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The Backbone of the Operationsignificant variability that often exists in the rest of the manufacturing process, the value of a kiln that serves as a constant processing medium within the factory cannot be underestimated. When consistent kiln operations can be relied upon to produce good firing characteristics, then product defects can be rapidly evaluated independent of the firing process.
Alternatively, if the kilns are not accurate and consistent, they serve to confuse the resolution of day-to-day problems. In the worst case, poor kiln performance can be demoralizing and is sometimes viewed as an excuse to avoid process improvements in other areas.
Tunnel Kiln Firing ChecklistMany of the tunnel kilns in production today have excellent performance. Since so many older units are still operating, however, we often find less than optimum output. So how does your kiln stack up? Check the following list to evaluate potential problems—and solutions—to your firing challenges.
The Big PictureOf course, having the correct kiln is only one component of a successful operation. In his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,* Stephen Covey talks about the importance of maintaining the productive capacity—the “PC” component: “In our quest for short-term returns, or results, we often ruin a prized physical asset. Keeping P (production) and PC (productive capacity) in balance makes a tremendous difference in the effective use of physical assets.”
Taking care of the PC component, in this case, your tunnel kiln, is essential to quality long-term operation, with no unplanned interruptions or surprises. Some important elements to consider include:
The goal for tunnel kiln operations should be to maintain an unchanging firing environment that provides a consistent firing foundation for the manufacturing process. The kiln should be adjusted to provide the broadest possible firing “window” for the normal variations in product shape, size, formulation and raw materials.