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Management Side
Week of 18 March 2024: Maintenance as a morale booster

Email Jim at jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com

I don't think I have ever been around more depressing pulp and paper mills than those experiencing poor maintenance. The only thing that can drive morale down faster is producing a product in a declining market (anyone remember newsprint?).

Sadly, many senior managers view maintenance as a cost. Many times, I have written here about the hot shot manager that comes into a well-run mill and cuts maintenance to improve the bottom line. These snakes then make sure they leave within about two years before things start crashing down around them. A pox on anyone with this attitude.

A well-maintained mill has few unscheduled disruptions. Operators love well running equipment. The opposite is similar to driving down the road and having a flat tire. Who wants a flat tire? It is dangerous and disruptive to the trip.

Unscheduled maintenance causes all sorts of disruptions in the mill.

Customer orders may need to be moved around to accommodate those needing product by a date certain. This makes the mill look bad to the customers and engenders a view that the mill is unreliable. Your own sales and scheduling people are unhappy, for they have to jump through hoops and do the unthinkable. Keep it up and you will lose your reputation and sales.

Transportation planning is disrupted, causing additional costs.

Maintenance staff schedules may need to be reworked and forced overtime may come into play, resulting in Sharon missing her daughter's play. Do that enough times and Sharon will find another job--your mill is too disruptive for a reasonable lifestyle.

Certain trucking entities may love you. Those who specialize in "hotshotting"--bringing you maintenance items from a distance in a hurry at a premium price. FedEx saw the demand for this service to be such that they made a whole division called "Custom Critical" just to serve such needs. I think that name choice was brilliant.

Excessive downtime puts your mill in play to be sold, too. If corporate sees this as the culture of the facility, they may just decide to sell it or shut it down.

A high maintenance facility is a morale killer in many ways. This is the reason there are so many maintenance training companies around these days. Many of them do a great job, but they are often not wholistic in their approach to your issues. But that's OK if you need a tune up or training in a particular area. In fact, I recommend it.

However, next week, I am going to show you a surprising way to get your maintenance under control, improve your uptime and improve your site's morale. At first, it will not cost you any more than you are spending now and later, it will render big savings on many fronts, not just maintenance.

Be safe and we will talk next week. Spread the word about next week's column, it will be dated "the week of 25 March 2024."

March Maintenance Platinum Sponsor: RMR Mechanical - We perform as planned! 770-205-9646

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