Equipment & Technology

Maintenance like a well-oiled machine

Two spare parts programs are helping Altra Motion Australia’s customers avoid devastating downtime.

A malfunctioning component can halt a bulk handling site at the best of times, but there are some spares that are so critical that the operators cannot allow them to go unreplaced.

This was the case for a mine in central western New South Wales which had two sets of brakes on a ball mill and a sag mill. These brakes were highly specific to the application and were not interchangeable – if something happened, the entire plant would halt operations and lose millions of dollars in lost productivity.

Thankfully, Altra Motion Australia can provide just the system to provide these types of sites with the peace of mind they need.

“It became obvious a few years ago that more customers were wanting critical spares available to avoid downtime,” Craig Kelly, Altra Motion Australia’s NSW service manager, told ABHR.

A critical spare is a replacement set of new spare parts that will be held at the customer’s site. The spares will be commissioned on the customer’s request by the Altra Service Team and the operating parts need to be returned to one of Altra’s facilities for refurbishment and testing to the original equipment specifications. Altra Service will schedule the commissioning of the new critical spares based on the customer’s shutdown schedule and return the refurbed set when they are completed. 

“When a customer needs a critical spare, we go to their site, learn about the application it will be used in, find out exactly what’s needed, and then provide them with a spare to keep on-site.

“It helps provide peace of mind, so that they know if the worst happens, they can minimise downtime and get back to production as soon as possible.”

In addition to its critical spares program, Altra Motion Australia operates a rotatable spares program, designed for components that are more common throughout an operation. 

This means that if a component breaks or needs replacing, Altra can exchange the worn component with a spare from the shelf. The worn components are then refurbished at one of the company’s several maintenance facilities.

Kelly said this process helps companies pre-plan around repairs and maintenance.

“Rotatable spares have a fixed price – the customer knows exactly how much a replacement spare will cost, which helps them budget,” he said. 

“For example, if they ask for three new brakes, we can send them over to the site within a day.”

When the parts arrive for refurbishment at a service facility, the company completely overhauls the component to meet the original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standards, a process that includes a comprehensive report and testing certification. If the spares arrive and they are unserviceable they will be replaced with new units referred to as a service exchange.

Customers can easily see how the spare parts stand up to several test environments, how well seals are functioning, and access an easy-to-read performance graph.

Altra keeps up to date in its stock levels, using a minimum and maximum holding level based on its users’ requirements to have everything ready at a moment’s notice. 

The company holds its stock in its workshop facilities across the country, including Sydney, Melbourne, Mackay, Perth, and a brand-new facility in Newcastle. Altra made the strategic move to open the new facility to support the local region, where it has high demand. 

Equipped with a painting booth, strip, testing and assembly areas, along with sales, warehousing and technical/engineering support, the Newcastle facility has everything necessary for refurbishments – as well as onsite requirements for their customers. 

Kelly said the rotatable spares program runs like a well-oiled machine and has been used successfully for several of the company’s key customers.

“A port authority reached out to use to ensure several of its hoist brakes could be included in the rotatable spares program,” he said. “We have their transport details and can ship off the spares to them at any time – all they need to do is give us a call or send a request via email.

“They know they will get the exact spares they need, and we can send the products out before we get the originals back from them to refurbish. After we have brought the components into working order, they go onto the shelf and are ready to be sent out if another customer requires them.

“The customer has been really happy with the speed we can deliver the replacements; they know they won’t be waiting for weeks to get the parts they need.”

Altra also provides training for sites using its products, demonstrating how to properly use and care for them, especially in complex applications or areas. 

Being the OEM, Altra can also draw upon its international brands, accessing information and technical/engineering advice from experts in Europe and the US if required. It also operates a 24–7 support network as part of its after-sales offering.

Kelly said Altra Motion Australia is looking to expand its critical and rotatable spares programs further across its user base.

“We’re going out and promoting this to customers across as many markets as we can, educating our staff on these programs and demonstrating how effective the programs can be,” he said.

“Now that we have the fully equipped facility in Newcastle, we can handle any job that comes our way and grow the market in that region.

“Things are only going to get bigger and better in the coming year. We have some exciting growth on its way.” 

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