Machine maintenance matters, of that there is no doubt, says Starrag UK’s Service Manager, Jim Bradley. “You wouldn’t expect your car to run reliably without regular servicing and the same is true for a machine tool,” he suggests. “The investment in regular maintenance, to ensure the machine is running at optimal levels, is essential and it’s effectively an investment in a user’s production and, therefore, his livelihood.”

Starrag UK ensures it is equipped to the highest possible levels of customer service to give customers the utmost confidence in investing in its world-leading machine ranges.

It has a team of 20 customer-facing service specialists covering the whole of the UK and Eire, including 13 very experienced, highly-trained and skilled ‘mobile’ service engineers who each have an average of 15 to 20 years’ experience of the Starrag machine technologies.

The engineers can deal with every aspect of machine installation and service (and, if they occur, breakdowns) across the numerous machines available from those manufactured and supplied by Starrag – from the ranges of Berthiez, Bumotec, Dörries, Droop+Rein, Ecospeed, Heckert, Scharmann, SIP and Starrag.

“With such a broad machine range, we obviously make sure our engineers have invested a lot of time in knowing, in-depth, the many intricacies of each machine type,” says Mr Bradley. “It normally takes at least two years for an engineer to attain the appropriate levels of electrical and mechanical knowledge. The sole intention is to ensure customers’ valuable investments perform as they should but also, if a breakdown occurs for whatever reason, the machine can be brought back into production in the quickest possible time.”

In addition to offering annual preventative maintenance plans and a Serviceplus programme – where an annual fee covers every eventuality and guarantees service response times, inspection and repair, as well as in some cases guaranteed uptimes – Starrag UK also carries out ad hoc service calls.

“While around 70 per cent of our customers are signed up to our planned/preventative maintenance schemes, it is clear that not everyone prefers such a regulated regime,” Mr Bradley adds. “They make their own judgement between machine efficiency levels and uptimes [on machines that are supplied with warranty levels that can extend from 12 months to three years].

“So, our customer service operation is also geared up to deal with urgent call-outs. These are usually classified as either ‘machine still operating’ or ‘tool down’ issues, the latter being instances where a machine has stopped completely – and, therefore, is not earning.

“Our response mechanism – which is determined globally by Starrag and measured by a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) – is based on next-day delivery of parts and:

  • A four-hour response after customer call to determine the plan of action – which could simply be support by ‘phone;
  • An engineer on-site within 48 hours; and
  • A total repair time within 56 hours.

“We’re constantly being measured by these KPIs and I’m pleased to say that we have a 95 per cent record on engineer on-site calls and a 100 per cent record on all tool down cases!”

Highlighting that Starrag machines are not necessarily simple machines where service/breakdown issues takes just five minutes to solve, Mr Bradley says customers understandably expect Starrag UK service engineers to be experts in every discipline.

“In addition, for some of our larger users – those, for example, running multiple machines – we also permanently have on-site engineers. Or where users have their own teams of skilled maintenance staff, it may be a case that our role may simply be providing access to specialist software routines for users to dial-into to achieve ‘patch repairs’.

“In addition, certain machines can have Starrag’s innovative Uptime Package embedded into the control system to alert users to unpredicted downtime.”

Clever software routines continually condition monitor machine characteristics such as thermal, temperature and power consumption and frequencies across all main axes, as well as overall process conditions including potential collision monitoring and, when necessary, automatic alerts highlight any inconsistencies.

The importance of machine reliability – and the role of machine suppliers in enabling users to achieve optimum machine operating levels – is also emphasised by Dr Bernhard Bringmann, managing director of Starrag AG.

“Building and supplying functional machine tools is not necessarily the main challenge in today’s manufacturing arena,” he says. “Rather, the quest is for machine suppliers to create true partnerships with customers where every aspect of production processes is closely scrutinised then optimised.

“Machine reliability, of course, underpins this mentality and preventative maintenance is crucial. Starrag’s machine life cycle monitoring regimes – which are driven by FMEA and are applied to individual machines over perhaps a five-/six-year cycle – enable users to plan effectively for planned maintenance/parts replacement before breakdowns occur.”

As Mr Bradley concludes: “There is a critical balance between cost of service (in any of its guises) and the cost of lost production. I spend around half my working life visiting customers and discussing with their production managers and machine operators the challenges they face and how Starrag UK can help meet them.

“I also spend a lot of time detailing how planned service can effectively fix problems before they happen, illustrating how planned preventative maintenance is an investment rather than a cost.”

Automation Update