100% Up-Time: The Importance of Gravity Separator Maintenance

- Troy Jackson

Gravity table separators are a must for most seed businesses. It’s a hugely common piece of equipment, but as a result, they can often be taken for granted — to the extent that people don’t think about maintaining or upgrading them.

Any neglected piece of equipment can lead to downtime, and this crucial machine is no exception. No one likes downtime. Any downtime in production is money lost. In any seed business, you want to aim for 100% up-time.

Obviously, sometimes machines have to be shut down for maintenance. Unforeseen problems happen. The key is to aim for as much up-time as possible with your gravity separator. You will never hit 100% in the real world, but you should try.

Here’s how to get there:

Make sure the machine is in top working condition. Whether it’s screens or another piece of the equipment, you want to ensure it is operating to the best of its ability. Gravity separators that were purchased some time ago need regular inspection. People will often upgrade everything around the gravity table, except the table itself. Parts that at one time took a few years to wear out are now wearing out in a season, because there’s a couple million bushels being put across them. When you triple your capacity like a lot of facilities are able to do these days, things need attention more often.

Make sure the operators understand what the machine is designed to do — not what they would like it to do. Quite often, someone looks at the visual quality of the product coming off the table and 90 percent of the time no one is measuring bulk density, which is what they should be doing. They see foreign material and adjust the table to try and get out what they see, rather than using an optical sorter to accomplish this. They think the gravity table isn’t doing its job, when it really is.

When it comes to figuring out a maintenance schedule, consult with your machine’s manufacturer or someone knowledgeable about gravity tables. It’s best to have the manufacturer or an experienced service provider do regular maintenance on it. I’ve never had anyone tell me this regular servicing worth it — they recognize the value in catching potential problems now, before they translate into downtime.