Short Story: The Truth about Kimberly the Hydraulic Unit’s health

By: Kim Hydraulic a.k.a. Torbjörn Idhammar, IDCON – a Reliability and Maintenance Management Consulting firm


My name is Kimberly, but you can call me Kim for short or as the maintenance guys call me -Kim, the small hydraulic unit.  I’m 11 years old and have lived at this plant all my life.  Even though I’m middle aged, I have had a lot of health problems. 

Once, I had very dirty oil that caused my pump to cavitate, they had to take me off-line and do a pump replacement surgery.  Another time, I had a sticking solenoid valve.  Ouch, I remember that it burned a lot!  It took the guys at the plant forever to find it.  I think my new pump is both worn and work off the pump curve since the strainer is still a bit clogged and the oil is still pretty dirty. I can’t run as fast as I used to. 

The plant wants me to work 24/7, no weekends off, or vacations, but I do it, for them!  I know how important to the people at the plant that I run all the time.  If I don’t, they don’t get the “profit”.  Not sure what the profit is, but it is important to them, so it’s important to me.

I wished they took better care of me.  There are a bunch of people  visiting me all the time, never the same person.  They all check my oil level, but no one checks my solenoids, coupling or pump.  Sparky comes by often to check my motor , but never cleans it.  Mr. Mechanic says Sparky is a “Prima donna”.  That’s so funny, because I’ve never seen a “Prima donna” with a spit cup.  Of course, I don’t get to see many real prima donnas at all, so who knows.

My health problems started when I was just a baby, I had my first breakdown and Mr. Plant Manager told the team that I needed to have more Preventive Maintenance (PM).  So, he told Mr. Mechanic to set up a new PM.  Mr. Mechanic was busy with other breakdowns, so he entered “PM Hydraulic Unit 45-354-675”, nothing else.  45-354-675 is my nickname in case you wondered.  Not the best nickname, but pretty unique. 

A while later, before my pump was cavitating, Mr. Slick, the lubricator, set up another PM for me, it said check oil level and filter.  After my pump replacement Sparky added a PM for “Check pump”, but most people here don’t know how to check my pump.  They don’t know what each of my pressure gauges actually read, or what they are supposed to be.  For example, my pump outlet pressure has been at 1800 Psi, but should be 1950 Psi.

The people spend a lot of time with me, take a look at my monthly PMs and you’ll see!

  • Everyone checks the oil level
  • Motor temperature is checked by Sparky, also by Mr. Mechanic
  • Filter is changed by Slick every 6 months
  • Slick takes an oil sample every month and sends it off to a lab, but no one reads the report… it is bad!
  • Mr. Mechanic takes the temperature of the pump, sometimes, Mr. Manager do it too.
  • Process control checks me remotely they say, maybe because they don’t like the COVID, not sure.

My PM’s have been set up ad-hoc, people have added PM’s after each breakdown, and now I have a lot of people checking things, but they are very ineffective, because no one looked at the full picture!  My PM’s could be described in a picture, see below:

hydraulic unit

I have a lot of other things that should be checked but I guess everyone has forgotten.

No one ever checks my coupling, my cooler efficiency, or the zinc anode in the cooler, the solenoids for heat, cleanliness, vibration analysis on my pump and motor, everyone disregards my leaks, they are accepted.  They also leave my internals open a lot, so all kind of dirt can enter my system. I am supposed to be clean to 3 microns, but my air filter is a 25-micron filter.  They say if they put a better one on, it clogs too quick.

If the team got together and looked at the full picture, and coordinated the efforts, I bet the team would spend less time with me.  The program would look something like this:

They would cover all essential PM’s, and I would have fewer breakdowns, that in turn would save time and improve the profit. I’d miss them but I would rather be healthy and running faster.

Even though a detailed FMEA could be helpful, I bet that the team could put together a solid program using experience and common sense.  I hear the IDCON consultants have a very straight forward process and tons of standard PM’s with pictures and video support.

At IDCON, we understand the pressure you face trying to build a reliable plant.
We provide side-by-side reliability and maintenance consulting and training designed to keep your equipment running.

For over 45 years, we’ve partnered with 100s of manufacturing plants around the world to eliminate the costs and the pressure caused by unreliable equipment. And we’d love to do the same for you.

Contact us today to see how we can help you keep your plant running.

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Picture of Torbjörn Idhammar

Torbjörn Idhammar

President & CEO, IDCON Inc. Reliability and Maintenance Consultant

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