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CMMS tracks equipment health for better asset management

Aug. 8, 2011
In this installment of What Works, a recycling plant cut maintenance costs by 40%.

When Chris Morgan took over maintenance at Greenstar Recycling’s Allentown, Pennsylvania, plant (www.greenstarrecycling.com), uptime depended on two technicians and a manager who decided on a hunch when it was time to inspect one of the sorters, screeners or separator machines.

“Our strategy went something like, ‘maybe it’s time to check on the trammel screener,’” recalls Morgan. “There was no system for tracking maintenance, no asset analysis, no preventive maintenance schedules, nothing was in place.”

Morgan reorganized maintenance operations at the plant, installed a CMMS system and automated 100% of maintenance functions for the plant’s 150-plus machines. Not only did the system help Greenstar save hundreds of thousands of dollars annually, but it helped spring Morgan from maintenance manager to plant manager of the 38-acre facility.

An environmental leader

Greenstar Recycling, an independent processor of recycling materials, has grown by acquisition with 20 plants in the eastern and southwestern United States, along with the Midwest. Greenstar provides single-stream recycling and processes about 2 million tons of recycled glass, paper, aluminum, plastic and steel each year. Haulers, local municipalities and tractor trailers bring recycled materials to Greenstar plants across the country, where they get separated by commodity, compressed into bales and sold to manufacturers as raw materials for producing new goods.

The incoming materials are dumped into a single-stream machine called a tip floor, and equipment operators use loaders to push the material onto conveyor belts at the front end of the system. Various screens, disks, sorters and separators work together to isolate glass, plastic, cardboard, newspaper, aluminum and steel. Disks separate cardboard and newspaper; metal separators with magnets isolate steel; eddy current separators pull out aluminum; and trammel screens pull out glass. Optical sorters separate No. 1 and No. 2 recycled plastics, which have greater resale value, from numbers 3 through 7, and the two groupings are baled separately.

Balers compress individual materials, which Greenstar sells as post-consumer bales to manufacturing customers, such as paper mills or plastic manufacturers who transform the recycled plastic into resin pellets used for containers, automotive products, plastic chairs and a variety of other products.


It’s only fitting that a recycling company that converts waste into raw materials for manufacturing new products also demonstrate environmental leadership. Not only is Greenstar an EPA climate leader, but the company has a commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 10% during 2012.

Improving maintenance operations, lowering costs and energy usage

As Allentown plant manager, Morgan is in charge of making sure the materials recovery facility (MRF) and its screens, separators and sorters run as efficiently as possible. He oversees the three-shift operations and every aspect of the plant, ensuring safety compliance, EPA compliance, quality assurance, throughput and yield and machine maintenance.

“We speak to uptime,” says Morgan. “We could no longer rely on our instincts and decide when it was time to check on equipment functionality if we wanted to increase machine efficiency and throughput. Our machines continue running whether a part is malfunctioning or not. So, we’re using the same amount of electricity to run machines at less than peak efficiency and processing fewer recycled materials. We had to be proactive with our maintenance operations.”

Greenstar sorts commodities such as aluminum, compresses them into bales and sells them to manufacturers as raw materials for producing new goods.

Morgan and his team researched several CMMS packages, and in the end chose Bigfoot (www.bigfootcmms.com). The Greenstar MRF in Des Moines, Iowa, had been using Bigfoot and agreed to train Morgan. Bigfoot is a Web-based approach that automates asset maintenance operations with capabilities that include preventive maintenance (PM) scheduling, ad hoc work order and repair scheduling, history and analysis reporting, asset life cycle management and more. Morgan says his team chose Bigfoot for its ease of use, flexibility and its feature-rich reporting capabilities.

The machines at the Allentown plant are now on Bigfoot’s preventive, calendar-based maintenance schedule that includes a list of tasks and procedures for each machine and automatic email reminders.

“The way we now manage our maintenance department with Bigfoot has helped us continually cut costs in equipment service and parts used, as well as maintenance costs per ton, which has decreased dramatically over the years,” says Morgan. “In the past three years since we implemented Bigfoot, which gave us the ability to analyze replacement part usage and find ways to cut parts inventory costs, along with hiring more qualified technicians, we’ve cut maintenance costs per ton by nearly 40%.”

Using Bigfoot to help manage maintenance and uptime at the Allentown plant has increased throughput and yield. “We’re using the same amount of energy, but the end result is that we’ve recycled much more,” says Morgan.

Bigfoot captures information and reports on equipment repair activity over time. The maintenance team can analyze historical maintenance issues and keep track of repeat problems, view past solutions, and track inside maintenance and vendor labor costs.

Tracking costs and the time being spent on different pieces of equipment, such as rolling stock and forklifts, helps Bigfoot Greenstar Allentown determine whether it costs more to repair an asset or replace it.

“Bigfoot can generate a report on maintenance of a conveyor belt and show us that we’re spending 30% more money in repair time when it would be more cost-effective to replace that particular machine,” explains Morgan. “That’s not always obvious.”

Tracking repair history through Bigfoot also is a benefit to submitting capital requests for equipment. It justifies the need to make good decisions about which equipment needs more attention or needs to be replaced, and this has direct effect on Greenstar Allentown’s productivity, throughput and bottom line.

“We can brainstorm on what should be replaced, but Bigfoot’s comprehensive reporting measures equipment repair costs and helps us make informed decisions,” says Morgan.

Going forward, Greenstar Allentown plans to use Bigfoot for managing and tracking its parts replacement inventory, as well as setting up problem codes for repeatable equipment failures to show historical trends.

“By automating maintenance operations, we contribute to the environment and to the bottom line,” says Morgan.

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