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Maintaining Standards OPEN ACCESS

Building a Culture of Engineering Maintenance Management Revived the Fortunes of an Ailing Minerals Plant.

[+] Author Notes

Mario M. Copa specializes in engineering maintenance management and operational reliability. He is plant maintenance manager at Minera San Cristobal S.A. in Bolivia and leader of ASME District I.

Mechanical Engineering 134(07), 48-51 (Jul 01, 2012) (4 pages) doi:10.1115/1.2012-JUL-5

This article explores the need to establish an engineering maintenance management system and presents a case study of the same at Minera San Cristobal S.A. (MSC), a Bolivian mining company owned by Sumitomo Corp. Plant operational reliability elements are design, equipment, processes, and people. The company developed a format for maintenance management key performance indicators; for instance, comparing scheduled and unscheduled work orders or equipment availability vs. operational availability. These helped in measuring the performance of the equipment on which preventive maintenance had been performed. Within a short period of time, MSC has shown remarkable improvement. Early in 2009, the company had faced bankruptcy, and has now returned to profitability. The establishment of an engineering maintenance management system has produced change and growth, has raised the company’s standards, and has advanced MSC toward its goal to become a world-class company.

The purpose of an industrial plant is to get a product, anything from electricity to minerals or shoes, to customers on time and on budget. Sometimes the concentration on output can be so tightly focused that management may overlook a key part of the production process—maintenance.

A maintenance plan turned a distressed operation into a profitable enterprise.

Grahic Jump LocationA maintenance plan turned a distressed operation into a profitable enterprise.

To keep a plant running reliably requires a detailed maintenance system and the assurance that everyone on the job understands what to do. It also requires buy-in from management.

Sometimes one or more of those elements are overlooked, and the results of the oversight can be costly. But even when there has been no advance planning, a company can correct its course and establish an engineering maintenance management system.

Minera San Cristobal S.A., a Bolivian mining company owned by Sumitomo Corp., operates an open pit mine in southwestern Bolivia. The company, generally known as MSC, also operates a plant that processes zinc-silver and lead-silver concentrates.

The MSC plant in southwestern Bolivia: Aggressive action was needed to bring operating expenses in line.

Grahic Jump LocationThe MSC plant in southwestern Bolivia: Aggressive action was needed to bring operating expenses in line.

After the plant was commissioned in 2007, it ran into operational difficulties, often requiring production stoppage when machinery broke down. As a result, the environment, customer satisfaction, and the quality of the product suffered.

The direct production costs per unit had to be controlled by an operational cost control and an aggressive preventive maintenance program.

MSC hired me in November 2008 to head the plant maintenance program. I was given clear objectives to solve existing problems and to build a company maintenance management culture. The initial goal was set to use existing resources, to develop a strategy, and to increase operations capability. The added value was to maintain a cost control environment to design, run, and maintain a proper maintenance plan.

An examination of the problem discovered that no one had performed a RAM (Reliability, Availability, and Maintainability) analysis during the design and construction phases of this plant. The results of RAM analysis would have formed the basis of an engineering maintenance management system. At this stage, the need for a system was crucial. A cost-effective deadline had been set, poor practices had reached a critical level, and the cost of operations had become almost out of control.

The strategy to define a plan to attack the plant's problems had to be aggressive, if it was to bring operational expenses down.

Communications needed to improve. A better business culture needed to be implemented, and we had to establish the tools to assure equipment reliability. In 2008 the plant was unable to run effectively on a regular basis. Roles within the organization were not always clearly defined, and responsibilities were unclear. There was a lack of control over contractors working for plant maintenance.

As plant maintenance manager, I worked with the general manager and the operations manager to establish a priority focus and to define strategic steps for improvement. The success of building the maintenance management culture was vital.

Plant operational reliability elements are design, equipment, processes, and people. For any process plant, the production capacity design is based on the specific type of equipment, with specific operational and maintenance processes. The processes are to be carried out by people at all stages of production. Operation and maintenance personnel must follow the equipment manufacturer's recommendations, the best maintenance engineering practices, and international codes and standards. Experience has shown that the most important element in this formula is the people.

The first step in culture building was to hold meetings with employees to communicate MSC's vision, its corporate mission and values, and its strategic objectives. This communication was crucial. It laid the groundwork for an understanding of the maintenance structure.

Next was to develop open communications between managers and the workforce to implement a maintenance management system. Dialogue was vital to implement the theories of the maintenance practice that was desperately needed.

There were face-to-face conversations with the maintenance workforce concerning work principles based on operational reliability, mechanical integrity, and loss prevention. The dialogue forced all levels of management to listen to the concerns and expectations of the workforce. The experience helped in the development of a cooperative team culture.

A successful maintenance system would require the partnership of other departments. The company scheduled a number of training sessions and workshops for the workforce. One presented an overview of the preventive maintenance master plan, and others addressed elements of the program, such as the different types of work orders.

Equipment level hierarchy

The hierarchy identifies assemblies and components, and helps in planning scheduled maintenance.

Grahic Jump LocationEquipment level hierarchyThe hierarchy identifies assemblies and components, and helps in planning scheduled maintenance.

We brought in external consultants to help us set up workshops for the training of maintenance engineering management.

It was necessary to create and teach the equipment level hierarchy, which was used to develop the component and subcomponent codes. The hierarchy identifies equipment assemblies and their main components in the plant and provides a link to the financial accounting system. It helps in planning and scheduling annual and monthly preventive maintenance. It also helps track maintenance cost and any equipment shutdowns due to the failure of components.

Hand in hand with a preventive maintenance master plan was the development of preventive maintenance plans based on the mean time between failures of equipment and for corrective maintenance that would be performed during scheduled plant shutdowns.

A task force addressed the internal software, a JD Edwards system. The group gathered data from all process plant areas and organized it in the system. This project bridged the gap between supply chain and plant operations, ensuring that the company would achieve production targets.

For the workforce it was necessary to implement the proven Japanese “5S” program (Sort, Set, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain) to create a safety environment and encourage teamwork in all plant maintenance areas, which helped employees develop a sense of ownership in the equipment they used.

A “talent competition” was another program implemented to see who could offer the best maintenance ideas and suggestions in each plant maintenance are. The idea of the annual competition is to show real case studies and innovative practices. The complete process consists in submission of case studies and suggested innovations, presentations to a multidisciplinary evaluation committee, selection of the best case studies and innovations, and a special ceremony in which the MSC management team delivers prizes to the winners. The purpose is to create a sustainable continuous-improvement environment.

The company develped a format for maintenance management key performance indicators, for instance, comparing scheduled and unscheduled work orders or equipment availability vs. operational availability.

These helped in measuring the performance of the equipment on which preventive maintenance had been performed.

These measurements established the baseline, which was needed to measure improvement. The indicators allow a close look at every item in tandem and how it performs when the operation is operating smoothly. Examining the key performance indicators also allows a tough look at cost analysis, which helps greatly to achieve budget and meet production deadlines.

Teams were developed to build templates for the JD Edwards system, task instruction templates, and a clear-cut maintenance mapping process. This progress became critical as the preventive maintenance program grew. Proper planning along with a tough look at cost helped push the company from a reactive to a proactive system.

Crushing mills are one of the early stages of ore processing at the plant. Communication was one of the keys to building a maintenance culture.

Grahic Jump LocationCrushing mills are one of the early stages of ore processing at the plant. Communication was one of the keys to building a maintenance culture.

Standards were raised for contract management to set priorities, a well-defined scope, a clear objective, stable cost, and measurable performance. Now contractors are held to a higher level and are refocused in helping MSC aim to the world-class company it is striving to be.

Another standard raised was predictive maintenance through equipment condition monitoring, which involved all operational process control devices. Measuring the equipment performance required all tools to be calibrated and maintained according to international standards.

The company developed a control document office, which holds the vital technical information, from technical specifications to operational parameters.

All produced measurable key performance indicators for improved results. For instance, a pump which had operated without condition monitoring and a measurable indicator could fail at any time. With measurable indicators in place, maintenance technicians can evaluate the performance of the pump, replace as necessary, and proactively update records indicating that there was a change in the system.

This allowed MSC to start becoming a world-class company by placing vendors and contractors under the same criteria. Measurements of critical component wear, component tracking, instrumentation, and temporal projects were all elevated to international standards.

All this information gave greater control, and the ability to develop a 2011 maintenance budget, which was met in the first half of the year. In the first half of 2011, we developed and established an engineering maintenance management audit to give a baseline, which was critical to starting the final implementation of the maintenance management system.

Items in progress are action plans for the data input into the JD Edwards system, implementation of a new organizational structure by functional maintenance disciplines, implementation of management of change, and development of a structured and rewarding workforce plan. As realized early on, this is a growth and change process.

The ability to adapt and successfully implement change without a negative downturn in production was a key consideration.

Within a short period of time MSC has shown remarkable improvement. Early in 2009 the company had faced bankruptcy, and has now returned to profitability. Plant shutdowns have been reduced sharply and the plant has received three international certifications: ISO 9001, ISO 14001, and OSHA 18001.

The establishment of an engineering maintenance management system has produced change and growth, has raised the company's standards, and has advanced MSC toward its goal to become a world-class company.

Copyright © 2012 by ASME
Topics: Maintenance
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