Operations and maintenance combine for high performance

DuPont's Cooper River site reinvents itself with the help of proven maintenance practices.

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The Cooper River site in Moncks Corner, South Carolina, has been a DuPont manufacturing operation since 1973. The site has reinvented itself over the years and currently has a Hytrel plant and a Kevlar plant. The Hytrel plant produces thermoplastic polyester elastomers for use in the automotive industry. The Kevlar plant produces Kevlar aramid fibers which offer a combination of flexibility, lightweight strength and heat resistance. It’s best known for its use in ballistics vests for police and military.

Construction of the Kevlar plant began in December 2007 and was completed in May 2011, at which time startup and commissioning activities began. The Hytrel plant employs about 60 people, of which 43 are operating technicians and the Kevlar plant employs about 140 people, of which 106 are operating technicians.

“DuPont has viewed the Cooper River site and this community as a great place to invest, particularly in terms of the $500 million investment in our Kevlar plant,” says Plant Manager Jerry Good. “The site has outstanding, high-performing employees and great support from community residents, as well as local and state-elected officials.”

The DuPont Kevlar plant consists of 11 buildings and was developed in an area that encompasses 38 acres. The Kevlar Manufacturing Building consists of 200,000 sq ft; the Kevlar Administration Building consists of 24,000 sq ft; and the Kevlar Powerhouse Building consists of 30,200 sq ft. The Hytrel process building, including all four floors, is approximately 300,000 sq ft, and the first floor is approximately 100,000 sq ft.

The plant utilizes a high-performance work system (HPWS), in which all employees are capable of performing all the functions within the facility. Operating technicians are qualified on common maintenance skills, demonstrating high capability in autonomous maintenance through the DuPont College of Maintenance framework. Examples include hoisting, line breaks, mechanical seal replacements and instrument troubleshooting. To support the startup, there were three supplemental contract mechanics per shift. The contract support is designed to transition to the site project crew as prove-out is completed.

Technicians Sean Sommers (left) and Anne Gonzalez use maintenance skills training to connect fittings to a hose for use in the DuPont Kevlar manufacturing process.
Technicians Sean Sommers (left) and Anne Gonzalez use maintenance skills training to connect fittings to a hose for use in the DuPont Kevlar manufacturing process.

Cooper River Kevlar incorporated the DuET M&R Best Practices, DPS Business Maintenance and DuPont College of Maintenance procedures and policies as its base framework upon startup. In addition, Meridium Operator Rounds was implemented as part of a corporate pilot. The impetus for establishing this framework was that it ensures the facility will remain a safe workplace for its employees and ensures a reliable flow of quality product to the customer.

The Hytrel plant has continued to use the HPWS model regarding maintenance activities. Since the Kevlar plant is a new startup, the past two years have focused on technicians working there securing the knowledge base into core systems such as Domino.doc and SAP-PM, which was implemented per DSAP best practices. Beamex calibration software is used to manage calibration methods for field calibration. Meridium is used to consolidate traditional stand-alone database systems into one system of record. Operating readings, steam trap rounds, fire doors and pump checks all are managed through the SAP-PM/Meridium solution. Upbase is used for uptime tracking upstream of spinning, and Kevlar Shop Floor is used to track spinning uptime. The supporting systems were implemented upon startup of our Kevlar Powerhouse in 2010.

In today's maintenance and reliability (M&R), DuPont believes judicious application of IT serves as a competitive advantage. It provides assurance that PdM schedules are met and provides information expediently at the point of use. The Cooper River Kevlar plant has established an operating-technician competency for advanced computer skills to supplement the traditional approach. IT personnel focus on security, hardware reliability, software updates and data backups without having to learn the ins and outs of all systems. The operating technicians learn the detailed advanced features of the software including Meridium queries, rounds management and advanced SAP-PM functions. Those who qualify as key users of a system gain credit toward their progression. From a hardware standpoint, a dedicated maintenance and reliability server was established to house M&R applications such as Upbase, Meridium Reports and the Beamex Server application.

The DuPont plant’s predictive maintenance program employs a variety of technologies and tools. SAP-PM is used to index all assets within a functional location hierarchy. It manages the Mechanical Integrity PdM program. Merdium manages field rounds, such as operating field readings, steam traps, lubrication, safety showers, emergency lights, fire doors, breathing air stations and ladders. Meridium also provides means to create work orders in the field through a handheld device. Beamex-Instrument Calibrations are geared toward field calibrations. SAP-PM triggers the inspection and captures the history. The Beamex solution runs the auto-calibration methods. Emerson Process Management’s CSI RBMware is used for vibration analysis. Optalign is employed for pump alignments. The DuPont plant also uses ultrasonic for mechanical troubleshooting and gas leak detection, as well as infrared to find mechanical hot spots and conduct electrical inspections. The distributed control system (DCS) handles many readings including critical vibration applications. All the other readings are captured through a handheld device through Meridium. The Cooper River Kevlar plant has wireless networking throughout the facility, which Meridium uses to provide point-of-use documentation at the point of inspection of rounds.

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