Energizing the enterprise

Asset management will put the zip back in your plants! CONTROL Editor in Chief Walt Boyes reports on the industry’s stampede toward asset management systems for productivity improvement.

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Partly, it is the old command-and-control architecture of corporations, as originally designed by General Motors’ Alfred P. Sloan. Many companies are full of people who have neither the training nor the capacity to do anything other than rigidly follow rules and procedures. “Unfortunately,” says Fishman, “day-to-day activities can become so tightly woven into the fabric of a business that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, for these businesses to internally recognize the need for change. Intelligent and well-intentioned employees at every level often become protective of their space, function and what they know, typically to the detriment of their employer, the company’s performance and its customers. The added work and the overly embellished products ultimately drain the company’s bottom line.”

Stand and Deliver!
Companies that fled south or overseas have found that their problems followed them. The September 2006 issue of National Geographic (“The Manchurian Mandate”) describes the same failures affecting China’s Northeastern manufacturing belt, once the crown jewel in Chairman Mao’s plan to industrialize China. Far from being the monolithic economic powerhouse often depicted, China is just a few years behind North America and Western Europe in having the same profitability and enterprise control issues we are.

Fundamentally, there is no place to go.

Companies are now seeing that they need to suck it up and move to enterprise optimization strategies, as Rockwell is doing, both internally as a manufacturing company, and externally, with its FactoryTalk software suite, regardless of what the analysts say.

There is a whole potfull of enterprise optimization strategies, among them supply chain optimization, restructuring the distribution chain, and a whole group of manufacturing optimization strategies such as lean and Six Sigma.

But the biggest bang for the buck, beyond doubt, is enterprise asset management, from the plant floor level all the way up to the conception of each plant itself as an asset to be managed. If you can implement it properly, enterprise asset management can put the spring back in your plant’s step, add years to its life and probably keep you going for a while longer too.

Look! It Works!
Way back in the manufacturing dark ages, about 1984, a small co-op of cranberry growers called Ocean Spray decided to implement asset management in an attempt to manage consistent production quality and growth. Today, Ocean Spray has approximately 930 co-op member/owners producing cranberries and grapefruit all over North America, with nine bottling and processing. (See Figure 2 below.)

One of the few products available was Maximo by MRO Software. Maximo has been implemented at all nine North American plants, and it keeps track of close to 24,000 assets; everything from flatbeds and forklifts to controls and field instrumentation.


Harvesting Cranberries  

Harvesting cranberries used to be a manual operation, but with nine plants and almost 1000 owners, Ocean Spray isn’t your grandfather’s berry bog.

Automating enterprise asset management allowed Ocean Spray to move from predictive to proactive maintenance, reducing emergency and reactive work orders at Henderson alone from 34% to 26%. The results—which in some cases have resulted in reductions in downtime for critical machinery on the order of 90%—across the entire Ocean Spray enterprise are similar.


“The Henderson [Nevada] facility recently reached a landmark of more than one million hours with no lost time accidents,” says Greg Estermyer, technical services and engineering manager. “This is a testament to our commitment to employee safety and our ability to combat accidents with properly tracked preventive maintenance and safety information.”

Asset management isn’t just about fixing machines and eliminating downtime, either. According to Dave Bone, Maximo network resource for Ocean Spray, asset management “enables us to establish internal and external benchmarks to give the company more purchasing discipline. For instance to clean our processing equipment, we typically purchased chemicals from several external vendors. Maximo allowed us to compare vendor prices and consolidate suppliers. We also monitor usage, and if a facility seems to be using an excess of chemical inventory, we evaluate the root cause.”

Now enter wireless. The wireless asset manager “allows technicians to receive, complete and send work orders from the field,” says Rick Hole, plant manager for Ocean Spray. “They access job plans, safety plans, work order histories and failure. This streamlined process decreases the amount of time personnel spend walking back and forth to input data and eliminates duplicate entries.”

And It Keeps on Working!
“It is important to remember,” says Warren Way, control systems engineer from E. I. DuPont de Nemours Co., Fayetteville, N. C., “that an asset management system is not just a software package, but a whole new way to manage instrument maintenance and support.”

Way should know. He implemented asset management using Emerson Process Management’s AMS Suite and Intelligent Device Manager at the Fayetteville Teflon intermediates plant in early 2001. “Results indicate,” Way reported, “that the asset management system—including the required hardware—paid for itself during startup and commissioning.”

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