Convincing Plant Managers to Spend Money

Sometimes, the goals of the plant manager and the maintenance manager are opposing. A good maintenance plan helps clear the mist.
By Holger Streetz | April 03, 2019

The goal of a plant manager is to produce wood pellets of adequate quality at an efficient rate with reasonable production costs. Maintenance managers are investing in equipment and man-hours to reduce unplanned downtimes and constantly improve efficiency. Sometimes, the goals of the plant manager and the maintenance manager are opposing. A good maintenance plan helps clear the mist.

Every well-run plant has at hand a maintenance plan that describes all scheduled maintenance tasks. The possibilities for displaying the plan range from a white board at the manager’s door to tablets or smartphones with individual tasks for every staff member. A well-working example that I witnessed was use of project management software to keep digital track of all tasks while handing out them out on paper, which were then returned, signed by the staff member who performed the task.

Essentials of a Maintenance Plan
The daily maintenance routine includes moisture control before and after the maturing vessel and the pellet mill, and a visual inspection of the die for honey combing, microcracks, wear patterns and foreign material. The roller inspection includes adjustment toward the die, wear patterns and temperature monitoring. With the Andritz LM 26, a jack shaft temperature measurement helps keeping track of the belt wear. Additionally, checking the fill level of consumables and air pressures are daily tasks that ensure no running dry.

The weekly check should include a thorough hammer mill inspection, especially for wear of sifters and hammers. All magnetic separators should be inspected and cleaned. The moisturizer needs a control check and recalibration if necessary. The pellet mill inspection includes cleaning the feed chutes and sifters, cleaning the crumbler, collector and fans, as well as roto shakers or other conveying equipment. Finally, the knives are checked for sharpness.
Monthly and annual inspections can include belt changes, conveyor lubrication, oil filter changes and other tasks according to equipment manufacturer specifications.

Optimization Process
Downtimes are always a bottleneck. Many plants have regular shut downs, during which all larger equipment like dryers and conveyors are maintained. Usually, the whole operations staff and third parties help keep the shutdown as short as possible. It is the unplanned downtimes that cause the biggest pain, since they involve excess costs due to express response and spare part delivery, opportunity costs and emergency service charges from third parties. However, every unplanned downtime is an opportunity, because it reveals weaknesses and the unbiased status quo of equipment condition. Assessing these weaknesses with your in-house team leads to solutions for the future.

Sometimes, it makes sense to involve third parties for a different perspective, because they don’t lack organizational blindness. An adjusted maintenance plan that is put into action should be the result of this process. A thorough documentation includes a standardized incident report to help reveal recurring shortcomings and systematic premature failures. The questions to be answered are: What went wrong? What caused the failure, and how can the failure be prevented from occurring in the future?

Getting the Go for Investments
Operational excellence comes from well-maintained equipment. By sharing the optimization process and maintenance plan with the plant manager, he understands the importance of investments in equipment, staff training and consulting. A change toward overall equipment effectiveness and efficiency is the change from run to failure, to predictive maintenance. This approach helps align efforts toward a more efficient plant with less downtimes and improved results. As a bonus, a well-maintained plant has lower safety risks, because with a solid maintenance plan, safety and efficiency are concurrent goals.

Author: Holger Streetz
International Operations Manager, Bathan AG