May 16, 2017
Keeping Machines Running
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2017 issue of Biofuels International Magazine
When it comes to keeping an ethanol plant up and running, automation is key. When most people think of ‘automation’, they probably think of machine automation. But there are quite a few different types of automation which can be beneficial to ethanol plants. One of the most useful types is the automation of reports and processes. A system scheduler within a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can be an invaluable tool when it comes to automating processes and reports. Being able to set up a time and day for preventive maintenance work orders to be created and reports to run also helps free up maintenance technicians’ time, so they can spend it doing other things instead of being a slave to their computer.
The main thing ethanol plants use MAPCON’s system scheduler for is to automate the release of preventive maintenance (PM) work orders. Releasing preventive maintenance orders on a regular basis is an important part of keeping machines running and thus decreasing costly downtime. The system scheduler allows administrators to set up a date for all of the PMs to be turned into work orders, which can then be emailed to the appropriate person. They can also be sent to the person’s mobile device and will appear in their mobile CMMS application. If needed, the admin can print the PM work orders and assign them accordingly. Many plants choose to run this process at the beginning of each week, so workers know what repairs they have to get done for the week.
Along with automating part of the PM process, the system scheduler can also be used to run various reports on a regular basis. In fact, any report that can be run in MAPCON can be set up on the scheduler to run automatically. Users can even set reports to be automatically emailed to other employees. The ability to automate reports can be a huge timesaver for ethanol plants, because workers will not need to go into the system on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis and spend time running each report manually. Having them run automatically also avoids human error, since no one will forget to run the reports when they are needed, and they won’t enter in the wrong information by mistake.
Pannonia Ethanol, located in Budapest, Hungary, uses it to run the Timecard Shift Report which is sent to their managers and maintenance controllers each morning. The report details which technicians worked the night before, which can be helpful for scheduling purposes. It also shows what jobs the techs completed, so managers can keep track of what still needs to be done. The report is organized by shift, then by employee, which allows managers to easily tell which shifts have done which repairs. Since the report was set up on the system scheduler, it automatically runs each morning. No one is tasked with the responsibility of remembering to run it and send it out.
Pannonia also has added MAPCON's Inventory Value Summary Report to the scheduler to run at the end of each month. This report provides a snapshot of what they have in their inventory at that moment, as well as the value of it. The report can then be compared to previous months to find out how the overall inventory value has changed. This allows managers to observe how their inventory has changed and to see if there are any trends from month to month.
Not only do they use the system scheduler to automate PM releases and report generation, but they also use it to update exchange rates. Since Pannonia Ethanol deals with vendors all over the world, they need to know the exchange rates for various types of currency at any given time. The plant creates purchase orders in Hungarian Forint, Euros, U.S. Dollars, and British Pounds. The programmers at MAPCON were able to address this need by adding a customization within the software that is run through the system scheduler. This custom feature runs on a daily basis and updates all of the exchange rates for all currency types that Pannonia uses. This means that if a purchase order is written to a vendor in Euros, when Pannonia runs the Inventory Value Summary Report, the amounts on the report will automatically be converted to the currency that they use, which is Hungarian Forint. This being an automated process is a huge time saver because workers don’t have to sit and manually calculate the conversions before sending purchase orders out. Additionally, this eliminates human error, which could be a costly mistake.
Automation is key to keeping any ethanol plant up and running. A CMMS that has the option to automate reports and processes can be an essential tool for any ethanol plant. Not only will it help save workers time, but it can also help decrease downtime and save the plant money.