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Operators in Maintenance

by Christer Idhammar

To include operators in essential care of equipment including preventive maintenance inspections is one of the reliability and maintenance improvement initiatives that can yield the best return on investment. The investment is low and results in increased reliability and lower maintenance costs can be substantial. Still, very few pulp and paper mills can claim that their operators are involved to a significant extent in these activities.

Why include operators in maintenance?
The main reasons why operators should be included in essential equipment care include:

  • The urgent need to increase competitiveness and productivity.
  • Preventive maintenance programs will be much more cost effective.
  • The partnership between operations and maintenance will improve.

The urgent need to increase competitiveness and productivity.
This is obvious to most people, but not to everyone. You can still hear comments like; “This is not part of my job” or “We are not going to take the work from the maintenance employees.” In the USA we compete with mills in countries with labor rates in the $1 - $3 per hour ratio, and these mills are in some cases very modern and reliable. If employees in a US mill are paid $25 per hour we have to be eight to twenty five times more productive than these mills. That means we have to produce eight to twenty five times more quality product throughput per hour worked just to keep up on a productivity comparison. I do not think we anymore can have the luxury of limiting work to traditional demarcation lines. To include operators in more maintenance work is, in my opinion a minor change and very difficult to deny with common sense.

Preventive maintenance programs will be much more cost effective.
If you avoid the common mistake of adding inspections to be done by operators to an existing program without optimizing the total preventive maintenance (PM) program, your mechanical PM program can become much better at the same time as it is reduced by 30 – 60%.

Many basic equipment inspections require inspections to be done with a frequency of less than eight hours. It can not be justified to have maintenance crafts people to do these inspections twice a day. If it makes sense, these inspections will be done by operators who combine them with process inspections they do anyway.

To be able to optimize your PM activities efficiently you need to us a route based PM program where you can see all PM activities (Basic Inspections, Predictive Maintenance, Lubrication etc) under each equipment number. The system must have the capability to sort inspections in a route. Unfortunately most of the bigger systems on the market today do not have this capability.

I advise you to start implementing the system using a printed paper route and then evolve into handheld computers. You will save a lot of money in initial investment and maintenance of these devises if you wait until the system is up and running to enhance the system.

An excellent tool to use to speed up training and implementation is existing Condition Monitoring Standards. These standards use color illustrations to show how a component works, how to inspect it and why you need to inspect it. If you would like an example please contact me at info@idcon.com and I will send them to you.

The partnership between operations and maintenance will improve.
This is one of the most important things you need to do to promote a better partnership between operations and maintenance. It also lays the groundwork for a future integrated operations and maintenance work system.