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Can Your Mill Produce the Right Results?

by Christer Idhammar

This is a summary of a part of a presentation by Christer Idhammar, president of IDCON, INC. Raleigh NC, during the 15th annual Pulp & Paper Reliability and Maintenance Conference and Exhibit in Atlanta 5-8 November 2001.

Craftspeople.
“80% of our clients report an attrition rate among their crafts people of 40-60% in the next five to seven years”. “Only 10 % of these clients have a good apprentice program or plans for retaining skills” This is perhaps one of the biggest challenges that lie in front of the industry. Not only is there an increasingly lack in availability of skilled crafts people, most of them also work in a very poorly organized manner as a consequence of poor planning and scheduling (management) practices. Efficiencies among crafts people can often improve by 40% if execution of improved planning and scheduling practices are implemented. There is nothing new in this fact, but even today very few mills excel in this area. On a scale of 0-100, the average of 12 mills recently evaluated on how well they execute Planning and Scheduling practices is 44!

Flexibility
“Many organizations negotiated more flexible work practices with their unions, paid crafts people more, but did not implement these practices”

Again execution failed. There are many reasons for this: Lack of reinforcement and expectations from management, training in new skills and union member resistance are some of them. The biggest reasons are relaxed management and lack of professional training programs. This is a change for crafts people and we cannot expect it to come easy and without resistance, that would be naive to believe that. The push for more and more flexibility has also eroded vertical skills. The industry has focused so much on horizontal skills (Flexibility) that professional skills, in areas such as hydraulics and even basics as filtration, balancing and alignment have almost disappeared in some mills. The future will focus more on Multi-Skills and less on Multi-Craft. Multi-Craft is not the wrong thing to do, just be prepared to spend necessary efforts in selection of people, training and motivation, e.g. pay for execution of skills. The only mill I have worked with where multi-craft is very successful has a maintenance productivity of 0.25 maintenance hour per ton. This is a 500,000 tons per year Newsprint Mill and maintenance hours include overtime hours and contractor hours in addition to own hours. They pay their crafts people well for skills they prove they have and use.

Supervisors.
“Supervisors will come back in a role of more planning, scheduling and support” In the last 20 years mills use many names for supervisors. Coordinators, Team Leaders are some of the most common. Some mills have unfortunately made the serious mistake of removing supervisors entirely. Some have understood the mistake in this and reinstated this very unthankful but very important function. Others have not yet woken up. In a reactive work system- whether we like it or not- the role of a supervisor will be to fire fight and give commands. In a planned and scheduled work system the role of a supervisor should be to plan and schedule weekly and daily work and thereby supporting the crew. (A planner should take care of shut down and major work). In a world Class maintenance organization, the role of a supervisor changes again. In a world-class organization about 30% of all maintenance hours are spent on identifying and eliminating the root cause of problems, this will take a very different leadership style from supervisors.

A good advise to human resources departments is to support your supervisors. I have been in many mills where good supervisors have left or given up because they tried to reinforce some basic work ethics, the subjects for these reinforcements then complain to human resources, who often tell the supervisor to back off! Some examples on these reinforcements include starting and quitting on time, not late or early, overtime is based on need, it is not an entitlement, flexibility in work rules per agreement is to be followed. It does not always take two people to do a job safely etc. 

Outsourcing.
“Outsourcing of maintenance will increase because organizations will continue to fail in instituting effective work processes and to train their people?”

I have often said that outsourcing of maintenance is an act of desperation and I have seen many examples on that. I do not think that outsourcing solves a problem, because the contractor often have to pay their people less and provide less benefits then you give your own employees. This results in difficulty for contractors to keep skilled people. I know several contractors where average employment time for electricians is 18 months or less. Also the contractor must institute same work practices, as you have to do with your own people. You have to ask yourself why you cannot do that yourself. With good leadership that should not be a problem, without it you will never succeed, but why would the contractor have better leadership? Perhaps the reason for outsourcing is that you will reduce fixed costs and increase variable costs?

There are some good reasons why you should outsource including scale of business, variations in workload or need for special skills 

“The only difference between the Best performers and others is that the best performers execute-others do not.” 

Maintenance Prevention, Preventive Maintenance, Planning of Maintenance, Scheduling of Maintenance, Root Cause Problem Elimination and other maintenance basics are not at all new. Many efforts are being made to disguise these basics in different three letter acronyms, but the basic elements of maintenance remains the same. Execution of them might differ and we constantly learn more and more about how and why components fail, but this is still an evolution within the basic elements (about 300 elements). 

To be successful requires not only knowledge about what to do; the challenge lies in implementation and execution. You must have a clearly defined, documented and well communicated vision and mission and then implement it over a long period of time. Do not change the basic concept and jump into the latest fads because it confuses the possible followers you have and the basics are the same whatever you call your program. 

There are many things you need to decide upon to enable success; these include the relationship between Operations, Maintenance and Engineering, guaranteed long-term support etc.  

Christer Idhammar is a world-renowned expert within Reliability and Maintenance. He started his career in the Swedish merchant marine where he started developing fundamentals of his Results Oriented Maintenance Management concept. During the last 30+ years this concept has evolved during his time as mechanic crafts person, engineer, manager, consult, educator and philosopher, reliability guru and company leader. As a consultant he started the Idhammar group of companies in 1972 and his own company in USA 1985 -IDCON, INC in Raleigh North Carolina, USA. www.idcon.com  

Clients include pulp and paper industry around the world including Norske Skog, StoraEnso UPM-Kymmene, International Paper, Weyerhaeuser, Australian Paper, Willamette, Smurfit-Stone, Portals, Solvay Paperboard Eurocan, Mead Paper and many more.

He is a lecturer at University of Dayton’s Reliability and Maintenance certification program since 1995.