How a CMMS Enabled a 400 Per cent increase in Work Order Completions
By Erin Sidwell
February 12, 2021
By Erin Sidwell
Nichols Farms operates a pistachio processing plant in San Joaquin Valley, California. The family-owned business employs over 300 people. The leadership team wanted computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) software to help increase asset reliability. However, they were unsure how to choose a system and needed an expert to help launch it.
Maintenance planner Christopher Kennedy was hired, and his first job was to find and implement a CMMS. Kennedy had experience using CMMS software and knew a basic system would not be powerful enough to support Nichols Farms’ demanding goals, including achieving world-class maintenance. After researching and testing several systems, he selected a highly configurable CMMS that would enable users to tailor mandatory fields, layouts, work orders, forms, and workflows.
“Nichols was at a point in their business life where they were ready to take the next step in regard to maintenance and asset reliability,” said Kennedy. “If we wanted to achieve world-class maintenance, we needed a CMMS. I was able to demo several systems, and one of them completely outperformed the rest. The deciding factor was that we would be better able to configure the software to fit what we do, to what our needs are, and what we want to accomplish.”
Breaking down barriers
Before implementing the CMMS, Nichols Farms had a small, basic preventive maintenance or inventory management program. Spreadsheets were used to document completed work, and only 10 per cent of all the work orders were captured. Forty per cent of those were labeled reactive, and data was not reliable.
The organization set out to fully leverage the system’s flexible features and numerous capabilities. The company’s leaders recognized that first, they needed buy-in from its 22 technicians and several managers to achieve implementation success.
Change and cultural barriers were two significant hurdles. Kennedy caught the maintenance team’s attention by demonstrating how the system could help them identify equipment problems easier by viewing an asset’s work order history stored in the CMMS.
“I showed them a reactive work order where it took them an hour or two to figure out what the root cause was or what the fix was,” said Kennedy. “I then demonstrated to them how to go back into a work order history. They were able to see how different shifts had handled the same problem and how each technician had fixed the equipment.”
Building CMMS knowledge
Fully understanding the capabilities of a CMMS is the only way to maximize the system. It’s also the fastest route to a return on investment (ROI).
Before Kennedy started using the system, he immersed himself and the team in various training offerings supplied by the vendor, including seminars, demonstrations, and online courses. He also attended the supplier’s annual maintenance and reliability training, innovation, and education conference in Florida.
Next, he developed a strategy and a pathway to a world-class maintenance status. The immediate priorities:
-Increase worker productivity;
-Eliminate manual processes; and,
-Improve work completion rates.
Before and after CMMS implementation
The system’s scheduling feature provided a way to restructure and organize work, automate PMs, and track labour. The team helped capture corrective, reactive, and safety work order data to build a reliable database enabling Kennedy to measure continuous improvement.
“In just one month, we saw a 400 per cent increase in work order completion,” said Kennedy. “And that was just with using the basic work order management system. We were scheduling technicians their workloads and their downtime.”
Kennedy confirmed the metric by comparing a year of past work order completions with a year of current work order completions.
“I counted the number of work orders that they had completed in a given month,” said Kennedy. “Luckily, they had that information in the system for about a year. So, for the first year, I was able to track our work order completions month by month. And then, I put together a report using the CMMS that showed me the number of work orders we completed since we started using the system.”
Welcome audits and auditors with confidence
Compliance with food and beverage safety regulations is a critical deliverable within the industry. With the 2015 Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), food-and-beverage companies are now required to keep a digital record of assets.
Audit preparations used to take Kennedy hours to compile. Now they only take a few minutes. Additionally, because he configured a mandatory field within work orders requiring technician sign-off, regulatory compliance is assured.
“We added a procedure to all of our PM work orders stating that, ‘By checking this box, you’re ensuring that all parts were removed from the floor, accounted for, and tools were cleaned upon completion,’” said Kennedy. “The auditor loved it.”
RIME: another valuable tool
Nichols Farms also harnesses the system’s Ranking Index for Maintenance Expenditures (RIME) function to plan, schedule, and prioritize maintenance tasks. RIME is used to rank and label work orders and work order types by importance, such as reactive, safety, or preventive. Before RIME, technicians reacted to every equipment issue, no matter what type.
“Now, when operators believe they have a reactive situation, they submit a work request using the CMMS,” said Kennedy. “If it’s labeled reactive, the maintenance supervisor will immediately determine whether it is, in fact, a reactive situation or not, and take the appropriate action.”
Connect teams with technology and keep work flowing
Technology is a critical component of a successful implementation. During the system roll-out, Nichols Farms bought laptops for all of its technicians and beefed up the plant’s Wi-Fi to make sure teams stay connected to the CMMS.
“The technicians get here, they get their mobile devices, and they look at what they have for that day,” said Kennedy. “They take them to the asset whenever they do work. That way, they can accurately charge time, add notes, and look up work order histories.”
Nichols Farms continues to improve and strives for world-class maintenance every day by following preventive maintenance best practices. These days, the plant operates between 12 to 15 per cent reactive, much lower than in the past.
Erin Sidwell is an enterprise account executive, managing the food-and-beverage category for eMaint, a division of Fluke Reliability. She joined Fluke two years ago, after spending 14 years focused on the supply chain for fresh produce.