A manufacturer of safety equipment for automobiles was looking to upgrade their airbag processing line. With worldwide demand for their products, a higher level of efficiency was needed to meet their goals. One major problem along the production line was a roll folder that was constantly breaking down and causing production delays.
In this specific area of concern, needle roller bearings and thrust washers were being used to support tension roller shafts. These shafts are responsible for smoothing the belts that roll the airbags prior to shipment. As part of that shipping process, the airbag material is coated with talc to prevent the airbags from sticking together.
An unintended consequence of the talc was to dry out the lubricant in the needle roller bearings, resulting in severe damage to the mating shaft of the tension rollers. Damaged parts included bearings, tension roller shafts, and belts that together accrued over five and a half hours of machine downtime within a span of six months (See chart below).
The effects of inferior needle bearings and collateral damage over a 6-month span: