Reliability and maintenance makes dollar sense

Each year, the SMRP Conference offers an annual opportunity to reconvene with some of the smartest and most innovative people in the maintenance and reliability discipline. And 2013 was no exception.

A healthy buffet of financially based "equipmenthink" was served in Indianapolis. And no one left hungry. Two of my favorite presentations from the conference just happened to be from individuals who'd also written articles that appeared in the Plant Services print magazine, as well as on our website.

Alcoa Warrick Smelter

First Royce Haws, location manager, and Ed Kuhn, CMRP, smelter technical manager, at Alcoa Warrick Primary Metals in Indiana, told the story of the facility's 10-year journey on  a reliability excellence (REX) transformation.

lead-Mike-Bacidore.jpgMike Bacidore is chief editor of Plant Services and has been an integral part of the Putman Media editorial team since 2007, when he was managing editor of Control Design magazine. Previously, he was editorial director at Hughes Communications and a portfolio manager of the human resources and labor law areas at Wolters Kluwer. Bacidore holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MBA from Lake Forest Graduate School of Management. He is an award-winning columnist, earning a Gold Regional Award and a Silver National Award from the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He may be reached at 630-467-1300 ext. 444 or mbacidore@putman.net or check out his .

"I've been with Alcoa for 46 years because of its values regarding safety and the environmental," said Haws. "Alcoa is a $25 billion, fully integrated aluminum company. We have the largest smelter in the United States right here in Indiana. If you've opened a pull tab can, it probably came from our plant. We have steel workers and IBEW, so a very strong union representation at our plant. We have an extremely engaged workforce, and we are a very well run plant, in that we're setting records. When you're 52 years old, you don't have the advantage of technology or equipment, but we have the advantage of people." That's why this reliability is so important to Alcoa.

"As a plant manager, sometimes I'm shallow," laughed Haws. "I like to ask, 'Where is the money?' We've reduced our maintenance cost by 29%. In addition to reducing direct maintenance costs, we've improved the infrastructure of our plant. We've picked up about $9 million in maintenance and about $9 million in OEE."

The Warrick plant's OSHA reportable incident rate for maintenance was 8.7 in 2001-2002 in maintenance. That's been dramatically reduced to 0.9 in 2011-2012.

"We've eliminated more than 65,000 hours of PMs," said Haws. "About 67% of our hours were for PMs. Now that's been reduced to 17% of our hours for PMs. This allows us to get resources so we can hire technicians and engineers. We use infrared, vibration, ultrasonic, and oil analysis, to be sure on the failure curve that we catch things early. You have to be able to plan and schedule jobs."

The production organization is judged on whether they're meeting they're cost requirements, explained Kuhn. "It's the operator's obligation to make sure the equipment is running right, so they can meet their production requirements," he said. "Schedules need to be coordinated with production to make sure we're not stepping all over each other."

Puget Sound Energy

Ed Espinosa, program manager, CMMS, at Puget Sound Energy in Washington, covered a topic near and dear to many plant manager's heart — how to create and sustain a predictive maintenance (PdM) program that makes good business sense.

"We have an aging fleet of simple cycle and combined cycle gas turbine power plants," he explained. The average age is 19.5 years. The fleet consists mostly of GE turbines, with some Siemens and some Pratt & Whitney."

Espinosa began working with the plant technical services supervisor, who published goals at the onset, and the project has been going on for four years.

"We faced a lot of constraints, the biggest one being finances," said Espinosa. "We knew it wouldn't happen overnight and would take a long time. We wanted to first get some wins behind us. We needed to identify the lowest-hanging fruit, which consisted of partial discharge testing, rotor flux monitoring, balance-of-plant vibration analysis, lubrication oil analysis, transformer oil analysis, and infrared thermography. These were our wins."

In 2009, the decision was made to defer stator rewinds on two 50 MW generators. The rewind was deferred for five years because of supporting data that had been collected. "This was at our Baker hydroelectric plant," explained Espinosa. "PdM can also provide you the information to justify not doing what we thought was necessary work. The money was budgeted for this. Crews were ready to go. We ran the test, and realized we were wasting time and resources, so we pushed it back."

In 2010, a gas turbine vibration issue was identified after outage and startup, and a claim was made within the warranty period. "We test-ran it and noticed there was a vibration issue," he noted.

"In 2011, one of our technicians was doing a Megger and a polarization index, and it raised a red flag," said Espinosa. "A mechanical seal had failed between the motor and pump, and it flooded the pump. Had he not caught that, they would have attempted a startup on that motor."

Read Mike Bacidore's monthly column, From the Editor.