MRO Magazine

Learning to use the system

This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO's Feb. 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous installments are archiv...

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance

June 1, 2006
By Cliff Williams

This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO’s Feb. 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous installments are archived online at In this issue, we pick up where we left off in our April 2006 issue. Maintenance manager Bob Edwards of the Plentya Paper Company had just learned from Carol, the maintenance planner, that the company wasn’t using its computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) as effectively as it could.

“Okay Carol, let’s take a closer look at the CMMS,” I said as I walked into her office. “You talked about the failure field that we aren’t using. What else is there?”

“There’s the downtime field as well as the failure field, but there are other fields where we don’t put in enough information, such as costs and actual labour used. The CMMS has many reports it can generate if we put the right information into it. If we don’t, then it’s garbage in, garbage out, ” said Carol.

“What reports would help me get across the points I’ve been trying to make with the guys?” I asked. “You know, the need to do the right things, the need to change and the need to support the company’s goals.”


“Well, we could show them a cost per asset or piece of equipment that includes parts and labour. We could show them how often each piece of equipment breaks down and compare it to similar equipment. We could also show them how often we change a particular part that is used on a number of pieces of equipment. All of these reports are tools to help do what you talked about in the last meeting — find the root cause.

“Sometimes we might see that we repair a pump in only one location when that model is being used in many other places in the plant. This says that there’s nothing wrong with the model of the pump, but that particular installation was poorly done or that it is the wrong application for this pump.

“You know, we’ve made so many modifications to the process that we may have equipment trying to do something it wasn’t designed to,” Carol added.

“So that would help show why we need to do the right things and change how we look at things. But how about supporting the goals? I guess if we add the cost of the downtime to your report, we can demonstrate how getting better will help the corporate goal of being the ‘lowest cost producer of a tonne of paper’.

“This is great, because it ties in with what we’ve been talking about regarding consequences and what the critical pieces of equipment are. If we look at the total costs of repairs, including downtime, the ones with the highest costs are the most critical,” I suggested.

“That would be true if we had meaningful records,” Carol replied. “But what we have are incomplete records, with no guarantee that the records we do have are accurate. “What we’re going to have to do is to start at the beginning of the process equipment and figure out what the impact of it failing would be. That way we could develop a list of what is the most critical.”

“That could take forever if we include the whole plant,” I responded. “I think it makes sense to start — not at the beginning of the process — but where the consequence of the failure is shutting down the paper machine immediately. That seems to be where we pump the raw stock to the paper machine.

“Even though the stock preparation area is essential for converting the waste paper into the usable raw stock, it has many parallel lines and has tanks to act as buffers, so the effect of a failure is not felt right away.

“I see we need to explain this to the guys so they will fill in the work orders with the right information,” I said.

“Remember, we have John’s vibration training over the next week so we won’t have much time to meet with the guys,” Carol reminded me.

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, Carol, and this mill has been operating like this for 20 years, so I don’t think another week will make a difference. I have learned that there will always be constraints around what we do, whether it’s time or money or people, but once you recognize that, you can work within them, so next week it is.”

I met with John after he finished the third session of training. He told me that there were a lot of people interested in what he had to say but there were also a few who seemed more than a little disbelieving. He wondered if it was a coincidence that they were from the stock prep area.

“I guess the focus of everyone in the mill is on the paper machine as that’s what we get paid for — paper. Even though we can’t make paper without stock prep, they sometimes feel like second-class citizens,” I said.

“We seldom look at the problems in stock prep unless they cause the paper machine to shut down. Then it’s usually a case of finger pointing around who is to blame, so I can understand how they feel. I try to tell them that they are equal contributors but they only see attention being paid to the paper machine. Take you as an example, John. You were called in to look at the main drive and now we’re looking at other parts of the machine.”

“There must some equipment in stock prep that is important enough to warrant some vibration analysis,” John replied. “At least these guys would feel they were part of the program.”

“Hang on, John,” I said. “We’re not going to do things just to make the guys feel better. There has to be a sound business case.”

“I’m not suggesting that, Bob,” said John, “but you’ll have a very unique situation if there is no part of stock prep that’ll shut down the paper machine or at least slow it down.”

“You’re right, of course,” I replied. “Last month, we lost one of the main gearboxes in the pulping area. We had to shut down the paper machine every six hours to allow stock prep to catch up, as the failure had reduced capacity by half. We had to do this for five days as it’s a huge job to get it out of there and we didn’t have the necessary equipment on site.

“Now I understand why the guys feel the way they do,” I commented. “That job probably cost us more than many of the jobs we do on the paper machine, yet I didn’t even didn’t think it was important enough to try to prevent it.

“How about including both gearboxes and motors when you come in to take the readings in a couple of weeks?”

“Sure,” John replied. “And just like last time, could I get one of the millwrights to help me? I think it would go a long way towards getting their buy-in.”

Following that conversation, I realized that there was a danger that the whole process was beginning to snowball. It could soon get out of control if we didn’t get together more often to talk about what was happening. The problem was that I couldn’t keep pulling the entire maintenance group off the floor for every meeting. I decided to meet with the separate areas on different days. I scheduled a meeting with the stock prep group the next morning.

“Look, Bob, if this is about the vibration training, it just didn’t seem that important to us, as it’s only being used on the paper machine,” said Ivan. “We don’t even know why we were invited.”

“Well, it is about the vibration training,” I replied. “But first, I’d like to apologize.”

“What for?” stammered Ivan.

“I guess I’ve never communicated properly how much you contribute to the mill. In fact, it took an outsider to make me realize that you make as much of an impact as everyone else.”

“Ivan, if you can meet with John in a couple of weeks, we can get things rolling in stock prep.” I told them about the comments that some PMs were coming back as clean as they were handed out and that nobody was going to reply — until I mentioned how we needed them to be updated.

“Can you wait until I meet with John before we update them,” asked Ivan. “It may have seemed like we weren’t paying attention but we think there are better ways of doing PMs that will help with what you’ve been talking about in the meetings.

“Most of our equip
ment is rotating and John said that the best way of maintaining rotating equipment is through vibration analysis. He insists that we can tell when a pump is about to fail long before we need to change it.

“Imagine how different it would have been if we could have seen ahead of time that the main gearbox was going to fail,” Ivan reflected. “We could have had all the equipment here and set up to change it out. We could have sped up the process to get all of the tanks full before we shut down the gearbox. We’re sure it would have allowed the paper machine to run at least 10 hours without shutting down and we’d have had the gearbox up and running in under three days.”

Cliff Williams is maintenance manager at Coca-Cola Ltd., Toronto, Ont., and a consultant with TMS Total Maintenance Solutions of Markham, Ont. He can be reached at

Key Points

* Turn maintenance activities into dollars

* Use all of the CMMS capabilities

* Ensure equipment is capable after modifications to the process

* New techniques must be justified

* Don’t overlook opportunities.