OPEX warehouse automation equipment. These are the wireless robotic vehicles that move throughout the systems to pick up and deliver items. There can be as many as 20 iBOTs in each aisle. “Since each aisle is predominately  comprised of static racking, iBOTs account for 95% of our maintenance focus and since can be serviced outside of the Perfect Pick aisles, there is little disruption to the operation” says Greg. 

OPEX has nearly 100 dedicated technicians to Perfect Pick and Sure Sort nationwide. Some are on site full time for large installations. For others, OPEX promises a technician will be on site in two hours or less. A third option is for the end user’s dedicated technicians to be trained in key maintenance tasks for immediate response times. “Our super users know how to clear jams and remove a promblematic iBOT  in a matter of minutes” Greg explains. 

That sounds a lot like balance and peace out on the warehouse floor. No crisis. No worries. Call it Headspace for automation, if you will. 

Gary Forger is the former editor of Modern Materials Handling magazine and the Material Handling & Logistics U.S. Roadmap to 2030.  


 

 

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