Up with down time

Posted on Jul 9, 2015 :: Back Office Operations
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Posted by , Insight on Manufacturing Staff Writer

TIME PRESENTS A DILEMMA FOR EVEN THE MOST efficient of manufacturers.
Every plant operator knows the time is coming when a part will need to be replaced or a piece of equipment will need an upgrade. That means shutting down the line. Yet, every second the plant is shut down for maintenance costs lost productivity and inventory.
It’s a balancing act, no doubt, but most manufacturers will tell you it’s better to plan the shutdown or maintenance and cleaning than to have it happen unscheduled. The planning of these shutdowns depends largely on the nature of the facility and factors such as order volume.
Summer can be a good time for manufacturers to
plan scheduled maintenance, with employees hoping to take family vacations. Deer hunting season is another prime time.
“In the summer, we have a lot of employee vacations, but I still think hunting season is the time where many take off,” says Trisha Lemery, CEO of Winsert, a Marinette-based manufacturer of heat-and-corrosion-resistant engine components. “It requires a good amount of planning.”
Currently, Winsert’s production team reviews orders and schedules and then produces a plan to accommodate shutdown events.
“This involves not only the products and orders, but the people, to ensure staffing levels are adequate and cross-trained to handle flexible production schedules,” Lemery says.
At Georgia Pacific in Green Bay, the plants shut down mainly for regularly scheduled maintenance, such as when it’s time to change fabric or wire on a paper machine, on a regular cycle of several months, depending on the type of machine, says Mike Kawleski, public affairs manager. Technicians might need several hours to a shift or more of downtime to complete the work.
“The only big event that a mill has is every three to five years when we have a cold outage — the whole place goes dark,” Kawleski says. “That’s when we do a lot of major stuff.”
The Broadway Mill just had one of these cold outages, when it underwent large-scale, intensive maintenance and the installation of a new natural gas boiler. These outages last generally about a week, and some employees are given the week off while others come in to clean or lubricate machinery. Maintenance workers and contractors also conduct specialized work on the machines at that time.
“It’s almost a military operation,” Kawleski says. “It’s talked about for months and months and months ahead of time. The biggest thing is safety.”
Another shutdown situation might occur if some production is curtailed due to inventory needs, but those only happen sporadically, he says.
Other plants, such as those with seasonal operation like Bonduelle, in Fairwater (Fond du Lac County), also plan maintenance around the company’s regular production schedule.
Bonduelle, a France-based food packaging company of canned and frozen vegetables, purchased the food processing and packaging facilities in Fairwater in 2012. The processing facility normally operates from June to the end of November in conjunction with the growing season, says plant manager Cristiano Spina. Its repack facility operates year-round.
For the seasonal facility, Bonduelle plans preventive maintenance and improvements between November and June.
“When we can’t run because of the weather, we use our time to have the equipment ready for the summer,” Spina says. “We have a preventive maintenance plan in place, and we go through each piece of equipment. Our goal is to run without interruption and any down time from the first day to the last day of the pack.”
Bonduelle hires seasonal employees for its summer and fall production schedule. It also has full-time, year-round maintenance employees, including a team of mechanics, electricians and refrigeration operators, Spina says. They keep the equipment running during the summer and work on larger projects throughout the winter.
At the fresh pack facility, Bonduelle did two major projects in the last year and a half. One was a redesign of the corn processing line, which was done during the slow winter period.
In the packaging facility, the company underwent a redesign to move toward a fully automated process to incorporate lean principles and optimize its lines. During that project, Bonduelle moved some of its production to a sister plant. Deciding where is a part of the logistics process. Bonduelle, which has 55 facilities worldwide, has three other U.S. plants in New York state, as well as plants in Ontario and Quebec.
“They look at capacity and their ability within the organization to move products around in a way that they can keep all the facilities balanced and reduce the risk of us going out of stock for our product,” Spina says.
The plant also has a regular cleanup schedule during peak production that requires about four to six hours every two days when production must stop. The regular production staff is trained at the beginning of the year — veterans get a refresher course — so that the production staff also can perform the required cleaning.
“That way we maximize the employment of our people,” Spina says.