Focus: Covid-19

How Do You Stop?

Prepping Your Shop for Life Under Lockdown

Sure, you try to keep your shop equipment in good working order. You might even be one of those places that shuts down production at noon on Friday or has a Saturday maintenance shift to make sure come Monday morning that everything is in tip-top shape. But what happens when that next Monday morning may be weeks or a month or two away? Many shop owners are finding out, thanks to COVID-19 and the shelter-in-place/workplace-closure orders that currently dot the country hoping to stop the virus. Even if your community has so far dodged the outbreak, you may be finding your fellow contractors have already backed off current projects out of an abundance of caution, or property owners don’t want strangers spending time in their homes right now. Before you send everyone home, what should you be doing to make sure things return to normal just as soon as officials say it’s safe to go back to work? Your first thought is likely for your production equipment, and your manufacturer is a good contact if you have specific questions on your models – although keep in mind not everyone there may be working either. In general, the idea is to leave them as clean as possible. “I would recommend completely cleaning the machine inside and out with fresh, clean water,” says Eric Fitzgerald, service manager for Pontiac, Mich.-based Marmo Meccanica. “Then, turn off and disconnect the water supply from the machine. Remove all tooling from the machine and perform the complete preventative maintenance procedure.” Fortunately, many locations are past the time of year where freezing temperatures might be expected, but if that’s a possibility, Fitzgerald suggests draining all water. “Regarding shutting the machine off, that should be done at the disconnect before the machine, or at the breaker,” he adds. “You want to isolate the machine from the power supply. That way, if a storm occurs, your machines are isolated from any power surges.” Peter Hauser, director of CNC sales and technical advisory for Knoxville, Tenn.-based Braxton-Bragg LLC, agrees. He adds that both the machinery and workstations should be cleaned, and the entire working area washed. Additionally, “Wipe down any exposed guides and rails, and I suggest spray them with lubricant,” Hauser says. “And, pull down all disconnects for the machinery.” Stephanie Kadlec, marketing manager for St. Cloud, Minn.-based Park Industries®, also emphasizes removing as much water as possible, and then greasing the fittings and oiling the rails where applicable.

With routers, the tool should be removed from the spindle and the tool cones cleaned. With sawjets, particularly Park’s OPTIMUS®, SABERjet™ and FUSION™, the large hopper should be emptied so moisture won’t cause a blockage when the machine is powered back up. The mini-hopper should also be emptied. Kadlec also makes an important recommendation that may be overlooked when focusing on the physical act of shutting down. With every piece of equipment, make sure to back up all data. She also recommends taking pictures of the screens for stagger setups and offsets in case the programmable logic controller (PLC) resets. “That way you can enter the values upon machine setup,” she says. As for that other important part of the production process – tooling --“It’s best to keep the tooling in a dry area,” says Marmo Meccanica’s Fitzgerald. “High moisture levels will degrade some polishing tools, primarily resin bricks.” Again, what to do with your water-treatment system will depend on the manufacturer. Park’s Kadlec, for instance, recommends emptying the main tank and wash it down to ensure the purge valve doesn’t get plugged and the water become stagnant. In any case, be sure to close all valves to guard against leaking, says Braxton-Bragg’s Hauser. If possible, he also recommends turning off the main water valve to the facility, again to avoid the potential for leaks not just in the shop, but throughout the building. Don’t forget to take a larger perspective with more than just your water supply. For instance, Hauser recommends proper storage of any materials that might cause a hazard in the building. And, check for potential hazards outside the building and remove them. “Ensure all slabs are safely stored and appropriately braced or strapped,” he advises. “And, keep all materials away from doorways to ensure safe reentry.” Also, don’t forget the offices, break areas and showroom. Some steps there are just good housekeeping, such as removing all food and perishables, and taking out the garbage, but others are more critical. “Shut down all PCs, unplug any electronic equipment possible, and make sure your server is not only 100% backed up, but take a copy of the data, if possible,” Hauser says. Finally, make sure all doors and gates are locked. That way, whether it’s days or weeks, it shouldn’t take much more than turning on the water supply and installing the tooling to be back in business once more.

– K. Schipper