Saving of the Green

Good Asset Management Yields Both More Uptime and More Efficiency, but It Also Can Be a Big Contributor to Your Energy-Saving and Sustainability Efforts

By Nancy Bartels

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November 2011 CoverOur maintenance departments, no matter how efficiently they run, operate under that most deadly of reputations (at least for the folks at the C-level); they are a "cost," something management doesn't want to spend any more money on than absolutely necessary.

But times are changing, and new pressures both from the market and from regulators to save energy, be more environmentally sensitive and be "green" and "sustainable" are pushing maintenance into a more positive light. A well-run maintenance department with a clear focus on energy efficiency can be key to both sustainability efforts and clear, bottom-line savings. Who knew?

"This is something I've been preaching for 25 years," says Dan Miklovic, principal analyst at Lean Manufacturing Research, St. Louis, Mo. "If equipment starts to wear out, it's much harder to maintain the quality of the product. You use more energy and raw materials as you try to maintain the equipment. The best way to reduce energy, optimize production and minimize waste is good maintenance practice."

It's Complicated

One of the problems is that "asset management" is a nebulous term itself, and, as George Buckbee, vice president at ExperTune (www.expertune.com) says, "Customers don't want to hear about 'optimization.' It's overused. And 'sustainability' is like mom and apple pie—everybody says they want it, but what does that mean?" But, once the numbers reflected in ROI start showing up, investment in good asset management that can be leveraged into energy savings and sustainability efforts, their connection becomes clearer.

"Everybody thinks sustainability is a new fad," says John Benders, vice president, asset intensive industry solutions at Mincom (www.mincom.com), which was acquired by ABB in June of this year. "The real reason organizations are doing this [upgrading asset management systems] is that it saves them money. The push to sustainability drives them to look at asset management more closely. It's more cost-effective to do stuff when it's not broken."

Where do you start on such a journey? Dan Miklovic says many companies do it on a project-by-project basis. They start with a single project and look at the gains achieved. "Start with CMMS, then a low-cost EAM system, and, ultimately, push to the limit. You get there over time," he says. "If you have a good CMMS and a good data historian and some kind of analytics tools, such as MyDials or PI, you can do this without spending hundreds of millions of dollars. If you're a small company, you can increase your profit 10% by doing this kind of thing. If you invest $50,000 to get back $250,000, that's a good investment."

He also says that making the connection between asset management and sustainability is "a philosophical issue as much as a technical issue. The technology exits. The tools are there. The vast majority [of companies] haven't done it, not because there's no technology or it costs too much, but because of the cultural shift required."

Many Ways to Skin a Cat

There are many paths to upgrading maintenance practices and driving energy savings and other sustainability initiatives. There is no one "right" way, but rather multiple strategies that will get you where you want to be.

At the Siemens Drive Technologies (www.sea.siemens.com) manufacturing plant in Alpharetta, Ga., a total productive management (TPM) strategy is in place. It uses Siemens' own Siemens Production System (SPS), a methodology devoted to the guiding principle of "avoiding waste." Leveraging lean practices, SPS is a holistic approach involving equipment maintenance, scheduling and a drive to minimize downtime, says Shujath Ali, operations manager at the plant.

One of the SPS metrics is overall equipment efficiency (OEE). "A big part of this is equipment utilization," says Ali. "We measure how much equipment is being used, how often, and its efficiency. The product of utilization and efficiency gives us a scale of how effectively we're using the equipment. We want between 95% and 105% efficiency."

The plant manufactures machines for light and heavy rail and mobile mining equipment, and its chief competencies are assembly and testing. In the testing facility, says Ali, they look at the carbon footprint of the testing machines. "How hot are the machines getting? Do we need to change the equipment? Do we need to get better at using it? All these things feed into maintenance. [We ask] are we overloading the test? Defining the parameters incorrectly? Is there something wrong with the machine?"

In Siemens' case, the drivers for this initiative are cost, productivity and energy consumption. "We have very specific targets for energy consumption, waste management, electricity and water consumption," says Ali. "The entire plant has targets for these things."

Ramping up Maintenance; Cutting Energy Use

Mohawk Fine Papers, Cohoes, N.Y. (www.mohawkpaper.com), is the largest manufacturer of premium writing, printing and digital paper in North America. It operates five manufacturing facilities that use energy-intensive paper machines and 30 converting centers, with a total capacity of 175,000 tons of paper annually.

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