MRO Magazine

Reducing lube and bearing costs

December 1, 2010 | By Carroll McCormick


In Edmonton in October 2010, bearing, seals and maintenance solutions provider SKF Canada celebrated the opening of the global company’s 15th Solution Factory. The 18,000 sq ft (1,672 sq m) facility houses new and existing capabilities under one roof.

The largest room in the Solution Factory is a 14,000 sq ft (1,300 sq m) repair area, divided into three bays. The first bay is for fabricating seals, assembling lubrication skids and other miscellaneous repair and servicing activities. The second bay, equipped with a five-tonne crane, is for bearing remanufacturing. The third bay is for repairs and future expansion.

Clients entering the Solution Factory by the front door step directly into an exhibition room. Here they can see static and active displays of SKF products such as specialty bearings, seals, mechatronics and power transmissions. Nearby is a training room and remote diagnostics centre (RDC).


The grand opening of the Solution Factory was well-attended by SKF personnel and maintenance specialists from the oil and gas, and pulp and paper industries, in western Canada. SKF Canada president Joo Ricciarelli summarized the mission of the Solution Factory. “Customers want solutions: reduced time to market, reduced cost of production, improved productivity. The Solution Factory puts all the resources we can give our customers in one place … we want to transfer knowledge from ourselves to our customers.”

To illustrate Ricciarelli’s point, Norm Kowalchuck, maintenance service co-ordinator at Cenovus Energy, Calgary, AB, presented a case study of how SKF devised maintenance strategies for Cenovus; e.g., criticality analysis and preventive maintenance. “The criticality analysis helped us clarify where we needed to focus,” explained Kowalchuck. The work yielded over $6 million in soft savings, with a return on investment (ROI) of about three months.

Shawn Elliot, senior advisor at Vancouver-based Daishowa-Marubeni International Ltd.’s DMI Peace River pulp mill in Peace River, AB (489 km northwest of Edmonton), presented a case study in which he discussed how the mill integrated SKF solutions into DMI’s reliability strategies. He reported a roughly 25% drop in lube and bearing costs, an increase in equipment availability of 2-3% and operator-driven equipment reliability up about 100%. “Operator-driven reliability has been the biggest change for us in the past five years,” Elliot said.

After more chat and a ribbon cutting ceremony, SKF divided the attendees into groups for a tour and demonstration of seven areas of the Solution Factory. These cover what SKF calls its five platforms: Bearings, Seals, Lubrication, Mechatronics and Reliability Services.

The first stop was in the centre bay where, for the first time in Canada, SKF will have a bearing refurbishing capability. After incoming bearings are inspected, they are cleaned in a Quadra-Jet Model 250 washer (think giant dishwasher) that can accept bearings up to 49 in. (124 cm) in diameter. Afterward, technicians check bearing clearances, dismantle, repair, reassemble and pack customers’ bearings for shipping. These operations were scheduled to begin by the end of October.

In the second area we saw presentations of different types of SKF solutions; e.g., lubrication system designs, vibration monitoring systems and the company’s work in the hydrocarbon processing industry. SKF provided illustrations of equipment such as pumps, blowers, fans, and maintenance tools such as portable electronic devices and other application-specific solutions.

After a stop and talk in the exhibition room, we passed through to the fourth area: the RDC. This room is equipped for Remote Data Capture and analysis, diagnostics reporting and the general making available of data to customers 24/7. A key advance in the creation of the RDC is that SKF engineers no longer have to physically visit equipment to collect data.

The most physical expression of SKF’s commitment to, as Ricciarelli put it, “equip the world with knowledge,” was parked at the fifth stop beside the refreshment table: After our group came, conquered and left, I stayed behind to learn more about the SKF solutions vehicle– a 26-ft(7.9-m) Kenworth with a walk-in, custom-made show-room kitted out with demonstration equipment and graphics representing SKF’s five platforms.

This solutions vehicle, which replaces an SKF tool truck that had seen 12 years of service, has been on the road since May 17, 2010. It has already visited 171 end-users and the plan is to have it on the road for 50 weeks of the year.

During each appointment that the solutions vehicle has with middle managers at a company, SKF has two goals: Enlighten end-users about the five platforms and explain how they allow SKF to create solutions, according to Mark Howard, business manager, seals platforms. “As we inform them about what we have and do, we ask probing questions about how their plant is operating. The overall concept is to discuss [how much] they spend a year and how they can reduce maintenance costs. We want to talk about how to increase uptime and reduce costs.”

Hopelessly behind the pack again, I got a private tutorial on a demonstration lubrication system in bay three. The Solution Factory will design and assemble custom lube system skids here, do assessments and perform associated services. Until now a service that Toronto-based SKF provided primarily from eastern Canada, this Edmonton-based capability will improve response time to customers.

Stationed a few feet away in the last section was the sealing solutions area and an Economos NG 040 SealJet. It is capable of quickly fabricating seals, including one-off orders, up to 18 in. (45.7 cm) in diameter; the Economos has software that translates measurements from a client’s hardware to calculate the correct replacement seal size. While the machine rapidly carved a red seal, we learned that 70% of SKF’s seal business is for the aftermarket.

By 2015, SKF plans to have 30 Solution Factories around the world, all connected and following a common standard. As for Canada though, explained Ricciarelli, “We are investing a lot in Canada in engineering capabilities — application engineers who can help customers.”

Montreal-based Carroll McCormick, an award-winning writer, is the senior contributing editor for Machinery & Equipment MRO.

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