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Robot Maintenance: The Right Way to DIY

Posted by Shawn Howard on May 23, 2016 3:00:00 PM

Maintenance_e-2.jpgSpring is a great time to think about planning a summer robot maintenance break. Smart maintenance isn’t just inspecting, cleaning and replacing robot parts. A savvy plant manager also uses maintenance time to optimize a robot’s programming, which means analyzing the robot’s programming. I hear two arguments against asking for expert help with robot maintenance and optimization. First, managers will say, “Spending an extra two hours to make a robot run better isn’t worth it; we don’t have time to shut down the cell.” Second, managers often say, “We have technicians to perform maintenance. They can handle it.” In reply to the first argument, optimizing a robot’s programming leads to increased throughput. An investment of a few hours keeps a plant’s robot running at peak efficiency, longer. That spells greater production and revenue. To the second argument, here’s a story:  A customer disassembled a robot arm to perform preventive maintenance. As they reassembled the arm, instead of using the recommended OEM grease, they picked less expensive locally supplied grease. The grease didn’t have the viscosity to make the robot run smoothly, especially the gearbox that had a tight tolerance. The robot broke down. So, for the sake of saving $40 on grease, the customer’s robot had to be entirely rebuilt. As you consider your summer maintenance break, think about these items:

Do my plant maintenance personnel have the proper training to service my robot?

There’s nothing wrong with tasking your maintenance team with servicing your plant’s robots, but it’s critical that your maintenance staff have the training to do the job correctly. When you own a robot, it’s important to set your technicians up for success. Your technicians should, for example, learn: why to check servo hours; how often they need to change a robot’s batteries (hint: from three to five years) and grease a robotic arm (every 6,000 hours); and how often they should clean the controller heat exchanger. Supplement training with maintenance software that technicians use for preventive maintenance, troubleshooting and repairs.

Are we fully prepared for scheduled robot maintenance?

Research parts, lead times and technician availability well in advance. Time slots for technicians to visit during July and Christmas shutdowns can fill up six to eight months in advance. Make sure the parts you need will be on-site before starting maintenance and assume your robot arm will be unavailable for use between six and fourteen hours, depending on the complexity of the job.

Schedule a Spare Parts Planning Session

Is our maintenance plan working to its full potential?

Work closely with your Regional Technical Manger to make sure your maintenance plans are in line with manufacturer recommendations. Your plan should include regular maintenance and audits of robot cells. Fixing it when it breaks is not a plan. Programming optimization can also minimize excess robot motion and cycle time. Every second of time removed from a cycle compounds by a factor of how many cycles per day. And if you need help, remember that nobody knows the inside of our robots better than we do.

Shawn Howard is Regional Technical Manager at Yaskawa America, Inc. – Motoman Robotics Division

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