HYDAC helps pallet-producing company avoid downtime to meet supply-chain demands that can’t miss a beat.
A company producing wooden pallets for industrial and retail industries was facing difficulties with equipment failure and costly downtime.
HYDAC Automation and Control Engineer Dirshan Daby explains the company has been a backbone in terms of the supply chain from one end of Australia to the other through the advent of COVID-19 and panic buying.
“It’s a whole process to put quality pallets together efficiently and at high speed. To do this the company has an advanced and automated factory that produces and repairs pallets,” Mr Daby says.
“The idea is to turn the intake of wood planks or broken pallets into fully assembled and painted pallets. The material arrives for inspection and is moved across a labyrinth of conveyor belts around the plant where a process takes place at each station. Once the pallets are completed and painted, they are stacked into lots by an automated hydraulics system and are ready to be loaded onto trucks.”
He explains that the conveyor belt is controlled with electromechanical gearboxes, and each station is automated by electro-hydraulic systems where heavy lifting or force is required. This includes the repair station, stacking and de-stacking station, just to name a few.
“The company’s site in question has around 20 hydraulic power packs for the refurbishment of pallets,” Mr Daby says.
“As you can imagine these power packs work around the clock, every day, making shift work par for the course. This means the reliability of power packs is of paramount importance, with breakdowns posing an enormous problem.
“HYDAC made contact with the company and discussed possibilities for improvement after identifying it as a key end-user that supports the Australian industrial and retail supply chain and hence the economy.”
HYDAC emerges as industry authority
Mr Daby says that HYDAC’s first discussions centered on maintenance strategies in view of all the hydraulic power packs onsite as well as best practice fluid management to increase hydraulic system reliability.
“At that point, we established ourselves as an industry authority as the maintenance team accepted our valid advice to optimise operations,” he says.
“Next we looked at the current state of their systems and offered some reliability advice. This included how we could introduce improvements to increase efficiency on certain plants. We also looked at how we could reduce downtime through a reliability study and root cause analysis.”
Mr Daby highlights that it was easy for HYDAC to identify “pain points” that needed addressing to avoid ongoing failures and breakdowns.
Leak points pain point
“First we identified leak points around the plant. They come into being due to the factory always operating, which brings with it vibration and loose points that eventually leak, causing spillage on the floor and dirt ingress into the system.
“As an aside, it was interesting to see their system, which resembled a Christmas tree with fittings hosed up everywhere.”
HYBOX program shows its mettle
Mr Daby underscores that this was the “perfect” opportunity for HYDAC to position itself as a “valuable partner” in terms of its engineering capability in the form of a HYBOX program.
“Through our HYBOX program, we can take an inquiry for a hydraulic power pack, assess it, and quote a system with hydraulic schematics within 15 minutes.
“And the way our production is set up for serial production of HYBOX units means we’re able to deliver a unit to site within three to five days depending on the system’s complexity.
“It was really good to witness the company realising just how knowledgeable we are in this instance and how we can deliver a reliable system at record speed.”
Mr Daby says the company “gave the system a go”, which has run hassle-free at a Dandenong site over a period of two years.
“The customer said it was the first reliability test we passed in terms of proving how good our systems are, the quality of product put into HYBOX, as well as the craftsmanship and engineering behind it.”
At that point, HYDAC was acknowledged as a preferred supplier for hydraulic power packs, with the customer’s Altona plant contracting it to replace faulty existing units and improve systems.
Manifold resolves leak points
The leak points were resolved with a HYDAC in-house-designed manifold that mounts directly onto a tank lid with minimum connection points.
“All the valves were mounted onto the manifold to create fully sealed surfaces that will not loosen even when undergoing vibration,” Mr Daby says.
“That was an elegant plug-and-play solution that also saved space, time and maintenance complexity.”
Heating resolved with all-in-one cooling solutions
HYDAC also identified heating issues in the customer’s systems, Mr Daby points out.
“This was opportune as HYDAC has the capability to develop cooling systems in-house as a package solution. So it wasn’t long before we were adding cooling packages to some of their hydraulic power packs,” he says.
“These are not separate units; it’s an all-in-one package and already connected so again we offered another plug-and-play solution, which was very attractive.
“Some of these units were installed onsite and we were able to deliver our system with an integrated filter into the manifold itself, which is easy to maintain, including element replacement. And we attached a visual indicator to let the customer know when the element required changing.
“And with the supply of our high-quality filter element, we were able to keep their system operating within the standard required by the site. All in all, this constituted a big upgrade to the customer’s system.”
Mr Daby points out that with the assistance of the engineering team HYDAC was able to identify places where the customer wanted to increase speed.
“Here HYDAC can make changes and upgrade the units onsite to help meet efficiency targets. And again, we’re working toward a plug-and-play solution.
Bye-bye to expensive electrician visits for mechanical connections
HYDAC realised that the customer had to contract an electrician to execute power pack mechanical connections on site.
“For installation jobs, we are required to test the unit with the customer bearing witness to sign off on the job. For this to happen we take care of the hydraulics and require a certified electrician onsite to perform the electrical connection. One time it took almost three hours to organise an electrician while the hydraulic technicians were sitting ducks - that’s a lot of expensive labour cost that can be easily saved,” Mr Daby says.
“HYDAC took the initiative to redesign the hydraulic power packs offered to include an electrical control box and 3-phase plug that allows the HPU to integrate directly. Now instead of supplying new power packs with a motor and loose cables we supply the newer design, with plug-and-play being as easy as connecting a home appliance into a powerpoint.
“This enabled the customer to hire an electrician to convert each area where HPUs operate to include power points. The job was completed in a day and the investment is paying off with every HPU replacement.”
Only three-steps required
“Now only three steps are required every time a customer wants to replace a power pack: connect the pressure, connect the tank line and plug the unit into the wall with the lead and plug we provide.”
The customer has reduced the amount of time to replace a power pack by more than 90%.
“That’s the kind of partnership we’ve developed, which has been fruitful for both parties. Now we have a real relationship and rub shoulders with people on the ground such as technicians and ask questions as to how we can help improve operations. This is most definitely appreciated as evident in HYDAC products and systems being taken on board in their facility.”