Our team applied a loss mindset to a chronic reliability issue with bearing failures in the Continuous Caster. The result was improved productivity and lower maintenance costs.

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Segment bearing failures in a continuous caster impact production, maintenance cost and quality in the steelmaking process. In fact, a failure of just one bearing in the machine requires a whole segment exchange to repair the problem. That’s lost time and money that impacts our customers and our bottom line.

Enter a cross-functional ArcelorMittal Dofasco team from Steelmaking and Central Trades Services. The team of more than 25 worked together to rethink bearing maintenance, design and lubricants.

The team looked closely at the lubrication system, an air-oil system. In this system, air and oil are mixed together at the mixing block and split through distribution blocks to each bearing. The team found the biggest cause of segment bearing failure was not enough oil which was being caused by plugged lines. A deeper dive found the lines were plugging because the oil was oxidizing in the 1/4” lines.

Redesigning the oil, modifying the tubing layout and replacing plugged lines reduced the number of costly segment changes. This reduced the maintenance costs, quality defects and production losses.

The team utilized a systematic root cause analysis approach to the challenge. They also utilized on-condition monitoring to understand performance gaps of the system and then to assess its condition. This allowed the team to understand the extent of the problem and its cause and then contain the impact of the failure of individual components on the overall system.

For their efforts and achievements, the team won the Association for Iron and Steel Technology’s (AIST) 2017 Reliability Achievement Award – Silver. The award is to recognize iron and steel producing companies for reliability improvements and achievements that can be demonstrated as unique or first in the industry. The AIST Reliability Achievement Award is awarded to recognize those organizations and the individuals within them that have developed, applied, and proved a new practice, policy or procedure that significantly improves iron- and steelmaking reliability in North America. The award will be presented at the AIST Maintenance Conference in November, 2017