March 08, 2016
Mapping the Customer Journey
When it comes to creating ethanol, production efficiency is key. When a machine breaks down, having it repaired quickly is a must. One thing that makes repairing equipment and preventing future breakdowns easier is a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). A CMMS is a software program designed specifically to help facilities be more efficient by decreasing machine downtime and repairs.
US ethanol producer Big River Resources has been using CMMS software at its Boyceville, Wisconsin facility for almost 10 years and, according to CMMS technician Joe Boesl, the plant would be lost without it. The technology was supplied by software specialist and CMMS giant Mapcon Technologies, whose systems are currently employed in over 80 ethanol plants across the US.
One of the most important things Big River Resources uses its CMMS for is preventive maintenance tasks – checks and procedures that need to be carried out on a piece of equipment on an ongoing basis. One task that Boesl’s team completes regularly is to check all of the indicators on the machines to make sure they are in the ‘safe’ zone.
The CMMS makes it easy to remember to complete this important task; each time a user logs into Mapcon, an indicator appears on the welcome menu informing them exactly how many work orders they have been assigned. A report can also be generated to show what work is coming up, so the facility can plan accordingly.
While preventive maintenance checks are important for keeping machines up and running, they are also important for OSHA, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or PSM regulatory audits. When such a task is completed within Mapcon, the user can declare if this task was completed as part of certification requirements. For example, the EPA may require machine indicators in an ethanol plant to be checked on a monthly or weekly basis to make sure chemicals such as sulfur dioxide are being kept at safe levels. When an audit occurs, the user can log into Mapcon and run a report detailing all of the equipment maintenance tasks that were completed in order to comply with this regulation. Having this information easily accessible is beneficial to many facilities, but especially ethanol plants in order to keep them in line with EPA guidelines.
While preventive maintenance checks reduce the number of repairs, they do not eliminate them completely. A machine will eventually need to be fixed and when it does, the easiest way to inform a technician of this is by submitting a work request. With a CMMS in place, such a request can be sent easily from a web browser, mobile phone or via email.
A plant in need
At Big River Resources plant in Wisconsin, for example, when someone notices that a fermentation tank is cracked or leaking, they fill out and submit a work request. And if using the Mapcon mobile app, photographs can also be added to the work order, helping to document the repair work. Once the work request is completed, the correct person will receive a notice and approve the request, generating a work order. The repair work is then planned with time estimates and parts and dispatched.
A CMMS allows maintenance technicians to quickly and easily locate equipment and asset information, increasing operational efficiency. A technician can simply look it up in their CMMS and know exactly where the equipment, along with the tools and parts needed to repair it, is located. By knowing where they need to go, and by taking the correct parts and tools, the machine will be up and running again in less time. Along with its ability to locate equipment and assets within one facility, Mapcon CMMS connects different locations and allows users to see what parts are available at other sites. This feature has helped Boesl identify parts across the different locations. If his Wisconsin facility needs a part urgently, he can simply look at the other locations in his CMMS and see if they have it. Once that piece of equipment has been found, it can be transported to the plant following the initiation of a stockroom transfer request. This function can be helpful when one location has run out of a critical part that is needed immediately, as purchasing a new one and having it shipped could take too long.
Once the repair is complete, the maintenance technician notes the work order and closes it out. The ability to do this on a mobile device has improved accuracy and the time spent on paperwork. Workers are able to enter the information right away via their portable device, rather than having to wait until it can be entered into a desktop computer. If the repair is urgent and there is no time to generate a work order, an ‘after the fact work order’ can be done. That is after the work order is closed out it is sent to ‘history’, which can be viewed later under the piece of equipment that was repaired. A work order history is beneficial to Big River Resources because it can determine how much the machine is costing in repairs, and how likely it is to break down again. Man hours can also be planned and tracked via a CMMS. Within a work order, the estimated amount of time it would take to complete the repair can be added, and then the actual time as recorded. Generated reports will show how long certain repairs took versus the estimated time. These reports can help a plant track costs of repairs and determine whether a repair or replacement would be the most cost-effective solution going forwards.
Avoiding downtime at all costs
While streamlining the repair process is critical, CMMS software also plays a key role in other important functions, such as inventory and purchase management. Mapcon’s inventory module allows a user to set a minimum amount for each part and will automatically create a purchase request when the amount is below the minimum. When Big River Resources runs low on belts, for example, it does not have to create a purchase request for new ones because its CMMS does.
Additionally, all of the outstanding purchase requests that need to be turned into purchase orders are displayed on a screen, making it easy for the purchasing agent to approve and order the necessary parts. This feature is helpful because maintenance workers may not always notice when new parts should be ordered. If a critical part fails and a replacement is not available, thousands of dollars can be lost very quickly due to machine downtime.
Along with the basics, Mapcon Technologies is also able to provide its customers with different add-ons and customizations so that each CMMS is tailored to fit each client specifically.