February 8, 2012  
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Maintenance Materials Planning
by John Yolton

Few would argue that maintenance productivity is greatly influenced by how well materials, needed to perform a maintenance job, are made available for that job. Yet consider the following about your mill:

  • Have your maintenance work crews ever experienced a sudden emergency during a "planned shutdown" because they can't find a certain piece of material, such as a stainless steel trimmed wafer valve or a specific large bore bearing?
  • Has a maintenance employee ever been called in during the middle of night, only to have to call back to his supervisor to ask where a certain piece of material is located so that he may complete the job he was assigned; his supervisor then having to call someone else who should know...but doesn't. And finally several people having to descend upon the mill to find the missing part?
  • Have maintenance crews ever had to ask their supervisor help them find a missing part during a "well planned" job? Or have entire crews ever spent time searching the mill for a specific part while the "well planned" job was delayed?

If any of the above has happened in your mill, congratulations, you have a typical maintenance department in North America.

The point of this exercise is to simply point out that maintenance is nothing more than a group of skilled individuals installing equipment or pieces or parts to prevent failure or to replace failed pieces or parts. So why don't mills have someone dedicated to the task of knowing what part is located where?

In the past we relied on the foreman or supervisor to know where spare parts are located. Then we transferred that responsibility to a planner and a storekeeper. Did this resolve the problem--even partially?

A scenario not uncommon to paper mills is one where a multi-craft job is in progress, such as a pump and motor change-out during a paper machine shutdown.

The job has probably been in the planning stage for several months--probably by at least two planners, a mechanical planner and an electrical planner--and is finally ready and scheduled for installation. The maintenance supervisors (again probably two) have been alerted that the job is scheduled for the next planned shutdown. They prepare based on the information provided from planning.

The millwrights are now ready for motor #1234, which the plan says is located in the motor storage area. They look but can't find it. They then ask their foreman, who asks the electrical foremen, who asks the electrical planner, who studies his documentation and then goes to look for it himself. Turns out that two weeks ago the shift electrician and the shift millwright used that motor to replace one in the pulp mill and then sent the damaged motor out for repairs. Not to worry as another motor is found that will work (almost) as well, and the job is completed (almost) on time. Of course several other small jobs weren't completed as planned, but we will get to those next time.

Is this efficient and a productive use of the millwrights', electrician's and the foreman's time? In some warped sense someone might possibly suggest that the time spent to find the replacement motor was "productive." But using valuable, limited resources to do the work of others during an expensive machine outage, is not considered productive in most circles.

So why does this type of scene happen every day? Could it be we just simply do not consider the value of time lost? Could it be we are caught up in the moment and fail to see the long-term effects of this lost productivity? Further, could it be we are so positive about solving the immediate problem that we do not want to recall the negative aspects of the loss? Or could it be that we don't have a ready answer or solution?

Just suppose, using the same scenario, that your mill had a single source for all maintenance material information; a dedicated person responsible for knowing where maintenance material is located, who had developed a system to easily access that information. Further, suppose that this person was included in all matters concerning maintenance and maintenance materials and that he/she regularly visited and examined the contents of the "bone yard."

This person might regularly tour the storeroom, the engineering lockup, and the projects lockup, and so on. Suppose that all requisitions for maintenance and construction materials and stores inventory restocking, passed over this person's desk--not for approval but for future reference, for determination of storage location, and for deciding who should be alerted when major items were used from inventory or from the "special" lockup.

If this were the case, wouldn't this be the person the millwright or his boss would approach in case of a parts problem? It could prevent half a dozen people tearing off to locations all over the mill, trying to find something that possibly doesn't exist.

Would such a one-stop information source for maintenance material, be important? Definitely. Is it too much work for one person? Possibly, but how do we know unless we try.

Just perhaps, the savings in productivity would justify better use of resources.

Author's Note: This article was first published in 1990 as part of a series called "Maintenance Memo." While Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) are much more commonplace in pulp and paper mills today than 20+ years ago, supply chain management is still an issue. Inadequate management is costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in excessive inventory and unplanned downtime even with these ubiquitous "tools." An improvement in resources could have a positive effect on your bottom line.

John Yolton is a veteran of 46 years in the industry and is Maintenance Strategy Consultant for SKF's Global Pulp & Paper Segment. He can be contacted at [email protected].


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