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The Maintenance Management Blog

September 18, 2023

Ethanol Plant Maintenance

Image: ethanol plant

When we discuss specific industries that require preventive maintenance, ethanol producers should be near the top. Ethanol plant maintenance can be a daunting task, as the facility relies on a vast array of equipment and systems. Without proper maintenance, equipment can break down, production can be disrupted, and safety can be compromised. This week, we will explore specific maintenance practices in an ethanol plant, the assets they are applied to, and the tools and parts commonly used for maintenance. We will also discuss how a CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) can benefit the maintenance jobs, asset management, and inventory needed for maintenance.

1. Processing Equipment. These assets are the heart of an ethanol plant. Regular cleaning would be an obvious preventive maintenance (PM)—because it applies to many other assets—but this is done to prevent the buildup of residue or deposits that can interfere with the efficiency of the process. Proper lubrication, tracking of equipment readings, and routine inspections are some of the PMs.

Parts and supplies: Scrub brushes, pressure washers, cleaning solvents, lubricants.

2. Equipment Components. (Valves, Pumps, Pipes, Tanks) More cleaning and checking for proper fitting, blockage, and leaks.

Parts and supplies: Wrenches, screwdrivers, pliers, pressure gauges.

3. Cooling Systems. These would need to be monitored for constant temperatures. Since water quality varies from city to city, maintenance workers would have to watch for hard water buildup, which means checking intake lines and cleaning. Inspections are similar to the previous point, checking for leaks and fittings.

Parts and Supplies: Water treatment chemicals, water testing kits, hoses, valves, pumps.

4. Process Control Instrumentation. These would require the tracking of asset readings to maintain stability and consistency.

Parts and supplies: Calibrators and specialized testing equipment.

5. Equipment Moving Parts. (Bearings, Motors) These would be in the family hierarchy of "parent" machines. They would require repairs (switching out of motors), lubrication, cleaning of any buildup, and replacements when worn out.

Parts and Supplies: Lubricants, grease guns, and replacement parts.

6. Distillation Columns. Since these columns directly handle the alcoholic product, PMs include inspection and cleaning to prevent clogging or fouling of the equipment.

Parts and supplies: Brushes, cleaning solvents, inspection cameras, and replacement parts are commonly used tools and parts for maintenance.

7. Fermentation Tanks. These require cleaning to ensure proper conditions for yeast growth and fermentation.

Parts and Supplies: Scrub brushes, hoses, cleaning solvents.

8. Boiler and Steam System. Now we're talking about a major safety hazard. Regular inspections for fitting, leaking, and constant temperature are required. If something goes amiss here, there's a risk to not only production but to employees.

Parts and supplies: Pressure gauges, testing equipment.

9. Electrical Systems. This would be not only for production but for the entire facility. Adequate lighting, proper connections, checking wiring, and making sure no spilled liquids interfere with the systems

Parts and supplies: Multimeters and circuit testers

Image: ethanol plant


For a preventive maintenance program, a CMMS is one of the best "tools" you'll use. One of the best overall functions of such a system is organization. Let's explore this as we move through how a CMMS can handle Ethanol Plant Maintenance.

Asset Maintenance. We've been discussing the various assets. With a CMMS, you create a list of assets, inputting data such as description, location, costs, and of course, what PMs are needed. Look for a system that will track those meters, gauges, temperature, PSI, and other readings.

Inventory Management. Some of the general parts and supplies were listed above. Most likely, these will be kept in a stockroom. With a CMMS, you can have your list of inventory, including whether they're critical and repairable. You'll automatically track quantities, and a quality system will help you arrange your stockroom, giving each item its location. You'll have a better oversight on when to order more. For further information on keeping your inventory management at the peak of success, read this article from earlier this year.

Preventive Maintenance.This is what we've been discussing. A CMMS helps you create your PMs, their cycles, and descriptions, assign them to equipment, assign inventory, and will help you schedule them. You can dispatch the PM work orders to specialized crafts, crews, or shifts.

Work Order Management. Turn those PMs into work orders without having to repeat information. Add checklists for those jobs that need step-by-step instructions. Track backlogged work orders, on-time compliance, and other key performance indicators (KPIs) through the system.

CMMS Planning

To receive the best from a CMMS, you need to do some planning. A CMMS isn't designed to create your preventive maintenance strategy. Instead, you're looking to improve an existing strategy. As mentioned above, you're looking for better organization, increased efficiency, and productivity.

The place to start at an ethanol plant is for the appropriate personnel—maintenance, and management—to analyze the current maintenance operations. Write down where you're needing those improvements. This will be helpful when speaking with the CMMS vendor reps. You'll know what questions to ask to see if that particular system will fulfill your needs.

After investing, take some training to learn the system. Learn the basics so you can get started. Once you have a routine that works, then you'll be able to use more features.

One suggestion is to start small. Use the CMMS for a segment of your maintenance department. By doing this, you're not overwhelming everyone with a lot of changes all at once. Concentrate on a section and judge the results. Then, you can expand to other parts of the department.

Soon, you can look to use the system in other areas. Purchasing and human resources are two other areas you can use the system.


Of course, the above planning and implementation tips are not just for ethanol plant maintenance. A quality CMMS can be used in numerous industries. Hospitals, education, resorts, manufacturing, and so many more. Each industry will have unique assets and inventory. The CMMS, however, can handle them all. Plus, you want to look for a system that can be customized for unique functions.

I mentioned starting small, then expanding. One way to do this is to look for a scalable system, allowing you to purchase only what you need, with more available when the time comes.

For a powerful and easy-to-use CMMS, call 800-922-4336. Talk with a Mapcon representative. Ask for a free demonstration. Mapcon has been developing the best CMS for over forty years. We know how well ethanol plant maintenance benefits from MAPCON.


Stephen Brayton

About the Author – Stephen Brayton


Stephen L. Brayton is a Marketing Associate at Mapcon Technologies, Inc. He graduated from Iowa Wesleyan College with a degree in Communications. His background includes radio, hospitality, martial arts, and print media. He has authored several published books (fiction), and his short stories have been included in numerous anthologies. With his joining the Mapcon team, he ventures in a new and exciting direction with his writing and marketing. He’ll bring a unique perspective in presenting the Mapcon system to prospective companies, as well as our current valued clients.


Filed under: ethanol, maintenance — Stephen Brayton on September 18, 2023