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Advanced machine maintenance at Titan Steel

Wheelabrator Group Ltd News and PR from Wheelabrator Group Ltd - Published 28 October 2015 A new, sophisticated approach to maintenance has made Titan Europe plc’s UK subsidiary the most productive in the group.
Supplying the big names in the sector, including Caterpillar, Volvo and Liebherr, Titan Steel Wheels manufactures wheels for the global ‘off-highway’ vehicle industry. It exports them to the Americas, the Pacific Rim and mainland Europe to be fitted onto earthmovers, mobile cranes and other construction vehicles.

At its UK manufacturing facilities in Kidderminster, the production process includes shot blasting of the wheels before welding and painting. Four shot blast machines carry out this work – two Tilghmans and two Spencer Halsteads. The oldest was installed in 1958; the most recent in 2005. Every single part has to pass through one of these four machines, with any downtime impacting immediately and significantly on overall productivity.

Reactive maintenance: a vicious circle

As production increased over the years, less time was available to carry out maintenance work on the equipment or to fit new wear parts. And while the team at Titan made production run like clockwork to meet outputs, it became increasingly difficult to stay on top of machine performance and maintenance.

Jake Higley, Lean Manufacturing Manager at Titan, explains: “Especially in our market, the world is a smaller place these days and we simply have to work smarter in the UK. When we embarked on our lean journey about two years ago, we started implementing lean processes, only to discover that maintenance and machine breakdowns can ruin even the leanest operation. So we analyzed all our machines and ranked them by downtime per week. The four shot blast machines came out worst – with a staggering 75 hours lost production per week. So we knew we needed to get that sorted.”

By 2013, in-house maintenance staff were working overtime or on weekends to keep shot blast equipment running and catch up on the 4000 hours of lost production. A sub-contract service engineer was occasionally called in for service and maintenance work.

Jake continues: “Still the culture in the team at the time was that shot blast machines self-destruct no matter what, and there really is no point trying to change that. So the challenge for me was to prove them wrong and show them that shot blast equipment can be kept in check.”

When matters came to a head in early 2014, and both external engineer and parts supplier were unable to meet the turnaround time required to fix a pressing problem with the equipment, Jake used the opportunity to call in blast machine experts from Wheelabrator Plus to have a thorough look at the machines.

Intensive TLC

Tilghman and Spencer Halstead are Wheelabrator legacy brands, so Wheelabrator Plus had occasionally supplied rare spare parts, and were of course familiar with the equipment. The team around Mark Abley serviced and fixed the four machines – and discussed the ongoing issues with the equipment with Jake.
Titan reduces downtime from 75 hours to 4.5 hours per week, with Wheelabrator Plus

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