Alcoa-Deschambault demonstrates overall leadership

Doing the right things right is perhaps the best description one can give to the maintenance operations at the Alcoa aluminum smelter in Deschambault, Quebec, Canada. By demonstrating superior performance in just about every area of evaluation, Alcoa-Deschambault earned the North American Maintenance Excellence (NAME) Award for 2002.
By Staff April 28, 2003
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Alcoa-Deschambault profile

Doing the right things right is perhaps the best description one can give to the maintenance operations at the Alcoa aluminum smelter in Deschambault, Quebec, Canada. By demonstrating superior performance in just about every area of evaluation, Alcoa-Deschambault earned the North American Maintenance Excellence (NAME) Award for 2002.

Originally built as an Alumax plant, the smelter started pioneering before it started operations. In cooperation with the local school board, management developed a training program for the mechanical and electrical apprentices that were to become the maintenance workforce. This training was coupled with a 2-week training camp at another smelter, and in February 1992 the plant went on line with a maintenance team of about 60 apprentices — believed to be a first for an aluminum smelter startup.

Since that time, the plant has become part of Alcoa, and the maintenance group has grown to 155 employees characterized by their multicraft skills, enthusiasm, pride of ownership, and knowledge.

Alcoa-Deschambault has developed a reliability program that has become the model for other Alcoa smelters. Each maintenance team includes a Failure Analysis Team, or FAT, to improve overall effectiveness of its equipment. The FATs analyze and resolve recurrent equipment breakdowns to improve reliability. Each team includes a maintenance realiability engineer, electrician, mechanics, and operators.

NAME Award evaluators rated the maintenance planning and scheduling process as world-class. At the heart of the program are the maintenance tactic guides that have been developed for each piece of equipment. To develop these guides, teams analyzed what kind of maintenance (preventive, reactive, proactive, etc.) was the most applicable and economical for each piece of equipment. Thus, the appropriate type of maintenance is adapted to the needs of the equipment.

Another important initiative is the plant’s kaisen approach to maximize reliability of bottleneck equipment. Equipment is designated a bottleneck when its operational availability is lower than or equal to the period of time it must operate to meet client demand. Dedicated teams have been formed to reduce bottleneck equipment problems. There are just three active bottleneck teams at any given time to prevent resources from being spread too thin. Each team addresses seven aspects to solving bottleneck problems:

  • Training

  • Communications

  • Visibility (special signage)

  • Material and tools

  • Methods and procedures

  • n Equipment maintenance

  • Management.

    • Work and parts connected with the bottleneck kaizen projects are given priority. Dedicated toolboxes with essential tools and spare parts are located near the equipment for rapid response.

      Throughout all of its maintenance operations, Alcoa-Deschambault has emphasized training, planning, scheduling, communication, and documentation. The efforts have paid off with a standard of excellence that serves as a model for other plants in the corporation.

      Alcoa-Deschambault profile

      Business: primary aluminum smelter

      Capacity: 240,000 metric tons of aluminum (design capacity 215,000 metric tons)

      Electric current: 333,000 Amp

      Employment: 550

      Operation: 24/7/365

      ISO 9002 and 14001 certified

      Maintenance organization: 11 teams comprising —70 mechanics —50 electricians —35 engineers, planners, technicians, and supervisors