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New SKF Shaft Alignment Tools and Services Help Improve Equipment Reliability and Reduce Energy Cost

Importance of Proactive Precision Maintenance
Globalization has increased competition and pressure to improve productivity and reduce costs, while uncertain consumer demand forces organizations to operate with less than a full complement of workers and resources.  Surveys indicate that deploying proactive maintenance represents 5-10 percent of the overall maintenance resource cost but can yield up to 60-70 percent of the benefits of the entire maintenance cost reduction program.

This has intensified the need to improve plant operations and equipment reliability through use of proactive precision maintenance to reduce unexpected downtime, unplanned maintenance, and overall maintenance cost.  For rotating equipment, precision maintenance activities such as balancing, shaft alignment, lubrication, and addressing looseness are fundamental corrective actions to achieve class-leading reliability.  Shaft alignment is the cornerstone of a good precision maintenance strategy.  Up to 50 percent of all costs related to rotating machines breakdown is likely due to shaft misalignment.  Correct shaft alignment is predicated on performing work correctly such as torquing bolts, shaft fits, cleanliness, and many others for optimal performance.

To some extent, flexible couplings can help deal with slight misalignments.  However, these couplings require some alignment and are not suitable for many applications.  Rigid couplings are required for precise alignment and these should be aligned as accurately as possible.  Poorly aligned flexible couplings can cause excessive vibration, premature bearing or coupling failure, and breaking or cracking of shafts, resulting in short equipment operating life.

Laser Technology Improves Accuracy and Efficiency
Equipment continues to become more complicated, requiring increasing levels of alignment expertise.  However, most plants are already stretched too thin to perform the necessary work due to recent layoffs and impeding retirements.  Also, many companies today simply lack the knowledge base and experience required to perform proper maintenance or correctly use complex alignment tools.
This state of affairs leads to fewer equipment alignments, made worse by fewer skilled workers to perform alignment work orders, often leaving even critical machines improperly aligned.

Alignment by straight edge and feeler gauge are traditional methods to check for shaft misalignment in rotating equipment. Both these methods help achieve rough alignment, but cannot be used for precise alignment.  Use of dial indicators is another method for performing shaft alignment.  Various types of dial set ups can be used, but all are time consuming and require mathematical calculations to align the shaft.  Dial indicators can be very accurate, but the operator must be skilled to do proper setup and calculations.  In contrast, laser shaft alignment tools typically combine simplicity and accuracy, making them a great improvement over traditional tools.  Laser tools are easy to set up and require no graphical or mathematical calculations.  Also, alignment using laser tools is quicker, enabling technicians to align more machines in less time.

New Laser Shaft Alignment Tools from SKF
Unlike previous models, these new tools are wireless and provide built-in alignment processes that guide the operator through the alignment process.

According to SKF, additional features included in these new tools - such as built-in alignment work processes and wireless communications - make the alignment process even easier and more accurate.  With the addition of the TKSA 60 and 80, SKF can offer end-users an even broader range of alignment tools than previously, making it easier for them to choose the tool that best matches their requirements.
Successful shaft alignment is about details that are easily overlooked or forgotten, particularly when it is performed infrequently or by junior technicians.  Both new models help resolve this issue by guiding the operators through all steps of the alignment process in the correct sequence.  According to SKF, this feature ensures that details - such as soft foot measurement or securing the machine using foundation bolts - are not overlooked or forgotten and all steps of the alignment process are followed.  The system reminds users of the correct tools required for the inspection and has a built-in visual inspection process.  Users can also compare inspection results to specifications to prioritize corrective actions.
The system also helps workers make appropriate adjustments by pro-viding real-time value and direction.  Data are easily transferrable to PC and reports can be generated in graphical format.  Documenting the readings and maintenance performed is also an important step of proper maintenance, but might be ignored if it has to be performed manually.  But the data storage and easy data transfer features of these new alignment tools help users document alignment readings in a timely manner.

Using the new SKF tools to accurately align machinery can provide users with the following benefits:

  • Increased machine efficiency and reliability
  • Increased seal and bearing life
  • Increased plant operating life and productivity
  • Reduced friction, overheating and excessive vibrations
  • Reduced power consumption
  • Reduced production loss due to unexpected downtime
  • Reduced unplanned maintenance costs

Available Expert Service
According to SKF, these two new shaft alignment tools can be used by people with only fundamental knowledge of the alignment process, making them essential for facilities that want to do the maintenance internally, but may have a shortage of experienced technicians on staff.  Many manufacturers look to professional reliability experts outside their organizations to perform more complicated tasks.  With the launch of the TKSA 60 and 80, SKF is in an excellent position to take advantage of both opportunities.  The new tools make it easier for less-experienced staff at its customers’ sites to perform routine alignment chores, and the company’s own domain experts can also use the new tools to provide comprehensive alignment services, as needed, to help offset the effects of the declining knowledge base.


Enterprises are becoming more aware of the benefits of reliability initiatives but many lack the knowledge base and experience for proper maintenance. By providing smart alignment tools and asset management services, SKF is leveraging the knowledge of its domain experts and its advanced technology to help its clients improve asset availability while reducing energy consumption.

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