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For many of us, dust is a mere nuisance or allergy issue that can normally be addressed with a dust cloth or allergy pill. The basic premise of dust issues is that if enough dust collects on a filter or in a ventilation system, air flow will be reduced. Reduced air flow may result in assets overheating, equipment malfunctions, breakdowns, and unnecessary repair or replacement costs. This is valid for any machine that has electrical or mechanical components requiring air movement or that has moving parts including but not limited to medical equipment, computers, and control panels.

Preventive Maintenance is the Good News

In many cases a little preventive maintenance like changing the air filters, periodic cleaning of intake and exhaust vents and no smoking will avoid most dust build up. In industrial settings where dust may be a by-product, frequent cleaning, inspections, regular scheduled maintenance and monitoring machine performance are all good practices.

Now The Bad News – Dust does not act alone.

Dust is everywhere, it can collect in the most non-obvious places and for this reason, too many facilities, asset and maintenance managers overlook the secret damage of dust. The secret damage is that dust does not act alone and in combination with just a tiny bit of moisture, dust can and will corrode vital components.

“Dust absorbs moisture even if the equipment is not directly impacted by the water. Without this dust, the moisture would not adhere as readily to the surfaces of the electronics….Left unmitigated, the circuit cards will begin to corrode and may produce intermittent failures. These failures can be very hard to diagnose and may result in lost data, computer failure, and network problems. In equipment such as a phone system, the result may be static sound and noise when listening to a call, lost voicemail and so forth.”

Lawrie Hollingsworth of Asset Recover Technologies, Inc. 

The higher the humidity the more moisture dust will absorb. The absorption of moisture by dust particles affects machines in different ways.

  • Impacted dust can lower the efficiencies of machines to the point of breakdown.
  • Hidden dust may result in false or inaccurate readings which is critical in some industries (ex: medical equipment – opening up the issue of liability)
  • Rust can corrode circuit boards and most metals. Given enough time rust can result in the early replacement of equipment due to a structural loss of integrity or a breakdown at the least opportune moment.

The severity of the impact is wholly dependent upon the recognition of dust as an issue and the frequency of regularly scheduled preventive maintenance.

The Impact of Dust from a Maintenance Vendor Perspective

One of the reasons dust issues are often ignored is that it does not require a professional engineer or technician to fix and therefore is not on the radar of many facility and maintenance professionals until a performance problem occurs. Unfortunately, with the current economic crisis, waiting for problems to occur does not make economic sense. Now more than ever we should take better care of our assets and keep them functioning as long as possible. Knowing this, wouldn’t it be more prudent to make dust removal an integrated part of your preventive maintenance routine?

I can think back to my days as an owner of a computer services company. My techs and I never went anywhere without a can of compressed air. Clogged power supply fans, blocked air vents, dust covered bare wire connections and dust caused corrosion accounted for over 75 % of our unscheduled work orders. For us, a dust covered machine meant work. Dust was so prevalent that our sales reps brought a can with them when inspecting a potential clients machines to demonstrate immediate impact of our services. Offices with visible dust blockage were almost always a sale because of the number of issues that manifested themselves.

The Impact of Dust from an Financial Perspective

Ouch Time can be described as having to pay an unexpected repair or replacement bill because of something simple and avoidable. Avoid Ouch Time by including dust removal in all scheduled preventive maintenance of machines, inspect hidden areas, and clean filters frequently. Preventive maintenance is a part of all good Enterprise Asset Management Systems (EAM).

Share with us how you minimize dust issues or how dust has affected your bottom line.