Providing a saner approach to maintenance

Conflict with operations can be solved with better data, better communication


If production and maintenance are at loggerheads in your manufacturing plant, the way out of that jam could be better communication tools. Some of those tools are in the form of new technology that better aligns the unique goals of each part of the process; others are human tools that require talking through the issues involved.

Both were on display at the ARC Advisory Group’s session in Orlando named “Synchronizing Operations and Maintenance,” which featured presentations from energy and transportation companies on how their operations evolved to overcome communication bottlenecks.

Such issues are often a result of a lack of data sharing across platforms, said Ralph Rio of ARC Advisory Group, who moderated the session. ARC’s Asset Lifecycle Management model puts a strong emphasis on improving assets during their lifecycle.

“We feel there is opportunity for further optimization if there is synchronization across groups so when maintenance schedules downtime, it appears in the production schedule,” Rio said.

“We live in a world that’s very regimented, with lots of rules we have to follow,” noted Robert Scampton of Constellation Energy Nuclear Group. His department was responsible to bring five nuclear plants in three states—each with different maintenance systems—under a common maintenance and production platform.

“We had trouble getting everyone in line,” Scampton said. “They didn’t talk very well with each other. They needed to be aligned as a fleet.”

The first part of that alignment was to determine what each facility needed to have—issues such as alarm events, tracking of equipment performance, when it was safe to perform maintenance work, and equipment licensing requirements. After settling on a single software vendor, Constellation went about the process of pulling together the team and the data under the new platform.

“It was Change Management 101,” Scampton said. “The keys are to create a cross-disciplined team that includes representatives from all departments affected by the change. You have to demonstrate the importance of the change, communicate about the change frequently, and celebrate the change frequently.”

Besides simplifying the company’s need for rigorous regulatory compliance, the move to the common platform allowed for a single tagout procedure built into the software. The tag-sharing program put in place saved staff time and focused effort without compromising personnel safety or plant safety.

Eric Winterberg with APM Terminals North America, a global port container operations company with terminals throughout the world, had a more fundamental problem. “We’re very operationally based so operations come first, maintenance second,” said Winterberg. “There was a lack of consistency in data, but not one installation was the same. We had the challenge of standardizing that installation. Overall, the maintenance process was disconnected from operations. We were trying to catch up the whole time to keep facilities operating.”

Beginning three years ago with a CMMS system in Belgium, APM Terminals will have rolled out its software to 95% of its worldwide terminals. “We’ve been able to standardize maintenance operations anywhere in the world,” Winterberg said. “It allowed maintenance results to be analyzed against operations data. We were able to find a window of time for preventive maintenance. Maintenance moved from reactive to preventive, and it improved resource scheduling.

Winterberg said the biggest change is not in software or in personnel; it is a confidence that both are producing better decisions. “It’s a mind-set change for an organization,” he said. “It doesn’t happen overnight. It took us a year and half just to design the solution. Our change in mind-set is evolving. But it’s a saner platform for us to move forward.”

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