PLYMOUTH, Mich. – The e-mail reached Holger Stannek, Regional Manager for Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies Merkel, at 9:30 a.m. on a Wednesday morning. There was water penetration overnight on a lighting mast on a mega-yacht whose owner did not want to be named. The company that had installed the mast was obligated to honor a warranty and the ship was supposed to put to sea as soon as possible. But this was only possible with a functioning lighting mast. It was just the job for Freudenberg Xpress.
The Xpress troubleshooting service department of Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is made up of sealing experts who are available to quickly solve sealing challenges around the globe and are tremendously well-suited to specialized tasks. Qualified to solve sealing issues in industrial equipment with high precision, Xpress experts are available on short notice – from Schwalmstadt in Germany, to Diadema in Brazil, all the way to Gurgaon in India.
In the case of the mega-yacht, the key was to figure out whether the lighting mast seal could not keep water out because of a weakness in its design, or because it improperly installed. Stannek was on board the next morning to get an impression. One thing was quickly apparent: no one should have expected the seal, which a materials-handling company had installed, to function reliably. Greater pre-tensioning would have solved the problem but this execution was not available for the dimensions involved. That was no problem for the "first responders" from Freudenberg Xpress. The turning of single seals is part of the service center's core competency. By Friday morning, the team had a drawing for the urgently needed individual replacement seal ready and the product was delivered to the customer by Tuesday.
The Freudenberg Xpress specialists can juggle up to 100 sealing profiles made from 20 materials to find the right answer to just about any sealing challenge.
"We don't always get direct feedback in such cases," Stannek said. "But in this case, we received a call a day later saying that everything was holding tight in a test on Wednesday and the yacht was able to put to sea."
The projects arriving at Freudenberg Xpress by fax or mail are not always as spectacular as a mega-yacht. But they always involve extreme urgency and often enough, the high costs of machine downtime, underscoring the need for quick repairs.
Take the case of the steel producer with an adjustment cylinder at a hot rolling mill threatening to malfunction. Two wipers were damaged and the report went out to Freudenberg Xpress on a Tuesday afternoon. Two days later, the new wipers arrived at the steel plant before the mill had malfunctioned. Expensive downtime and a protracted production re-start were avoided.
Sometimes, tight time frames require creative solutions. On one occasion, shaft sealing rings from the Xpress team were delivered so that the shaft of a paper mill would not have to be dismantled. The shaft sealing rings were conceived only as an emergency solution but calls to the customer revealed that the temporary seals handled their job so well that they should remain on the shaft.
The Xpress engineers are especially proud when they manage not just to replace but to improve a sealing system. Consider the case of Sparrows Point, the largest and oldest steel plant in the United States. An outmoded sealing system close to a bearing unit was leaking considerably. A newly designed sealing system was Xpress-manufactured without further ado. Since then, it has saved 10,000 gallons in leakage losses per unit.
Stefan Böseneilers at the Freudenberg Xpress branch in Milan, Ohio, considers the assignment a highpoint.
"The benefit to the environment and the savings from the reduced leakage impressed the management," said Böseneilers. "We were able to equip another four steel plants with our Xpress solution immediately afterwards."
In fact, those responsible for the U.S. market can show numerous examples where the Freudenberg Xpress rapid intervention force has optimized existing sealing systems. For example, it was possible to add six months to the operating life of a seal on a high-pressure vessel that previously had to be replaced after a maximum of one month. The same was true for a seal on a hydraulic hammer on an earth mover used in road construction. It, too, had required new seals every month prior to the Xpress solution.
The Freudenberg Xpress experts in Milan were also able to put a hydraulic press back into operation in 24 hours with the help of a new sealing concept. And the largest American producer of seamless pipes was happy not only with the leak repairs on his rolling mill after a Freudenberg Xpress visit, but with the $250,000 per month in savings as well.
Freudenberg employees in Diadema can also highlight successful interventions. Manager Juliana Matos is proud of the fact that the maintenance interval for seals in a press used for piston manufacturing at Mahle has been increased tenfold – without leaks during operation. Sometimes Freudenberg Xpress experts are booked for assignments that are far removed from heavy industry and mega-yachts. Manfred Sack, Marketing Manager in Schwalmstadt, can recall a special case:
"One day before an important trade fair, a Swiss maker of automatic coffee machines had a seal malfunction on an important new model," Sack said. "We had the right material available requiring (FDA) approval for use in the food industry and immediately machined a seal with a 12 mm diameter that could be installed by the start of the fair."
Simone Spirig-Hallauer, who received the customer's distress call, was no doubt gratified that unusual assignments sometimes bring unusual responses in their wake. The maker of automatic coffee machines thanked her for the help with a bouquet of flowers.
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About Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies
Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies is the Americas joint venture between Freudenberg and Co. in Germany and NOK Corp. in Japan. Freudenberg-NOK is a leading producer – through its Automotive, Merkel, Process Seals and Simrit sales channels – of advanced sealing technologies for a variety of markets including: aerospace; agriculture; appliance; automotive; construction; diesel engine; energy; food and beverage; heavy industry; and pharmaceutical. Founded in 1989 under the legal name Freudenberg-NOK General Partnership, Freudenberg-NOK is headquartered in Plymouth, Mich. and operates more than 20 facilities across the Americas. For additional information, please visit www.fnst.com.