By Tracy Watson
When production capacity, quality and profitability are impaired, maintenance practices are the easy scapegoat. While maintenance practice, especially if there are gaps, plays its part in reliability, it is not necessarily the leading man of the play, but rather one of an ensemble cast, which includes: production, plant engineering, purchasing, sales and training. Taken together these form the main corollaries of a reliability program.
How Reliable is Your Reliability Program?
When people talk reliability they might think this is the same as availability. It isn’t. Availability refers to the actual time that a machine or system is capable of production as a percent of total planned production time, whereas reliability is based on the total calendar year. This should give a sense of the larger context of reliability. Despite the enormous role reliability plays in the continuity of optimal plant operations, it is not uncommon for plants to operate without a robust reliability program (one which includes reliability engineering or reliability problems).
The difficulty often comes down to plants lacking a clear sense of responsibility for equipment reliability. To bring the issue into focus, a robust reliability program will look closely at operating procedures, equipment design, and scheduling of production, and give them the appropriate consideration in creating a viable program.
Ensuring asset dependability starts with the specification and selection process. Through the plant engineering and purchasing units working in concert, giving due consideration in their functions to life cycle cost, maintainability and employee skill requirements, plants will be able to better gauge equipment cost and its impact on overall plant performance.
As plants consider vendors for replacement components, the total cost of the asset (initial and life cycle) must be factored into the selection process. Using only the initial cost in the selection process can save on upfront costs, but over time, as the depreciation of those assets accelerates, that trade off can become costly. Take for example a light-duty bearing used for critical foundry exhaust fans that costs $5 less than one of better quality. The initial savings would be lost if as a result of the poor design or workmanship of the bearings, the fans they support went from a lifecycle of six years, to six months. That reduction of usage multiplied across the plant and or enterprise, would not only quickly absorb the savings, it would create a substantial loss. This example demonstrates how crucial purchasing and engineering decisions are to overall plant reliability.
This is part of a series on plant reliability.
By Tracy Watson
Industry insiders predict that within the next five years the U.S. and Canada’s fuel output will surpass projected needs, with the demand for natural gas in the US finally intersecting supply, leading to equilibrium between North American energy production and consumption. XTO, the U.S.’s largest natural gas producer, has braced for the predicted natural gas boom, by overhauling their systems for measuring and tracking preventive and corrective work processes, operations vital to maintaining optimal efficiency levels.
In 2010, the natural energy giant was still working in the dark ages: operators were reporting issues on handwritten notes and had no system for conveying issues that needed immediate attention after-hours (to off-site personnel), despite the reality that the plant was in operation 24 hours a day. There was no formal system in place for tracking preventive or corrective work orders, meaning that the field was ripe for inconsistencies in reporting and breakdowns in communication. A web-based system that would allow the plant foreman and his team (responsible for maintaining over 500 assets in their Cornell plant alone) to receive reports from operators anytime and assign work orders based on the appropriate skill and priority became crucial. XTO chose to use eMaint’s computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) rather than the in-house CMMS other plants were using, because it did everything they needed and was easy to use (all they needed was a login and they could start rolling it out).
As a result of XTO’s CMMS upgrade, the company now enjoys 100% work completion rates with no additional staffing (up from 70%, prior to the CMMS rollout), continuous work backlog, preventative maintenance (PM), and work order status visibility, and a web-based system that supports 24-hour operations.
In the cnbc.com story, “US Is on Fast-Track to Energy Independence: Study”, the author quotes Edward Morse, Citigroup global head of commodities research’s predictions about the surge in natural gas demand, North American fuel production and his belief that North America could morph from a major fuel importer to a major fuel exporter by 2020, if it can overcome its ongoing fuel transport limitations. Morse believes that additional pipeline, as well as continued innovation in rail transportation of fuels, will enable the production/transportation gap to be closed. The key drivers cited by Morse, such as his prediction that by 2015 30% of the U.S. heavy duty truck fleet will convert to natural gas-based fuel, all point to a future fuel-landscape in which North America finds a way to meet its own fuel demands.
Part II of a series on U.S. energy independence.
By Tracy Watson
By the time your equipment stops working, it’s too late. A recent survey showed that the actual cost for a breakdown is between four to fifteen times the maintenance costs. So the question is, how “intelligent” is your maintenance program? Maintenance has not always been seen as central to lean manufacturing, according to a recent article in Automation Magazine, which argues for a shift in perspective. But the relationship between maintenance and manufacturing is like two ends of a seesaw. The more companies invest in intelligent maintenance, the lower the risk of downtime in manufacturing and, subsequently, diminished ROI.
How Intelligent is Your Maintenance Program?
Just as you wouldn’t think of driving without insurance, companies can mitigate the costs related to equipment failure or substandard performance, by making intelligent maintenance the standard of their operations. Through routine maintenance, cleaning, lubricating, and making minor adjustments, problems can be detected and corrected before they become major ones. The difficulty in assessing maintenance needs before a problem occurs has to do with the way equipment is monitored. Though failure is modeled and analyzed, that analysis often has the blind spot of not taking into account equipment operators or other environment-related conditions, which results in less-than 20/20 vision.
To minimize costly downtime, companies can employ intelligent maintenance systems (IMS) which predict and forecast equipment performance. Data collected by sensors attached to equipment is analyzed by computerized maintenance systems software (CMMS), which integrates equipment history, current utilization practices, trends, users, and other factors that impact current and future equipment life. Through using CMMS, companies can look at maintenance needs now and over time, and by adapting a “Predict and Prevent” maintenance program, they can increase their production time, and ultimately, optimize their overall operations.
By Tracy Watson
As U.S. gas prices march ever-upward and demand inches downward, the U.S. makes bold moves to become energy independent by 2020. The recently released report by Citigroup’s global head of commodities research Edward Morse, entitled “Energy 2020: Independence Day”, makes some striking predictions, the cornerstone being that by 2018 the U.S. might only need to buy oil from Canada. The predictions are based on current trends and anticipated developments, which if realized could reshape the geopolitical landscape for all stakeholders in the energy game, as well as the end-users of that game, gas consumers. Morse’s hypothesis is based on several factors, including:
- 2006–2012 – oil imports dropped by 50%
- 2006–Present – U.S. crude production, natural gas liquids and bio-fuels have grown by three million barrels a day – the total output of Iran, Iraq, or Venezuela.
- 2006–Present – Canadian production has grown by 510,000 barrels a day (and is expected to increase to 6.5 million barrels per day)
- 2012 – U.S. produces 11.2 million barrels per day, making the U.S. the biggest oil producer (counting crude oil and field condensates, natural gas liquids, renewable fuels and refinery processing gains)
- New automotive efficiency standards will reduce U.S. oil production by two million barrels per day (Morse’s prediction)
- by 2017 – U.S. overtakes Saudi Arabia and Russia as the top oil producer (according to the International Energy Agency’s 2012 prediction)
XTO, the U.S.’s largest natural gas producer, based in Fort Worth, TX, is already positioned to lead the way in the natural gas boom Morse predicts, and toward that end they recently revamped their operations by integrating computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) to enable operators to better handle and drive the escalating demand for natural gas, both domestically and abroad. Although 2020 natural gas predictions are promising, there remain some critical challenges to their realization, which make XTO’s streamlining ahead-of-the-curve thinking. To learn how XTO used CMMS to improve its key performance indicators and how that could translate into a leaner and more profitable supply of natural gas, follow the next installment in this series.
(Source: eMaint CMMS)
Part I of a series on U.S. energy independence.
By Tracy Watson
With 30 years of experience in the corrugated paper production and printing business, when veteran maintenance professional Bill Chant joined Orange County Container Group (OCCG) he knew he needed to replace OCCG’s resident computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) – Datastream’s MP2 – whose poor mobile connection was contributing to increased downtime, poor and delayed inventory visibility (and related discrepancies) and a substandard on-time preventative maintenance (PM) completion rate (70%). There were two major considerations. The first was the actual end-user; any new system would mean a significant investment for maintenance workers at each facility, and as such, it would need to be extremely easy to learn and employ at the front-lines to ensure franchise-wide engagement. The second major consideration was the need for a system with bilingual capabilities, given that OCCG had facilities in the U.S. and Mexico.
With a mandate to oversee $6 million in inventory and remain within budgetary restrictions, Chant and his team began assessing more robust options. The team looked at two of the biggest CMMS providers, Oracle and SAP, but found that they exceeded the allocated budget and were difficult for end-users. They then considered an upgraded form of Datastream, but their system offered insufficient control of its handheld device and a cumbersome reporting interface. The team decided to test-drive eMaint’s X3 CMMS at two facilities. The benefits were immediate. eMaint’s browser-based X3 CMMS:
- easily integrated with OCCG’s corporate systems
- is fully customizable
- offered Spanish-language customer support
- is web-based, producing a higher adoption rate
- provided security settings and the ability to limit rights by user, required for ISO compliance
- provided cost-effective barcode integration
- was easy for IT and system administrators to configure
- provides on-demand training and workshops
- offered extensive on-site training in English and Spanish
- was within budget (a fraction of the cost of the competitors)
These benefits quickly won over OCCG’s IT, maintenance and administrative staff, who appreciated the integration, automation and dissemination of key PM functions across the fleet. Demonstrative results include: a 70% reduction in next-day air freight charges (the equivalent of a mechanic’s annual salary), a retrieval of over $2 million in inventory (increasing their borrowing base), $1.3 million in savings in reduced maintenance costs at one plant without increasing downtime, 99% on-time PM completion rate, a 1% downtime reduction (a $500,000 annual savings), a total overtime reduction of ½ hour per technician per day, and a greater ability to hold suppliers accountable in terms of cost and availability.
Part II of a two-part profile on Orange County Containers and CMMS.
By Tracy Watson
Orange County Container Group (OCCG) manufactures paperboard and paper-based packaging at multiple sites in the US and Mexico. The company had been using Datastream’s CMMS for over a decade, but realized that there were serious gaps in service that needed to be addressed. The first concern was mobility of information. Datastream’s poor mobile connection made it impossible for managers to fully see their inventory or share it between facilities. Unable to access data remotely kept inventory tracking in the dark ages, forcing maintenance workers to wait until the end of their shifts to document what they’d done. The result was increased human error and substantial discrepancies between actual and perceived inventory and delays in preventative maintenance. Operating across multiple sites throughout two countries also signaled a need to find a solution that would provide bilingual capabilities.
OCCG quickly noticed a significant ripple effect after implementing eMaint X3 CMMS, which featured bilingual customer support, tracking and sharing inventory across multiple locations, and a multi-site configuration (with security settings) which supported franchise-wide Lean standards and ISO compliance. The ability to document work order status in real-time decreased overtime by half an hour each day per employee (resulting in a franchise-wide 1% reduction in downtime and an annual savings of $200,000). Inventory discrepancies were identified and corrected, with automated inventory replenishment. Waste spoilage was reduced from 13% to 9% for an annual savings of $2 million. And when the numbers were tallied they amounted to a savings of $3 million per year.
The biggest hurdle was an internal one. Even though the old system provided by Datastream had clearly outlived its usefulness, a new system meant change to the status quo, which meant that whatever solution was proffered would need to be easily adaptable for front-line users, out of the box.
Part I of a two-part profile on Orange County Container Group and CMMS.