MAPCON Maintenance Software Article Series

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CMMS Raises Efficiencies for Yeast Maker

Heather Wilkerson, Marketing Coordinator, Mapcon Technologies, Inc

Ten years in, a computerized maintenance management system is still producing desired results.

Red Star Yeast Company, LLC is a joint venture between Archer Daniels Midland and Lasaffre Yeast Corp. Since opening in 2005, Red Star’s plant in Cedar Rapids, IA, has become the largest manufacturer of fresh yeast in North America.

When the facility first began operating, all of its equipment information, work orders, and preventive maintenance (PM) was tracked using Excel® spreadsheets — a process that led to difficulties for the maintenance department on several fronts:

Usability issues. Many times, a user could inadvertently lock the spreadsheet, rendering it useless to others until it was unlocked. This meant personnel had to either memorize the information they needed to enter, or write it down somewhere else to be entered at a later time. The scenario also meant there was no way to tell who entered information or made any changes to the data. Users did not even initial their changes. With no way to determine who changed what, it was also easy for an individual to accidentally overwrite vital information that, sometimes, was years old.

Inventory tracking. Managing inventory with an Excel® spreadsheet was not efficient. For example, when parts were needed, they were often difficult to locate. This caused personnel to mistakenly believe they were out of the parts, which, in turn, led to unnecessary reorders. Conversely, even when workers were able to locate a part on the spreadsheet, there wasn’t really a way to know exactly where the item was stored. In addition, since parts weren’t easily tracked, the plant would also run out of them without being able to order more ahead of time, leading to increased machine downtime.

Work orders. Writing work orders within an Excel® spreadsheet was quite a task. Each technician had a separate tab on the spreadsheet, and there was also a tab for all work orders. A supervisor would enter necessary information for a repair in the work-order tab, and then it would be verbally provided to a technician or added to the individual’s tab. At the end of each shift, all technicians had to copy and paste their work-order rows for the day and email them out to the entire department. The supervisors for each department would then have to go through the spreadsheet and make sure all work orders were completed. Often, this meant locating and speaking directly to a technician. Going through this list and following up with individual technicians consumed a significant part of a supervisor’s day.

PM tasks. Creating preventive-maintenance (PM) tasks wasn’t easy, either. A checklist was created for each asset and then saved on a shared drive. The actual scheduling of each PM was completely manual, which was another time-consuming process.


When senior technical buyer and CMMS system administrator Eric Tucker joined Red Star’s team in 2007, the Cedar Rapids site had already begun evaluating inventory-management alternatives. Tucker had worked with computerized-maintenance-management systems previously, so he knew that was the way to go. After a bit of searching, in the fall of 2008, the decision was made to purchase a CMMS from MAPCON Technologies, Inc.

Once the MAPCON CMMS was implemented and all necessary data uploaded, plant personnel noticed quite a difference in their maintenance-work processes. The company purchased multiple concurrent user licenses for the software. This let several technicians use the system at the same time—as opposed to the former spreadsheet approach that allowed access to only one person at a time. Today, Red Star Yeast reports that it continues to see benefits from this system:


Improved parts management. According to plant personnel, inventory became easier to track with the MAPCON CMMS. By giving users the ability to quickly search inventory, needless purchases of duplicate parts are a thing of the past.

Additionally, Red Star’s system has an automatic reorder setup that notifies an administrator when the total numbers of individual parts on hand fall below pre-determined required minimums. Items can then be reordered immediately, thus preventing instances where parts are needed, but not in stock.

The system also has a field where users can enter the exact location of a part, meaning when an item is needed, personnel don’t have to wander around the facility trying to find it. Today, there’s a computer set up at the bottom of the stairs in one of the plant’s maintenance areas that allows technicians to conduct quick searches for required parts they might need upstairs—before trekking up those stairs to try and locate them. According to the company, this has helped cut machine downtime.

Simplified work-order process. Red Star’s CMMS made creating work orders simple. Now, all workers need to do is pull up MAPCON, either on their mobile device or their desktop computer, and navigate to the work-order screen. From there, they can enter all of the necessary details and include attachments, such as photos or manuals, to the order for added clarity. Once the repair has been completed, the work order can be closed.

Since technicians themselves can close work orders, supervisors don’t need to check with them on the status of every order at the end of each day. They can just log in to the CMMS and run an open work-order report that shows which orders have not been completed. Not only did the CMMS make it easier to create work orders, it made it easier to view the repair history of maintained equipment. This let personnel determine if an item should be repaired or replaced.

Streamlined PM scheduling. Preventive maintenance can be scheduled within the CMMS and a work order will automatically be created when the PM is due. This ensures that critical tasks are always completed. Furthermore, when audits are conducted, users can simply pull up a specific piece of equipment and all of its PMs will be displayed—showing auditors that maintenance tasks have or have not been completed.

Integration with management tools. The CMMS was also able to integrate with Red Star’s existing finance system (Oracle), helping simplify the plant’s financial tracking and reporting.


CMMS Raises Efficiencies for Yeast Maker © was also published in Maintenance Technology Magazine, under the same title in December, 2017 with the author's permission without remuneration of any kind.

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