Hydraulic systems play an integral role in many industries, including construction, automotive, aerospace and more. By using fluids to build energy, hydraulics have the ability to control machinery that is crucial for industrial processes. Hydraulic systems also require regular inspections to ensure the integrity, safety and service life of the machines. Here are the key reasons you should perform regular hydraulic system inspections and how it can benefit your company.
The significance of preventative maintenance
The failure of hydraulic systems can be catastrophic. It can jeopardize the safety of employees and cause expensive damage to equipment. For example, consider a scenario where a hose suddenly ruptures, leading to the leakage of a significant amount of oil. Unforeseen failures like these can lead to costly repairs and extended periods of operational downtime.
By performing regular maintenance inspections on your hydraulic system, you will be able to find problems before they occur. This can save you money on fixing a problem with machinery that could have been spotted beforehand. Additionally, over the long term, facilities can achieve cost savings through regular maintenance inspections, as opposed to the expenses associated with purchasing new equipment or making repairs.
For instance, basic maintenance tasks like replacing filters, fluid changes, tightening loose components and replacing worn-out parts can effectively prevent potential damage and eliminate downtime. Without proper preventative maintenance, you may find yourself needing to perform more expensive repairs on damaged machines. Corrective repairs will always incur higher costs and longer downtimes compared to preventative maintenance.
The safety of your employees and the public
As stated, not only does neglecting your hydraulic machinery negatively impact your operation output, but it can also put your employees in harm's way. Hydraulic systems deal with hot fluids under high pressure. If hydraulic hose system failure were to occur, it is very possible that the workers nearby can be sprayed with hot fluid, resulting in potential hydraulic injection which can lead to harmful injury or even amputation.
Consider the example of Air India Express Flight IX 385 on February 24, 2023: Upon takeoff from Calicut, the plane experienced the tail hitting the runway in what is referred to as a 'tail strike', resulting in suspected hydraulic failure, potentially due to inadequate preventative maintenance. The plane was diverted to Thiruvananthapuram International Airport where it made an emergency landing. However, to ensure a safe landing, the plane first used up some of its fuel over the Arabian Sea.
In another recent example, Hawaiian Airlines Flight 16 en route to San Diego had to make an emergency landing and was diverted to LAX because of its longer runway. During the initial climb, the crew determined the gear was still down because of a loss of one of the hydraulic systems.
Hydraulic failures on aircraft, construction equipment or industrial machines can range from slow leaks to component breakdown or complete system malfunctions.
With safety being the top priority, performing regular inspections on hydraulic systems is one of the easiest ways to protect your employees, customers and equipment. Without inspections, workplace injuries and system failures can become more prevalent. Finding leaks, breaks or component failures early can prevent equipment breakdowns and promote a safe work environment.
Types of inspections and maintenance
By performing inspections and maintenance on your hydraulic systems, you will be able to avoid and identify problems. These inspections can ensure that disastrous damage does not occur to your hydraulic systems. While minimal inspections can be as simple as checking your fluid, other inspections can be more in-depth by checking all of the individual parts, filters, pressurization, hoses and fittings.
One way to prevent damage is by becoming familiar with the hydraulic systems that are functioning in your machinery. Inspecting the individual parts will allow you to notice when these parts need to be replaced or fixed.
Another effective way to get ready for inspections is to follow a maintenance schedule and checklist. Since each hydraulic system operates differently, it's important to be well-prepared. It's vital to understand all aspects of preventative maintenance as it helps you, your facility or job site, to be prepared when inspections come around.
Examples of preventative maintenance
Since there are many different types of machinery, there is no universal preventative maintenance plan. However, according to Power and Motion, all preventative maintenance plans should include:
- Step-by-step instructions
- Any possible hazards inherent to the specific type of equipment
- Environmental concerns
- Safety precautions for each step
- Specific tools or equipment required for the maintenance of individual machines
- Traceable parts for performing the procedure(s).
Hydraulic machinery represents a significant investment, and it's crucial to safeguard these assets. Conducting routine maintenance and inspections on your hydraulic system not only saves businesses money, but also reduces stress and minimizes downtime. While inspections may seem tedious, they can range from quick checks to more thorough assessments. Establishing a schedule and gaining familiarity with your hydraulic systems are among the most effective steps to foster a safe working environment and guarantee the durability and reliability of your equipment.