Michael Macsisak is a predictive maintenance technician at Nestlé Purina's pet food processing plant in Allentown, PA, which helps produce Friskies, Alpo, and Mighty Dog pet food brands. Recently, the Allentown plant's maintenance team embarked on a multi-year project to improve plantwide asset reliability by embracing reliability-centered maintenance approaches and predictive technologies. Macsisak, who has 30 years of mechanical experience as a heavy equipment mechanic, production line mechanic, forklift mechanic, millwright, and welder, was part of the team that was asked to make this shift. He is now a Level II Infrared Technician, Level II Ultrasonics Technician, Level I Machinery Lubrication Technician, and Expert Laser Alignment Technician, and is currently training as a Level I Vibration Data Analyst. Macsisak spoke with Plant Services about the challenges associated with making this change, as well as the impact that PdM has had both on asset reliability and on team drive and confidence.
PS: Could you describe your team's original approach to maintenance, before the start of the reliability initiatives?
MM: Many years ago, the original function of the maintenance team was reactive – run to fail and firefighting only. The common questions were always, “how long until we’re back up” and “can we make it to the weekend without completing the repair?”
Also, success was defined as any time before the broken piece of equipment shut the facility down. Speed of repair was the standard for our mechanics. A quick repair deserved a gold star.
PS: Once the reliability initiatives were implemented, what were some of the major on-the-job changes that took time to get used to?
MM: We started new PdM routes as required by the machine history on breakdowns. Within months we started having positive results with PdM. Initially we had 20 pieces of equipment with PdM routes, and all were trending with great results including $1.4million saved in production due to adequately predicting, planning, and scheduling equipment repairs.
The new standard for gold stars is predicting failures, and planning the needed repairs around production needs. We now control when we fix things rather than when we have a breakdown. Mechanics are now checking and verifying all machinery consistently rather than waiting for a failure to occur with wrench in hand. Dedicated teams now record and analyze the routes for trends. We own the machines rather than the machines owning us.
PS: What advice would you give other veteran/experienced workers who are trying to make the same change you and your team did?
MM: Change is good. It may be hard for old dogs to learn new tricks, but from my experience, change was the best thing to happen to me.
As PdM developed at our facility, the mindset of new equipment installations also changed. Before PdM, equipment would come in and major work would occur just to get it up and operational, causing additional costs and major headaches. The PdM and reliability centered maintenance programs grew not just the equipment functionality and mechanics' ability, but the entire facility’s mindset.
The key to making the switch from a mechanic to a PdM technician is in the mindset. If you believe in predicting failures and understanding root cause, PdM is the place to start. PdM is centered on the routine and routes: the routes must be tracked regularly and constantly to ensure a thorough understanding of when equipment is trending poorly. Determine routes based on daily, weekly, or monthly basis and complete the routes when they are needed.
Between oil analysis, vibration, infrared, and ultrasonic, you can track any and every machine in your facility with great results. Many other tools are available with no cost and minor training including centerlining, 5S, and BDAs (Break Down Analysis). All these tools are fantastic ways of getting to root cause on your equipment; however, PdM is the only way to truly trend and predict a piece of equipment before it breaks.
You will always have more wins than losses with a strong PdM team. We are no longer buying for price, we’re buying for reliability. You can never put a price on reliability.