Computerized Management System Simplifies Repairs

FROM THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE: For most ethanol plants, a CMMS could be an easy, cost-effective solution to maintaining equipment, ensuring regulation compliance and repairing broken machinery.
By Heather Wilkerson | August 17, 2017

Equipment maintenance is an integral part of ethanol production. Machine downtime can cost a plant thousands of dollars an hour. The good news is downtime can easily be prevented or minimized by using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS). A CMMS is a software program that keeps detailed records of all assets. It also is used to create and send work orders, schedule preventive maintenance tasks and record historical data.

Big River Resources, located in Boyceville, Wisconsin, has used Mapcon Technologies Inc.’s CMMS for nearly 11 years. Joe Boesl, the company’s CMMS administrator, says the plant would be “lost without it.”

Preventive Maintenance
Perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective way to maintain equipment is by scheduling regular preventive maintenance (PM) tasks. These are equipment checks and procedures that need to be done on an ongoing basis. For example, a technician might schedule a PM on a motor every three months to check and possibly replace a belt. Since the belt is being monitored regularly, it is less likely to break down suddenly, reducing the likelihood of costly reactive maintenance and machine downtime.

Boesl’s team routinely checks all the meters on the machines to make sure the readings are within the safe zone. Neglecting to complete this PM task could lead to equipment overheating, or worse. Many systems will show users what they have scheduled for that day right when they login, which makes it easier to stay on top of PM checks. Additionally, within Mapcon, a report can be run that will show the PM work orders scheduled over a specific length of time, which can be helpful for shift planning.  

Along with keeping equipment running, PM tasks are important for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulatory audits. When a PM is completed within Mapcon, users can select a field noting that the PM was part of a certification requirement. Then, when an audit is done, a report can be run showing what maintenance was done on equipment as part of the certification. For example, the EPA might require Big River to monitor the meters on its machines to make sure chemicals such as sulfur dioxide are kept at safe levels. Big River can simply run a PM report and it will show how often those meters were checked, making it easier for them to pass the audit.

Mobile Requests
Routine preventive maintenance cuts down on the frequency of reactive repairs, but it doesn’t eliminate them completely. When a piece of equipment breaks down, the most efficient way for workers to notify someone of the needed repairs is to submit a work request through their CMMS. The request details which piece of equipment needs repairs, where it is located and what the problem is. A mobile CMMS, such as Mapcon Mobile, can speed this process along by allowing the request to be created right from the floor. A mobile notification will be sent to the correct worker for review. In addition, using a mobile app will allow the user to take a photo of the needed repair and add it to the request or order for added clarity. If Big River Resources has a minor crack in one of its fermentation tanks, instead of making multiple phone calls to find someone who can complete the repairs, workers simply put the information in a work request and submit it.

Once the work request is submitted, the maintenance manager will receive a notice to look at it, and turn it into a work order, which can then be assigned to a technician to complete the repairs. Estimates for repair time and tools required to complete the work can be added to the work order as well, making it easier for the employee to prepare for the job before trekking all the way out to the tank. If the plant does not have the necessary parts on hand, workers can check the inventory of their other locations within the CMMS to see if they have spares. Plants also can set up their CMMS to notify them and create a purchase order when they are running low on a certain part, which minimizes downtime and ensures a critical spare is always available.

After the work is completed, the repairs are noted and the order is closed. The use of a mobile CMMS makes this part even easier. Instead of having to walk back to an office computer, trying to remember exactly what repairs were done so they can be noted, the employee can enter the information right from the floor, immediately after the repair is completed. This helps eliminate human error. Once the order is closed, it is sent to history and can be viewed at a later date. All the work orders on a piece of equipment can be viewed directly from the equipment screen, which can be beneficial for business intelligence analysis. And when Big River Resources is trying to decide whether a piece of equipment should undergo more repairs or be replaced altogether, that history is invaluable. It will show how often repairs are needed, how much the repairs cost, and who completed the repairs. If the cost of the repairs outweighs the cost of a new piece of equipment, the solution is obvious.

Equipment maintenance is of the utmost importance for ethanol plants. A breakdown in just one piece of equipment costs time and money. A CMMS is an easy, cost-effective way to keep equipment up and running.


Author: Heather Wilkerson
Marketing Coordinator
Mapcon Technologies Inc.
800.922.4336
heather@mapcon.com