Why your production business needs thermal cameras

Modern production-oriented businesses are focusing on making operations ultra-efficient, says TP Singh of Teledyne FLIR.

Autocar Pro News Desk By Autocar Pro News Desk calendar 12 May 2024 Views icon2532 Views Share - Share to Facebook Share to Twitter Share to LinkedIn Share to Whatsapp
Why your production business needs thermal cameras

Those in the manufacturing business will agree that time and quality control are two critical aspects, as is understanding your market. Therefore, product quality is high on the priority list of any manufacturer that has a strong focus on quality. And to ensure quality, well, that depends on a host of factors.

Whether your business manufactures finished articles or components for other businesses to incorporate into their products, the risks are the same: if your production equipment fails, your business quickly transitions from a profitable organisation to a loss-making company.

Till recent times, many businesses used to keep a healthy level of reserve stock in the warehouse to ensure their customers are never let down in the event of an unplanned break in production. But as competition increases and margins erode, most businesses choose to tie up as little cash in stock holding as possible, making reserve stock a less efficient way to operate in today’s highly competitive environment.

As businesses hold less stock, the effect of a disruption to production is quickly compounded, deliveries are more likely to be missed, and customers let down. This not only impacts revenue from lost business, but it also damages the reputation of a business too.

Industries, such as the automotive industry, face severe supply fines if they fail to deliver on time. Many modern car production lines can produce a car every 90 seconds, so a one-hour shut-down results in 40 cars not being produced. If the average price of a car is Euro 35,000 then this type of incident would result in lost revenue of Euro 1.4 million. So, it is not difficult to understand the high fines associated with missed delivery deadlines. Therefore, foolproof tools, systems are required to ensure 100% production.

But there still remains a question: Can these issues be avoided? We believe the answer is yes, by carefully monitoring the condition of your production equipment on a regular basis has shown that many supply chain problems can be eliminated.

For example, if your business uses an electric motor at any stage during the production process, when was it last checked for cleanliness? Electric motors can overheat due to a build-up of dirt and debris blocking air flow holes that are designed to help cool the motor. The motor may not be old or have any obvious issues — in fact it may appear to be working perfectly well until it suddenly fails.

Other examples might be electrical connections, fuse boxes, contactor plates, or other components found in electrical cabinets. Over time, tiny vibrations and heat cycles can cause crimped connections to loosen, along with nuts and bolts on connective wiring which give rise to elevated temperature as the electrical resistance increases. This type of common fault has no visual clues and can happen at any time during the production process, yet in most cases can be prevented using predictive condition monitoring techniques. Thermal imaging cameras are gaining popularity for quality control purposes to detect defects in products and materials.

Thermal imaging cameras: a key tool in ensuring effective and trouble-free production

The importance of proactive maintenance and the use of modern technologies like thermal imaging to minimise production disruptions and maintain high product quality in today's competitive manufacturing environment cannot be ruled out, say experts.

If regular thermal inspections are undertaken, thermal signatures can be identified for every electrical connection, electric motor, other electronic component or moving equipment in a facility. It can help in predictive maintenance in a big way.

While equipment operates as intended, temperatures will remain reasonably consistent, and the insights gained will be no more than regular reassurance. However, if suddenly a temperature reading begins to unusually increase, then this may be indicative of a developing fault.

Correcting faults may be as simple as tightening a connection or cleaning cooling fins or air-ways – but faults may be more severe and require more detailed maintenance or component replacement.

In the example of an electric motor exhibiting higher temperatures due to a build-up of dust and dirt, the fix may take 5 minutes when the motor has been turned off to clean it thoroughly. If the issue isn’t identified early, the motor may fail to deteriorate and require a replacement motor to be installed — potentially resulting in a shut down over several days whilst waiting for a new motor to be delivered.

Thermal cameras require little training in the hands of an operator, and the investment in a camera, operator training, and associated reporting software may cost less than you think.

The one certainty is that the overall cost will be less than an unplanned production shutdown.

TP Singh is the Senior Director, Sales – APAC Instrumentation Teledyne FLIR. Views expressed are of the author. 

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