MRO Magazine

Maintenance Management: Adding up the successes

By Cliff Williams   

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance Operations

This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO’s February 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous instalments are archived online at This...

This article is part of an ongoing series. The introduction appeared in Machinery & Equipment MRO’s February 2005 issue and the series has run in every issue since. Previous instalments are archived online at This month, we pick up where we left off in the February 2012 edition, as maintenance manager Bob Edwards adds up the value of the department’s successes and looks ahead to future improvements.

The focus for the next few weeks was on the visit of the team from the supermill in Wisconsin that we had modelled, our vice-presidents and Tom Waters, our company’s chief executive officer. Though there was not really a reason for our plant manger, Joe Davis, to be anxious, I could see that he was.

“Joe, this is not something to worry about. This is something we’ve developed as a mill, so there’s no right or wrong, no winners and losers. It’s all about being better than we were. I know Corporate have focused on the numbers from the Wisconsin mill, but they’re just missing the point. As the guys from Wisconsin will tell them, it’s about doing what you believe is right for the company and when you see improvement, you know you are right.”

“That’s fine for you, Bob, but it’s not every day we get a visit from the CEO of the company, especially one where he wants to talk with everyone.”


“Think of it this way, Joe. What have we said that we needed to do each step of the way? Communicate. That’s something we’ve focused on and made a special point of doing. Well, that’s all Tom is doing, and that’s how we’ll present it to the guys on the floor. I’ve got to believe this will reinforce everything we’ve said.”

“I hope so, but the other thing that worries me is if Tom starts to dig deeper about some of the things you’ve done – you know, the things I’ve just left it up to you to develop ….”

“And that’s exactly what you’ll tell him if he asks. None of this would have been possible if you were the ‘command and control’ type of manager. By giving us the freedom to try things, you’ve enabled our success, and by doing that, you’ve been as much a part of the team as anyone. So come on, start looking forward to what has to be one of the proudest days in the mill’s history.”

Terry and Ivan, the millwrights who had attended the vibration course, came back from it wanting to check the vibration on every piece of rotating equipment in the plant!

“Hang on guys; we don’t really need to do spectrum analysis on everything! Remember, we’ll do it by exception on those pieces of equipment that the operators are taking overall readings on – but I do get the feeling the course was money well spent.”

“It was great, Bob,” said Terry. “With what we’ve learned, we feel confident that we can take on John’s role as our vibration consultant, especially as he’s there if we need a second opinion. He’s already told us that.”

“Okay, we’ll talk with him about a transition period.”

I was really pleased with this, as not only did it represent the guys taking ownership and becoming more involved, but it was going to save us the $53,000 a year we’d been paying John for his consulting services. This was another concrete example of how we were improving. We could use it to demonstrate to Tom Watts that what we were doing was for the benefit of the company.

Patrice, our human resources manager, announced that the mill’s next community event would be the decorating of the home of an elderly couple. He asked for volunteers who could start this work the day after the visit by the vice-presidents, Tom Watts and the group from Wisconsin.

Our reliability manager, Carol, prepared slides for our presentation to the visitors using our improvement numbers, and I added a set of slides explaining the TREAT model (Talk, Respect, Educate, Authority and Trust).

As I reviewed Carol’s slides, I noticed that she had added Mean Time Between Failure for roll bearings and pumps, along with our Planned and Unplanned Downtime, Inventory Trend and Maintenance Cost per Unit. I felt that this should show that we were managing the most important parts of maintenance. But that was when I realized I hadn’t talked much with Fred, our production manager, about the upcoming visit.

I certainly didn’t want to set up Fred for failure with my statistics, but I wasn’t sure that he had similar measures. I needed to touch base with him in enough time for him to prepare something, so I picked up the phone.

“Hi Fred, it’s Bob. I’m just going over my slides for the visit and I was wondering if you had prepared anything?”

“I’ve got a few slides but it tends to be statements about what we’re doing and want to do – nothing more.”

“That’s what I figured. We’ve got a couple of slides with numbers that show the effects of what we’re doing. Couldn’t we do something similar for you?”

“I’m not sure what to use for those numbers.”

I thought for a moment. “How about the amount of time the operators spend on basic care or how many more work orders they put in? Or how about how many times they’ve caught a problem with the vibe pen or ultrasonic wand? That should be good enough.”

“Hang on, let me write these down – ok, that sounds great, Bob. But I’m sure it will look hokey compared to you showing how much money you’ve saved the company.”

“I think it’ll be just fine, Fred. I’ll let you get on with it.”

As I put the phone down, I thought about what Fred had said about how much money we had saved the company and I realized that we hadn’t converted any of the measures to dollars. I’d talked about how we had to demonstrate that we had chosen the right things to do for the company, but we hadn’t bothered to show how much we’d saved. I called Carol right away and asked if she would do the conversion.

It was then that Kevin, the electrical supervisor, walked in.

“Sorry to disturb you, Bob, but I’ve been looking at the downtime for the past year and it seems as if we have problems with our PLCs. They are the biggest cause of downtime. When we dug a little deeper, it was obvious that the main culprit was overheating in the cabinets, so we took some readings and pretty much every PLC cabinet in the plant overheats.

“Larry found a simple device that cools plant air and then feeds the cabinets, so we tested one of the cabinets and it works fine – the temperature was level. So, I’d like to use them on all of the cabinets, if you agree. The cost will be about $7,500, which is not bad when you consider that the cost is less than one hour’s downtime, and there’s never been a PLC failure that took less than an hour to resolve – never mind the cost of the replacement cards.”

“That sounds good to me. But do me a favour and pull together what you think we’ll save in loss reduction for the next year.”

Talking with Kevin brought me to thinking about what else we could do to improve – we had definitely made great strides, but we needed to talk about where we were headed in front of our visitors, so I called Carol once again and asked her to come to my office later that day.

“Hmm, you sounded a little troubled on the phone, Bob. What’s up?”

“I’m not exactly troubled, but I’ve been thinking that we need to show everyone where the future improvements are going to come from.”

I told her what Kevin had suggested and how this led to my concern about what else we could present as our future plans.

“Interestingly, I started thinking about the same thing when I pulled together the slides – a ‘where do we go from here’ summary. There were a couple of things we talked about in our meetings that got dropped off the agenda, such as PM optimization. We changed some PMs and revamped the wording on others, but we never looked at PMs with specific regard to the failures they are meant to prevent. I’m certain that we are still doing PMs to monitor a problem, even though we have done something to remove the root cause. That exercise would save us time and money.

“Then there’s the whole idea that the downtime numbers we report are those for lost production – there’s no real measure of the failures that don’t cause downtime on the paper machine, other than total costs. We could start to measure those more closely.

“Last but not least, in my opinion, we need to get more people involved writing procedures. Pete’s doing a great job with the hydraulics, but what about roll-building, loop-tuning or rebuilding the pulper gearboxes? There’s still plenty of knowledge to capture.”


Cliff Williams is the corporate maintenance manager at Erco Worldwide in Toronto, ON, and a consultant with TMS – Total Maintenance Solutions Inc., Markham, ON. He can be reached by e-mail at

To view the full layout of this article with images, as it originally appeared, see page 24 of the April 2012 issue. The digital edition of this issue can be found here:


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