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Operators in maintenance.

Including operators in essential care of equipment--including preventive maintenance inspections--can produce a substantial return on investment. The investment cost is low and results include increased reliability and lower maintenance costs. Still, very few pulp and paper mills can claim that their operators are involved in these activities.


The main reasons operators should be included in essential equipment care include:

* The urgent need to increase competitiveness and productivity.

* More cost effective preventive maintenance programs

* Improved partnership between operations and maintenance

The urgent need to increase competitiveness and productivity: This is obvious to most people--but not everyone. We still hear comments such as, "This is not part of my job," or "We are not going to take work from the maintenance employees."

In the United States, we compete with mills in countries with labor rates in the US$ 1 to $3 per hour range, and these mills are, in some cases, very modern and reliable. If employees in a U.S. mill are paid $25 per hour, we have to be 8 to 25 times more productive than these mills. That means we have to have 8 to 25 times more quality product throughput per hour worked just to stay even on productivity. We no longer have the luxury of limiting work to traditional demarcation lines. Including operators in more maintenance work is, in my opinion, a minor change. It is simple common sense to implement this change in all pulp and paper mills.

More cost effective preventive maintenance programs: Avoid the common mistake of adding inspections by operators to an existing program without first optimizing the total preventive maintenance (PM) program. Many basic equipment inspection programs require inspections to be done every 8 hours or less. However, having maintenance crafts people to do these inspections twice a day cannot be cost justified. Instead, these inspections should be done by operators who can combine them with process inspections they do on a routine basis. As a result, a mechanical preventive maintenance program can be improved at the same time it is being reduced by 30-60%.

To effectively optimize preventive maintenance activities, you should use a route-based PM program where you can see all PM activities (basic inspections, predictive maintenance, lubrication, etc) under each equipment number. The system must have the capability to sort inspections in a route. Unfortunately, most of the bigger CMMS systems on the market today do not have this capability.

You should begin implementing a system like this using a printed paper route and then evolve into handheld computers. You will save a lot of money in initial investment and maintenance of these electronic devices if you wait until the system is up and running and then use the devices to enhance the system.

Existing condition monitoring standards are excellent tools for speeding up training and implementation. These standards use color illustrations to show how a component works, how to inspect it, and why you need to inspect it. If you would like an example, please contact me at and I will send them to you.

Improved partnership between operations and maintenance: This is one of the most important things you should do to promote a better partnership between operations and maintenance. It also lays the groundwork for a future integrated operations and maintenance work system.

The 19th Annual Pulp & Paper Reliability and Maintenance Conference for operations and maintenance will be held in Atlanta, Georgia October 10-14, 2005. The program is designed for operations and maintenance professionals. It is highly recommended that you attend as a team. Visit


Christer Idhammar is president and founder of IDCON INC., Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. IDCON is a consulting company providing worldwide education, training and implementation of better operations and maintenance practices. For more information, go to:




The CMS consists of three volumes of color illustrated CMS for the 75 most common components such as couplings, gear boxes, control valves, pumps etc.

These standards are used widely in the Pulp and Paper industry to train operators and maintenance personnel in function of component and essential care including basic inspections. The three volumes contain a total of 578 color pictures and sell for US$195 beach.

To order this text, enter the following Product Code in the search field on 08IDCONMPS, or call TAPPI Member Connection at 1 800 332-8686 (US); 1 800 446 9431 (Canada); +1 770 446 1400 (International). Member and Non-Member Price: US$ 125.00 Non-Member Price: $125.00
COPYRIGHT 2005 Paper Industry Management Association
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Author:Idhammar, Christer
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Sep 1, 2005
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