Downtime chewed off

By installing bearing lubricators and vibration monitoring equipment on its production machinery, chewing gum maker Gumlink has eliminated bearing defects and unplanned stoppages.

Gumlink A/S, based in Denmark, develops, produces and sells chewing gum products. The company was established in 1915 and currently employs around 600 people and has an annual turnover of around €140 million.

The 36,000 square-metre manufacturing plant handles up to 40,000 tonnes of chewing gum each year, so it is critical that production machines are kept running, free of any unplanned stoppages.

The plant has 15 machines that are responsible for placing sugar onto the chewing gum. There are three, 55kW fans on each machine. One fan blows the sugar in by air. The second extracts the air and the third regulates the pressure.

Before installing bearing lubricators and vibration monitoring equipment, the bearings on the fans were lasting for an average of 12 months. This was down to incorrect choice of grease, poor relubrication and contamination issues with the sugar. Due to the sugar in the air, there were also balancing and misalignment problems with the fans.

Gumlink called in FAG Industrial Services (FIS), part of the Schaeffler Group, to replace and carry out life calculations on all the bearings. As a result of this, FIS recommended that ‘ARCANOL Multitop’ grease should be used on all bearings; two ‘Motion Guard’ Champion lubricators were also mounted on the motor (on each machine) and two on each of the fans; and a ‘FAG Detector II’ vibration monitoring system was also used to measure the vibration level on the bearings and to detect imbalances in the fans.

The vibration level of the fans is now measured every four weeks so that any increase in vibration levels is detected promptly by Gumlink’s maintenance staff.

Before installing the vibration monitoring equipment from FIS, Gumlink had been monitoring the fans manually, by listening to noise levels around the fans. When noise levels were considered too high, production was stopped while the blades on the fans were cleaned with dry ice. As Carsten Eilersen, Key Account Manager Distribution at Schaeffler Denmark comments: “Checking the fans manually meant that Gumlink were scrapping two to three batches of chewing gum each year, which cost the company around 14,000 euros. Since installing the Detector II equipment in 2003, Gumlink has had no more unplanned shutdowns and maintenance can be carried out at weekends so as not to disrupt production. Payback has been approximately two years.”

Gumlink is currently considering upgrading its Detector II equipment to the Detector III device, which offers a separate balancing kit to rebalance moving plant and machinery, as well as monitoring vibration levels.