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Maintenance: can your mill produce the right results? Mill maintenance faces new challenges, but many "fundamentals" remain the same.

The last three decades have brought dramatic change to pulp and paper mill maintenance. Managing that change is often a challenging process. I have identified several of the most important maintenance trends and how mills can respond to fine challenges those trends present.

Grafts people: About 80% of our clients report an attrition rate among their crafts people of 40%-60% in the next 5 to 7 years. Only 10% of these clients have a good apprentice program or skill retention plan. Not only is there a growing shortage of skilled crafts people, but most of them are hampered by poor mill planning and scheduling practices. Efficiencies among crafts people can improve by 40% when mills implement better planning and scheduling practices.

Flexibility: Many organizations have negotiated more flexible work practices with their unions, then failed to implement these practices. Execution failed because of management's failure to define and reinforce expectations, lack of new skills training, union resistance, and related factors. The push for more flexibility has also eroded vertical skills. The industry has focused so much on horizontal skills (flexibility) that professional skills in areas such as hydraulics, filtration, balancing, and alignment have almost disappeared in some mills.

In the future, mills will focus more on "multi-skills" and less on "multi-craft." This does not mean that multi-craft is the wrong approach; just be prepared to invest in the selection, training, and motivation of people, and be ready to pay more for execution of skills.

Supervisors will return in planning, scheduling and support roles Over the past two decades, mills have made supervisors "coordinators" or "team leaders." Some mills have made the serious mistake of removing supervisors entirely. Some have since reinstated this thankless but very important job.

In a reactive work system--whether we like it or not--the supervisor fights fires and gives commands. In a planned and scheduled work system, the supervisor supports the crew by planning and scheduling daily and weekly work. In a world-class maintenance organization, the supervisor's role changes again since about 30% of all maintenance hours are spent on identifying and eliminating root causes of problems. This requires a very different leadership style.

Human resources departments must support supervisors. Some good supervisors have given up trying to enforce basic work ethics due to lack of support from HR. Supervisors must be able to enforce rules such as starting and quitting on time, assigning overtime based on need, work rule flexibility, and manning levels.

Better execution: The only difference between the best performers and others is that the best performers execute. Maintenance methods may get fancy new names, but they are essentially the same. We constantly learn more about how and why components fail, but this knowledge still falls within the same 300 basic elements of maintenance.

The challenge lies in implementation and execution. You must have a clearly defined, documented, and well communicated vision and mission, then implement it over a long period of time. Do not change fine basic concept and jump into the latest fads, which only confuse people.

About the author: Christer Idhammar is a global expert in reliability and maintenance. He started his career in the Swedish merchant marine where he began developing fundamentals of his "Results Oriented Maintenance Management" concept. He founded a consulting company, The Idhammar Group, in 1972. In 1985, that company became IDCON Inc,, based in Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. He has been a lecturer at the University of Dayton's Reliability and Maintenance certification program in Ohio since 199K Contact him at:
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Title Annotation:Four-Minute Focus
Author:Idhammar, Christer
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Apr 1, 2002
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