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Week of 30 March 2020: Brave new world: How do you do maintenance with a 6 foot separation between employees?

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The first thing that popped into my mind was to dress all your maintenance people in pre-Civil War hoop skirted ball gowns. Although it will maintain the distance, I can think of many other reasons this won't work.

For the future, this just emphasizes more predictive maintenance and solid maintenance monitoring. If you know the condition of your equipment and the failure curve it is on, you can plan on how to prepare it in a timely fashion.

One thing you can do right now, is adopt practices in your maintenance shop that assign only one person to rebuild a pump or work on other such items. In the movie, "Ford vs. Ferrari" that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago (man, I really love that movie!), in one scene they are walking through Ferrari's shop and mentioning that only one person built each engine. I have seen that happen in other racing shops. If they can do that there, then you can do the same thing when you are rebuilding units in your shop.

Then, full units can be taken to the machine and replaced by one mechanic.

It becomes a bit of a dance, but you can master this. Need to change a motor? Bring the electrician to the jobsite, complete disconnection, electrician withdraws, mechanics swap motor. Checking rotation of a newly installed motor has usually been with everyone gathered around, but you can do that, too, in a new way.

Clothing and roll changes may be the bigger challenges, but if you walk the operators and maintenance people through this, you should be able to perfect a distance maintaining choreography. Enlist the suppliers (via video conferencing) to help.

If you prepare to do this all the time going forward, I suspect it will lead to safer mills because the close in distractions from other employees will go away.

When I started working, OSHA did not exist (I told you I was old). In the early days of OSHA, everyone was fighting them, for they were making people do stupid things (like making companies change the elevation of fire extinguisher hangers by two or three inches to meet their specifications), but as time went on, their ideas and mandates got more reasonable and made more sense. Now, we wouldn't think of working any other way.

Six-foot separation is going to pay big dividends far beyond coronavirus. It just may be we can see a reduction in colds and flu as well as other contagious diseases if we make this a part of our daily practice.

And we won't need hoop skirts after all.

For goodness sake, be safe out there. The US Department of Homeland Security has put the pulp and paper industry on their list of essential industries. Let's not mess this up--we need to keep the mills running.

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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