In the woodworking industry today, a highly productive plant requires highly efficient and well maintained dust collection. Dust collection systems collect the dust, and other airborne particles, preventing them from contaminating the product, other machinery and especially from harming personnel.

As a woodworking professional, you are already familiar with what a nuisance dust can be in your plant and production process. The wood dust created by cutting, shaping and sanding wood is more than a nuisance. It can be a serious health and safety hazard if it is not properly controlled by adequate collection and removal. Here are some of the potential problems of uncontrolled dust of which you should be concerned:

Respiratory effects are the primary health concern. Inhaling excessive dust can cause nasal irritation and bleeding, inflammation of the sinuses, wheezing, prolonged colds and decreased lung function. You can also develop an allergy and asthma from repeated exposure to certain wood dusts.

Skin and eye effects are also possible. Dermatitis, an inflammation of the skin, can occur from repeated wood dust contact. Symptoms can include itching, redness or cracking of the skin. Wood dust can also cause eye irritation. Wood dust is a known human carcinogen. Occupational exposure to certain wood dust can cause cancer of the sinuses and nasal cavities.

The protection of employees is every company’s primary concern. Insurance companies, fire departments and OSHA have adopted woodworking safety guidelines published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Dust is a hazard that must be controlled. The OSHA and the NFPA require yearly inspections of dust collection systems by a qualified professional. To run efficiently, economically and to adequately remove this harmful by-product, a dust collect system requires effective and timely preventative maintenance. Improper and ineffective maintenance can reduce output, lead to premature equipment failure and in some cases, fires or explosions.

Preventive maintenance: Half the cost

In days past, when machinery was simpler and cheaper to fix or replace, the philosophy was “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” However, today’s machinery is far more complex, costly and needs more constant adjustment and care. To keep your equipment in peak operating condition requires a preventative maintenance program. The cost of preventative maintenance is generally less than half the cost you incur when you do maintenance on a reactive basis.

Preventive maintenance is a schedule of planned maintenance actions aimed at preventing breakdowns, equipment failures and avoiding any unplanned maintenance activity. Preventive maintenance is designed to preserve and enhance equipment reliability by replacing worn components before they actually fail. Preventive maintenance activities include equipment checks, any needed adjustments, partial or complete overhauls at specified periods, lubrication and more. During preventative maintenance workers can also record equipment deterioration so they know to replace or repair worn parts before they cause a system failure.

Technological advances in tools for inspection and diagnosis have enabled even more accurate and effective equipment maintenance. The ideal preventive maintenance program would prevent equipment failure before it occurs.

Benefits of preventative maintenance

• Increases the efficiency and speed of your equipment.

• Minimizes or eliminates catastrophic machinery failures.

• Helps machinery last longer and perform better.

• Minimizes or eliminates costly downtime; increases profitable uptime.

• Reduces unscheduled maintenance. Repairs can be made when they least affect production.

• Reduces spare parts inventories. Parts can be purchased just before scheduled shut-downs.

• Includes inspection and/or testing of fire/explosion devices as required by OSHA.

• Reduces excessive electric power consumption caused by inefficient machinery performance.

• Reduces need for standby equipment.

• Reduces rework of goods caused by less than optimal machine operation.

• Reduces scrap caused by poorly performing machinery.

• Reduces overtime needed to make up for lost production due to equipment problems.

• Reduces late deliveries caused by broken or poorly performing machinery.

• Increases employee safety. Injuries are often caused by poorly performing machinery.

• Reduces safety penalties levied against the company for unsafe equipment.

Troubleshooting your dust collection system

Preventative maintenance requires troubleshooting to evaluate the effectiveness of your dust control measures and to assure that your system is operating at maximum efficiency. In addition to maintaining airflow velocities and static pressure, below are other common problems facing operators of industrial dust collection systems:

• Change in capacity requirements

• Bag failures

• Controller failure

• Incorrect controller settings

• Solenoid failure

• Sub-optimal filter media type

• Improper bag \ cartridge installation

• Cell plate leaks

• Damper problems

• High emissions

• Broken cages

• Diaphragm failure

• Improper fit of cage and bag

• Inadequate compressed air supply

• Moisture in compressed air supply

• Poor gasketing / seal

• Housing corrosion

• Baffle integrity

• Faulty airlock

• Worn airlock seals

• Faulty screw conveyer

• Modified pipe system

• Poor hood design

• Change in dust properties

• Uninsulated components

• Faulty/missing gauges

• Blinding of filter media

• Unnecessary vibration

Dust collection systems are your main weapon to avoid exposure to hazardous dust. To prevent dust collection systems from becoming the source of downtime and compliance issues, it is imperative that you budget for a preventative maintenance program. In today’s economy it is even more important that your money is well spent. With hiring freezes, cuts in training budgets and hard-to-find skilled labor many companies are outsourcing their maintenance services to dedicated and experienced professionals. Outsourcing enables budget flexibility. It allows your organization to pay for only the services that you need and only when you need them. It also reduces the need to hire and train specialized staff. The outsourcing arrangement can change as your needs change.

Service professionals can perform your routine maintenance and identify and correct any small problems, before they become big headaches. In addition to the need for routine maintenance during the long life of a dust collection system, many variables, such as: process components, types of materials processed and the number and type of machines utilizing dust collect can change. Service professionals can show you how to modify your system to meet new process and capacity requirements. They will also monitor your energy usage and help you to determine ways to reduce your energy needs. A qualified dust collection maintenance professional can show you how to optimize your system to achieve the highest operating efficiency possible.

Dust collection manufacturers are a good source to locate service networks that are knowledgeable and dedicated to the woodworking industry. The manufacturer should be consulted to provide or identify the best possible service companies to help you meet your regulatory obligations and maintain a system to protect your employees, your products and your bottom line.

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