MRO Magazine

Maintenance Case History: Hard Knowledge on a Hard Drive

Several things made Bob Hill realize that he needed to make the jump from running his maintenance department from memory to using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS)."Running the show ...

February 1, 2002 | By Carroll McCormick

Photo courtesy Swedwood CanadaAerial view shows expanse of the 245,000-sq-ft furniture-making facility, which features three 100-ft-long production lines.Photo courtesy Swedwood Canada

Aerial view shows expanse of the 245,000-sq-ft furniture-making facility, which features three 100-ft-long production lines.

Several things made Bob Hill realize that he needed to make the jump from running his maintenance department from memory to using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).

“Running the show from memory without backup was not much fun,” says Hill, who is the maintenance supervisor at Swedwood Canada Limited, located in the Burnside Industrial Park near Dartmouth, N.S. “It was difficult to schedule maintenance and repairs during the week. We usually worked on Saturday and Sunday.”

Hill has worked at Swedwood for 12 years, and is responsible not only for equipment maintenance, but for the building too. He was also the project manager in 2000 for a 70,000-sq-ft expansion of the plant, which manufactures knockdown furniture for the Swedwood Industrial Group, which is owned by Inter IKEA Systems B.V., located in The Netherlands.* The huge facility now totals 245,000 sq ft in area. As many as 26 tractor-trailer loads of finished products are shipped out its doors each week.

The plant has three lines, each of which is 100 ft long. There are about 20 pieces of major equipment, but, for example, one of these pieces, a sizing machine called a double-end tender-part, is nearly 100 ft long itself, with 30-40 different saws, all computerized, programmable and movable. There also is a lot of ancillary equipment, including forklifts, a fleet of 200 pallet jacks and four large dust collectors.


“I used to plan my day on the trip in,” says Hill, who commutes 265 km to work and back. But, he confesses, “It is very easy to forget item number 101, and find out at the end of the week that we need to come in on the weekend.”

Walking encyclopedia

Hill is the plant’s walking maintenance encyclopedia and that worried his boss. Hill recalls, “I made sure I knew everything. If we needed a part in a hurry, the guys would call me at home and I would rattle off the name of the supplier. My boss said, ‘with all that travelling, we might lose you some day.'”

Hill had had fantasies for a couple of years of installing a computerized maintenance system, but, he explains, “I have been on the floor a long time. I’ve never been involved in computers. It’s a hard choice to make. Do you get an elaborate product?

“I realized I needed a better system but I was hesitant. I talk to a lot of people around the world and the biggest thing right now is e-mail. I didn’t have that capability. I bucked computers for years. A modern plant needs a computer.”

Hill’s early training was as a mechanic, pipefitter and millwright. “I started as a millwright with Swedwood in 1989 and a year later took over the maintenance department. I had previous experience in sawmills as a front-line supervisor and maintenance manager,” he adds. Like most people not raised and educated in the computer world, however, Hill was not sure which way to leap to make the transition to a maintenance management system.

What finally sent Hill to the phone was a June 1999 article in Machinery & Equipment MRO about how a CMMS revolutionized the way maintenance was done at the Avon Foods Inc. food processing plant in Berwick, N.S. One long-time employee described the change as “goin’ from the Stone Age to the modern world.”

The system installation and staff training at Avon was done by Peter Phillips, the owner of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd., a consulting company based in Windsor, N.S. A certified millwright, industrial electrician and electronics technician, Phillips rose to the position of preventive maintenance co-ordinator at Michelin Tire Canada Limited in Bridgewater, N.S, before leaving after 18 years.

Phillips consults in various industrial arenas, including CMMS, industrial safety and employee dynamics. He also develops and delivers training programs, including training on MP2 software from Datastream Systems, Inc. of Greenville, S.C.

“When I read the Avon article,” says Hill, “I saw it wasn’t really hard to bring in a system. You have to realize that when you are not computer-wise, it is hard to read an article about computer maintenance and understand it well. I understood that article quite well.

“The article sold me, plain and simple. I figured if [Phillips] was good enough to be put in a national magazine, there must be something to him.” Hill decided to contact Phillips, who, on his first visit, Hill recalls, had “the article in under his arm.”

At this point, Hill says, “I [had] looked at several systems but I didn’t feel comfortable until I read that article and met Peter. You really need to talk to someone who has a system and can prove that it works and is able to teach an old dog a new trick.”

Saving the information

“One important thing to realize is that Bob didn’t purchase this program because of downtime,” says Phillips. “He just didn’t want to lose the information. Anything that has to do with that building, he looks after. He has all this stuff is his head.

“He is a really smart man and can juggle a lot of balls. He had all the elements of a good maintenance program in place, but it was all in his head. He is a man who has put a lot of time into making his plant work.”

Hill recalls how easy it was to start using the Datastream MP2 computerized maintenance management system that Phillips recommended. “Within the first six to eight hours of training we were grinding out work orders and preparing for the next 20 years of records.”

“We chose the production lines where we wanted to start and introduced the equipment to the program,” says Phillips. “I went away for a week and let them enter the equipment data. Then I came back and helped build a PM task. After that, the system was generating the work orders and doing the paperwork. We also developed a program for operator PMs.”

Since MP2 was installed in February 2000, Hill loves to compare the old ways of doing things with how the program helps him. Support equipment now gets the attention it deserves, weekend repairs have been cut by half, the computer tells everyone where to find all of the parts without having to track down Hill, so his staff can be more independent.

“They come into the office and pick up their orders. It is part of their routine now,” says Hill. “Now when they come in for a quick morning or afternoon meeting, the first thing they do is look at the board. This frees me up for other things.”

Too, adds Hill, “If you put [orders] on paper, people don’t question them. It is as if there is another voice speaking. With the old system, just giving out orders, [they sometimes thought] well ‘Bob can work on Saturday.'”

Maintenance planning has become far easier: “It used to be that I couldn’t plan anything. Now I know what I need and how long it will take. Since we put in the MP2 system, the production planner has worked very closely with me. He asks when I need a machine for a couple of hours for maintenance work. I can punch it up on the computer: ‘Panel saw needs maintenance for two shifts’. We plan it right into the production schedule. When he plans our next two to three months of work, he looks at capacity … he works maintenance into the planning.”

“This system has helped me out a lot. And my paycheque isn’t any smaller, so I can’t complain about that.”

Carroll McCormick is a contributing editor for Machinery & Equipment MRO.

*Only in Sweden?

“The Netherlands, you say? I thought IKEA was Swedish?” Well, it is, but indirectly today. Here’s why. IKEA was founded by Ingvar Kamprad in a small farming village in Sweden in 1943. (The name IKEA was formed from the founder’s initials — I.K. — plus the first letters of Elmtaryd and Agunnaryd, the farm and village where he grew up.) Today, Inter IKEA Systems B.V. of the Netherlands, a charitable foundation, is the owner and franchisor of the IKEA concept.

The IKEA Group of Inter IKEA Systems includes not only most IKEA retailers, but also the product development centre, IKEA of Sweden AB, and its trading and wholesale companies. The IKEA Group activities are coordinated by IKEA International A/S in Denmark.

IKEA of Sweden AB is responsible for the entire IKEA product range
. That’s why their products are labelled “Design and Quality, IKEA of Sweden.” Interestingly, the first IKEA store in Canada opened in 1976, nine years before the first one in the U.S.

Environmental Recognition

Swedwood Canada employs one of Burnside’s largest workforces. In its efforts to improve its environmental performance, it has been moving toward ISO 14001 certification and implementing other environmental strategies. These efforts resulted in the company receiving an Award for Environmental Excellence from the community in May 2000.

Some of its projects have included the use of UV-based technology for coating furniture, a major lighting retrofit throughout the facility, a new dust collection system, and further use of wood chips for heat recovery.


Stories continue below

Print this page