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Week of 16 March 2020: Ford vs. Ferrari

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When you look at auto racing, at least 50% of the difference between winners and losers is maintenance. The recent movie, Ford vs. Ferrari, drives this point home. Winning LeMans came down to maintenance. Ford's breakthrough in this area was in brake maintenance. Not satisfied with just changing out disc brake pads, the Carroll Shelby team came up with the idea of changing out the whole spindle assembly. They checked the rule book, could not find a prohibition against the concept and went with it. And won.

I have spent time working in a couple of converting plants during my lifetime in the pulp and paper industry. In neither case was I in charge of operations--engineering in the first case, engineering, maintenance and technical department in the second case. Both of them were five-day operations as opposed to the 24/7 operations of a pulp or paper mill. The first one measured efficiency on a 24/5 basis. One could get pretty good at judging downtime in this scenario. If a line dropped to about 98% up time, it started to look like a train wreck.

In the second case, the industrial engineers had gotten hold of the calculations. I had been there just a few days and I asked the operations manager what their uptime rate was. He proudly told me it was 98%. I was astounded...any time I walked by any of the lines it seemed like they were down. The first plant I had been in was brand new; this one had been around since before World War II and was poorly maintained. I dug deeper--the industrial engineers had declared 18 hours per day to be "100% efficiency!" It wasn't long before a new operations manager arrived and introduced everyone to two magical devices--the clock and the calendar. Things started to improve after that (which was shortly after my maintenance work orders skyrocketed).

Printing and converting plants often have the luxury of weekends to do heavy maintenance, since most run on a five-day schedule. Perhaps that is one of the many reasons I like to concentrate my efforts on paper machines--the seven-day routine is just more challenging. Paper machines are more like LeMans, or are they?

With the safety-first attitude of manufacturing operations, we will never be as good as pit crews when it comes to addressing downtime. I'll hasten to say, however, that most maintenance teams in mills are not as good as they could be. Let me frame and clarify why I say this a little better. I have been involved in the startup of a dozen new paper machines in the last twenty years.

In every case, the urgency of the crew and maintenance team during unscheduled down time drops from year one to year two rather severely. After that, it continues to drop, but at a much slower pace. Familiarity breeds contempt. It is an attitude issue.

This drop in urgency can be partially offset by doing planned maintenance in an outstanding fashion. This reduces the emergency maintenance to a certain extent. What is missing, however, is a solid pareto analysis of those items that cause unscheduled downtime. The Carroll Shelby team determined that it wasn't just brake pads--while they were in there, they changed out an entire basket of related parts, whether worn out or not. In fact, they didn't even inspect them--the brake pads were the signal that several items were likely to fail soon, so change them all now, save time later. They won the race. This is an idea more paper mills should adopt.

Watch the movie, watch the maintenance. You just may learn something and improve your operations.

Of course, we are going to trust you to do a better job of safety than pit crews practice. Study the safety aspects of every maintenance job you do.

Be safe and we will talk next week.


Maintenance Month Platinum Sponsor: RMR Mechanical: We perform as planned! Visit us at!


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