At the Ethanol Greenfield plant in Varennes, Quebec, production increased by 80%, yield improved by 11%, and even though production almost doubled in 10 years, there was only a 14% increase in maintenance cost.
All of this couldn’t have been achieved without a successful reliability program, and for its efforts the facility won the 2016 Emerson Reliability Program of the Year. “Since 2010, unplanned plant downtime is less than 1% per year; the percent of overtime was reduced by one-third; and schedule compliance increased by 10% to nearly 90% per year,” said Frédéric Thivierge, operations manager at Ethanol Greenfield. “The Greenfield reliability program has also been under budget for the past five years, and the annual planned shutdowns have been stretched to once every 18 months, adding four or five days of production per year.”
Also, over the past 10 years, Greenfield reduced energy costs by 26%.
Ethanol Greenfield was one of three finalists that presented at the Emerson Global Users Exchange in Austin, Texas. It competed through three rounds, which were not easy. To start, the participants had to fill out lengthy questionnaires about their reliability programs, host an Emerson consultant for a site visit and then prepare and deliver the reliability presentation twice at the Emerson Global Users Exchange event. Emerson experts moderated, and an experienced group, with literally billions of dollars of reliability experience, comprised the judging panel.
The two runners-up were Bristol-Myers Squibb in Devens, Massachusetts, and CMC Steel in South Carolina. During the session, the three companies with best-in-class reliability programs presented their reliability programs, highlighting the effective use of reliability-based technologies, effective work processes, integrated maintenance best practices, leadership commitment and return on investment.
Michael Andrews, senior reliability engineer at Bristol-Myers Squibb, discussed the reliability program at this global bio-pharmaceutical company with $17 billion in sales, of which $4 billion is invested in R&D. Even though the site has fully integrated computerized systems for the lab and process areas, such as DeltaV process automation, Syncade and a fully integrated AMS Suite, Andrews pointed out that it isn’t just about the technology and how you do reliability, but it’s about “who” is reliability at a site.
Greg Evans, reliability engineer at CMC Steel, discussed how the five steel mills of this 100-year-old company, with 100% of what it manufacturers made from recycled steel, aim to be low-cost producers and how CMC’s reliability program is helping them to get there. Evans related how CMC Steel has very good processes in place in the hot, dusty and dirty environment of the plant and how they’ve improve the overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in the melt shop and rolling mill.
Three years ago, winner Ethanol Greenfield merged maintenance and production departments under the same roof, creating synergy and better teamwork. It molded its reliability plan to reality and got people engaged, said Mathieu Fyfe-Leblanc, project leader, maintenance and reliability, at Ethanol Greenfield. “Reliability has to be part of the DNA of the plant,” he explained. “All personnel should be engaged in reliability.”
Any reliability program also requires a strategy, continued Fyfe-Leblanc. Assets must be available when needed, reaching the performance they’re designed for or better in a cost-effective manner. “We like to call it a never-ending journey,” said Fyfe-Leblanc. “Take a step back, and be sure there are no cracks in the foundation.”
Greenfield’s reliability program included many pieces, such as kitting, visual indicators, skills development, training and work procedures. ‘Avoidable maintenance’ team meetings ensured the failures or corrective actions were not repeated. Use of predictive maintenance was extensive and included vibration analysis, oil analysis, ultrasound motor greasing, motor condition and electrical signature analysis, ultrasonic wall thickness measurement and thermography. Significant use of wireless technology aided this program. Failure codes were also used and analyzed to determine the best area to work for the best payback.
“Reliability is not a goal,” said Thivierge. “It’s a way to be, to think, to act.”