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What is a furnace operations audit?

One thing we have learned while monitoring hundreds of furnaces in over 40 countries is that some practices are the same in every culture. In the glass industry, one of those shared practices is the lack of early, proactive corrections in furnace operations.

When a new furnace is built, the focus is on producing as much high-quality glass as possible. Refractory wear really isn’t a concern. However, the furnace operators are doing more damage than they realize, and this is mostly preventable damage. Glass temperatures may be higher than necessary, eroding the refractory and wearing out electrodes. There are often errors in the batch moisture and batch pattern, damaging regenerators and accelerating wear on the sidewalls. These are just a couple of the common mistakes we find in the field. This is why PaneraTech audits are vastly different from traditional audits.

Traditional furnace audits

Unfortunately, most traditional furnace audits only survey the end result of these actions. The auditor gives you a list of findings, including any areas that need to be repaired. Because he also works for your furnace repair company, he can conveniently give you a cost estimate, as well as how long it will take for the repair to be completed. You receive a report with visual observations and images from thermographic and endoscopic evaluations.

Congratulations, you now know just how bad the condition of your furnace is.  But what does the auditor tell you about how to correct this problem, either to extend the life of this furnace, or to avoid the same issue with the next furnace? Do you have any way to confirm that the repairs are needed? Our customers tell us that this kind of information is not the norm.

PaneraTech operations audits

If the goal is to reduce costs, an audit of furnace operations is essential. Much of the damage found in furnace audits could have been prevented by improving operational decisions. A proactive review of current operations can reduce the number of repairs needed over the furnace’s life.

This is why an operations audit is the central focus of SmartAudit® by PaneraTech. Although we will tell you when repairs are necessary, the goal of our audit is not to quote repairs. Our goal is to help glass manufacturers correct operational errors to reduce maintenance costs and extend the life of the asset.  Along with the traditional visual, thermal, and endoscopic inspections, SmartAudit® includes a review of the following items:

  • Melter and Regenerator Temperature
  • Melter Combustion & Energy
  • Electric Boost and Bubblers
  • Furnace Cooling
  • Batch Charging
  • Furnace Pressure
  • General Department
  • Glass Conditioning
  • Emergency Preparedness

As an integral part of PaneraTech’s Digital Furnace Management (DFM) program, SmartAudit® inspections are always done in conjunction with a SmartMelter® radar inspection. We have found that visual observations can lead to premature maintenance actions when they are not viewed in the context of a full radar inspection. Additionally, radar can uncover issues that indicate operational errors, such as uneven wear caused by improper cooling.

After this thorough evaluation, the Auditor works with a PanaraTech Asset Manager to recieve recommended adjustments to reduce the amount of money that you spend on repairs. When repairs are recommended, there is no cost estimate; we are not a repair company. We provide the object report, and you can get as many estimates as you would like.

What if your internal auditors and managers already do an operations audit?

Having internal audit procedures is good practice. However, internal auditors are limited by internal data and perspectives. PaneraTech Auditors and Asset managers have a global perspective from over 500 furnaces, including container, tableware, and flat glass. Our team also benefits from the cross-pollination that happens as they meet regularly to discuss what is working well with the furnaces they manage. This atmosphere, combined with PaneraTech’s innovative technology, attracts the best and the brightest furnace managers in the industry. This means we can serve our customers with the top talent in the glass industry.

However, the real benefit of having an objective “outsider” perform furnace audits is culture change. PaneraTech Asset managers, who oversee every furnace audit, are dedicated to building a culture of data-driven decision making.