The Importance of Mechanical Skills in the Data Center: Precision Measurement

We have been privileged to both sell tools and shaft alignment, vibration testing, and precision maintenance training for several different data centers throughout the US. Most of the maintenance technicians we encounter have solid electronics and computer skills, but some are less experienced with mechanical skills. Thus, some of the challenges faced by these maintenance departments are frequent replacement of mechanical components, over-lubrication, belt replacement and over tensioning, etc. In the next series of posts we will go over fundamental maintenance skills—the skills required to maintain data center equipment such as pumps, fans, and generators.

First, we will cover the importance of precision measurement skills as part of a predictive maintenance plan. Having a predictive maintenance plan in place is essential to a smooth functioning facility of any kind, and this certainly includes data centers.

A few basic things to remember when implementing a predictive maintenance plan:

  • Create a map of the facility and list all the equipment and each piece’s location.
  • Collect and organize information such as vendor number, serial number, and vendor of each piece of equipment
  • Know where to find the maintenance manuals for machines and equipment—this will especially help streamline the repair process

To see other helpful tips on implementing a basic predictive maintenance plan, see this post: “Here are 10 important steps of a predictive maintenance plan.

Once you have a predictive maintenance plan in place, you need to be sure you have the skills on your team to implement it. One of the most important skills for any type of maintenance work is the ability to perform precision measurements. This involves knowing the right tools to use for measuring and recognizing the importance of precision in maintenance tasks.

Some of the common precision measuring tools with which you should be familiar:

  • Straightedge
  • Vernier or digital caliper
  • Micrometer
  • Belt tensioning gauge
  • Feeler gauge or taper gauge
  • Photo tachometer or strobe light
  • Torque wrench

A simple example of why every maintenance professional must know how to use precision measuring tools is the example of the shim: shims are generally labelled for thickness, but the well-trained maintenance professional knows that you cannot always trust the labelling, and it is best to measure for yourself in order to save time in the future. As one of Acoem’s trainers has written: “Shims 103 importance measuring shim thickness, “this number [labelling the shim’s thickness] should simply be a guide—not a precise measurement.”

Being precise can seem like overkill, but, like with our shim example, you can imagine that if you used several shims that were slightly thicker or thinner than their specifications, you could easily end up well off track and having to troubleshoot needless issues.

We suggest carrying simple tools like a feeler gauge, micrometer, etc. around with you while you are in the field. You are much more likely to utilize precision measuring skills if you have the tools on hand and don’t need to search for them. It’s fairly simple to put together a small tool kit or backpack with the tools of the trade that you can go to for easy access when a precision measuring situation arises.

by Acoem contributor | September 6, 2022
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