MRO Magazine

Mill Optimizes Reliability

MRO Magazine   

Machinery and Equipment Maintenance Operations

With an average production output increase of about 30% per year, Sapa Heat Transfer AB’s Shanghai facility needed to plan and develop a strategy to accommodate its growing business performance for the long term. Being the only company in...

With an average production output increase of about 30% per year, Sapa Heat Transfer AB’s Shanghai facility needed to plan and develop a strategy to accommodate its growing business performance for the long term. Being the only company in the world with rolling mills that deliver aluminum strips for brazed heat exchangers, it was imperative for it to maintain its leading position in the market.

Sapa Heat Transfer, which has offices in Mississauga, ON, Montreal and Vancouver, is based in Finspång, Sweden, and is a part of Sapa Holding AB, which is owned by the Norwegian company Orkla ASA.

It is estimated that 60% of all cars in Europe have radiators originating from Sapa aluminium strip, and of course many cars in North America and the Asia Pacific region are also equipped with Sapa material. In addition, in recent years Sapa has been increasingly active in HVAC&R (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration) and power industry applications for heat transfer material.

In terms of a basic approach, adding more capacity was perhaps the easiest part to agree upon and was executed, doubling the previous production capacity. But a more complex part, and one that had additional benefits, was to optimize the reliability and availability of the entire production facilities; both existing and those to be added.


This optimization would contribute to the ability to deliver increased output, but it would also deliver considerable maintenance cost savings to the bottom line. However, it would involve an approach to maintenance efficiency that would also require its own new strategy, development, introduction and execution.

Modern data tracking

The first move away from the previous system was to select and install a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). This would replace the paper and spreadsheet systems, where data logging and retrieval was relatively slow, and data updating, preparing statistics and sharing this information was becoming more time consuming and inefficient.

Being well aware that the success of any CMMS depended on it being selected and tailored to ‘fit’ the manufacturing and maintenance reality of Sapa’s factory, Wang Yeuming, Sapa’s maintenance manager, asked SKF for assistance. Wang believed the ‘fitting’ of a CMMS to Sapa’s situation could only be done by experienced professionals in the maintenance and reliability business. SKF was well known to Sapa’s maintenance staff from previous co-operation on engineering and maintenance issues, and SKF’s application of its high-end Integrated Maintenance Services (IMS) was known to be successful in many industries, in different countries around the world, including China.

During initial discussions on the future direction of maintenance at Sapa, Wang received recommendations from SKF about which CMMS system suited them best. “Although not expected at such an early stage of discussions, their suggestion was backed up with solid reasoning that convinced us that they knew our manufacturing needs and the CMMS solutions on the marketplace. So I felt comfortable going with their suggestion and, I must say, it turned out to be perfect,” said Wang.

“Since acquiring the CMMS, SKF have helped us to identify, tag and upload all necessary assets into the system and have trained our people in the process. Although this is a very difficult job to complete while you are still managing the daily maintenance needs, my team and SKF did exceptionally well to complete the implementation within four months.

“Of course, training and support continued with our people to ensure that they switched to using the CMMS on a continuous basis. It is well known that sometimes, with the pressure of normal operation, increasing demand and daily maintenance reviews and actions, it can seem easier to use old, well-known methodologies than newer, less-familiar ones. It was important that we stayed on track to use the new system, and I am happy to say that we met that goal too.”

New approach to maintenance

In parallel with the CMMS activity, Sapa and SKF revised the maintenance strategy, standardizing maintenance actions where necessary, determining which were Sapa’s really critical assets and focusing more on the specific needs to increase reliability.

“We are really happy with this new situation,” said Wang. “Not only do we have more detailed information on our critical assets and their typical service lives, we know what to monitor in search of potential failures and can detect developing problems very early. That gives us time to understand them and to take actions to prevent more of them from becoming actual failures. And we also know more about the man-hours we spend to diagnose and fix any issues.

“This information is now instantly available to any of our maintenance staff and is already helping us to drive up reliability and drive down costs. Compared to figures from 2007, the average machine availability increased in 2010 from 95.4% to 97%, and maintenance cost per ton of output was decreased by 16.8%.”

SKF staff maintains a constant presence at the factory, assisting with extending the CMMS application and training for the 53 Sapa maintenance staff. “The SKF knowledge is so strong that having them on-site daily is a really efficient way to ramp up the learning curve of all our people,” said Wang.

“While their on-site staff can answer most of our questions, if there are any areas in the slightest doubt, they can easily access the worldwide SKF knowledge of their asset efficiency colleagues, who are experienced, having worked with numerous major corporations around the world. And they have a unique database of maintenance knowledge on so many pieces of machinery that we also use, that speeds up the answers to even the most difficult questions that we have so far come across.

“We have official meetings weekly and monthly and that helped to get the CMMS installation done so quickly, and also to act on all key issues as we started to use it.”

World-class maintenance management

“Having gotten off to a great start with our new maintenance approach, we are now going further with SKF,” said Wang. “We have just started the new IMS project that I hope will launch our journey to world-class maintenance management. We will fully optimize the value that CMMS offers and will further apply advanced predictive maintenance procedures, including off-line and on-line monitoring, plant wide.

“Our on-site mechanical services will cover identifying and eliminating repeat failures, professional and speedy mounting and dismounting of bearings, and establishing extensive lubrication systems and lubrication monitoring for key equipment.

“It will be a tough journey, but the rate of success with our performance and attitude to change – from the old time-based preventive maintenance routines, to advanced predictive maintenance routines – gives me great reason to be optimistic,” said Wang.

“Already with IMS, we have looked at our critical equipment and have set Key Performance Indicator (KPI) targets for availability and prevented downtime for the next three years. This is in contrast to executing a great maintenance strategy and waiting to see what results we get.

“Even though that delivered more than we expected, with the new focus on SKF IMS as our way ahead, I am very optimistic that we will be more in control of what we expect and what we get. That is the start to world-class performance and we intend to follow that with performance data comparable with best-in-class companies, where SKF’s experience, knowledge and assistance will be invaluable.”

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