Printer Friendly

Questing for the reliability "silver bullet".

Most pulp and paper mills understand the value and importance of reliability but struggle to ensure reliable systems and mills. This is the story of a company that recognized their reliability vulnerabilities and overcame the traditional business culture to achieve its reliability goals.



Catalyst Paper owns four pulp and paper mills and an additional plant in western Canada. On the surface, their employees appeared to be further along in developing reliability than other companies. The company had tried several times to launch reliability initiatives using various tools but the overall goal of reliability was elusive. Each solution became short-lived because it did not deliver long-term value. Catalyst's executives were frustrated. Their quest for the reliability "silver bullet" continued.

Catalyst looked beyond its frustration and took a hard look at operations. Close examination revealed that its mill culture was reactive. Failures triggered equipment maintenance. The company rewarded tradespeople for fixing machines and getting them up and running again as quickly as possible. Mills focused on failure, not reliability. While Catalyst employees were knowledgeable and had good skills, machines continued to fail. While pockets of excellence did exist within the mill system, no processes were in place to capture what made those areas excel.

Between breakdowns, maintenance systems triggered work orders that kept maintainers busy, but Catalyst's machines remained unreliable. The company knew that buying new machines would offer only temporary relief. Catalyst executives began to ask the question: "Are we doing the 'right' maintenance work?" They concluded that the company's approach to maintaining equipment needed to change.


Catalyst knew that reliability was the right goal but did not know how to get there. Its various attempts to establish reliability had not linked well to the business aspects of equipment strategy and mill objectives. The company had no defined, repeatable, proactive processes to follow when maintaining equipment.

In its ongoing quest for the reliability silver bullet, Catalyst engaged Ivara, a reliability vendor that offered software tools coupled with a method of achieving reliability. Ivara's approach pulled together Catalyst's existing reliability initiatives under one umbrella, established financial benefits, and developed a proactive equipment strategy focused on prevention.

Ivara's method provided the framework for Catalyst's mills to improve their knowledge of mitigating equipment failure and managing failure when it happened. Catalyst established equipment health-based strategies that watched for signs of deterioration. It defined business rules to identify the right work to be done on the right piece of equipment at the right time, opening up a world aimed at prevention and reliability for Catalyst maintainers.

Identifying the right work was the breakthrough the company needed. The implementation uncovered tradespeople's and operator's invaluable insights into how equipment failed, and more importantly into how to detect and prevent equipment failures--knowledge about equipment that had previously been kept private. Catalyst extracted this knowledge from their maintainers and operators--the people closest to the equipment--and captured it in the tool. This knowledge became accessible to other tradespeople for reuse.

Catalyst's computerized maintenance management systems (containing the mill's equipment bill of materials and information about spare parts) were reloaded with planned work orders designed to prevent failure and add value to the equipment. The company started small, converting one system at a time in one mill.



Catalyst owns an asset portfolio worth billions of dollars in replacement value. Like most paper companies, Catalyst measures return on investment (ROI) through paper machine efficiency. To improve this metric, Catalyst had to find a new way to manage its equipment.

Catalyst recognized that culture change was the biggest obstacle to reliability. From mill managers to operators and tradespeople, personnel were jaded by their inability to solve reliability problems. However, Ivara's approach to change and implementation had proven successful in other industries, and became a critical factor for Catalyst.

Starting with one mill, Catalyst ranked its assets in terms of risk to the business. The analysis revealed that most high-expense, repeat problems occurred in just a few areas of the mill. Ivara took these "hot" problem areas and trained Catalyst's tradespeople and operators on how to define the right work. Ivara ramped up performance on one asset/system, and then went to the next one. "If it takes two to three guys on the wet end of a paper machine to maintain that asset, we change their behavior by showing them a different way to do maintenance. They see the improvement in uptime. It converts maintainers to believers," says Brian Maguire, vice president of marketing for Ivara. That is the intent at Catalyst.

This year, Catalyst's Port Alberni mill has changed its approach to maintenance on four major systems that matter most to the mill. While the overall level of reactive maintenance across the mill has not changed dramatically, Catalyst has implemented a proactive approach on these first four systems.

Catalyst's executives now know they have a solution for equipment reliability that is working and meeting their goals. Tradespeople have validated the solution. Because Catalyst is new to the process, its success has yet to be fully reflected in its culture. People closest to the equipment have not yet linked their new equipment strategies to increased uptime. Catalyst knows this step is needed for long-term success.

By implementing Ivara's solution and performing the necessary analysis, Catalyst became closer to its machines. The company leveraged the know-how of tradespeople and operators and learned how to efficiently maintain its machines.

"Catalyst's Port Alberni mill has increased capacity and estimates cost savings will reach C$1.5 million in the first year of implementation. Port Alberni has targeted C$ 7.1 million per year in benefits after the three-year ramp up," says Maguire.

The North American pulp and paper industry is downsizing. Few if any new machines will be installed in the near future. Owners are faced with the challenge of getting the most out of their assets. Traditionally, maintenance has been viewed as a cost of doing business. Reliability has turned this view around by providing a strategic lever to optimize return on assets. The business case for reliability is easy to understand in industries that sell everything they produce. Hidden plant capacity--unleashed through reliability--justifies the change.

Catalyst found that reliability is not about new technology, but about changing the way people think about maintenance, what they do, and how they do it. In other words, the reliability challenge depends on changing the culture.


Gail Petersen is asset management consultant for Datamasters, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. She is a member of the PIMA Manufacturing Reliability Committee. Contact her by email at, or by phone at +1 604 228-0915.




* How previous Catalyst attempts to implement reliability had failed

* Why Catalyst engaged a reliability vendor that offered software tools coupled with a method of achieving reliability

* How Catalyst leveraged the know-how of tradespeople and operators and learned how to maintain its machines in a world class manner


* "Manufacturing reliability: The Dofasco story," by John Yolton, Solutions!, December 2002. To access this article, type the following product code in the search field on 02DECSO35. Or call TAPPI Member Connection at 1 800 332-8686 (US); 1 800 446-9431 (Canada); +1 770 446 1400 (International).

* "Developing a reliability centered process maturity model," by Gail Petersen, Solutions!, April 2003. Product Code: 03APRSO37

* "Reliability & maintenance management," Christer Idhammar, Solutions!, January 2005. Product Code: 05JANSO05


Define the problem and the need

Create the vision

1. engage the executives

2. set the strategy

Find the solution

3. construct maintenance processes around reliability

4. rank equipment in terms of risk to your business, your ability to produce, and your customer needs and demands

5. choose the right tools for the culture--tools mean technology

6. engage shop floor personnel--extract, store and reuse their knowledge

7. capture knowledge to leverage knowledge--we have the know-how; we need to share it

Implement and improve

8. hit your problem "hot spots" one at a time, keep a "stiff upper lip," and maintain constant commitment and belief that what you are doing is right

9. communicate, be visible, demonstrate results, convert maintainers to believers, share knowledge, and develop skills

10. build on success: keep going and establish sustainability
COPYRIGHT 2006 Paper Industry Management Association
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2006, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:RELIABILITY
Author:Petersen, Gail
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:May 1, 2006
Previous Article:Partnerships promote rapid growth at Veracel.
Next Article:Board and tissue makers count on technology to meet market demands.

Related Articles
Taking a shot at credit scoring. (Comment).
Robot graders.
The Golden Quest and Nevada's Silver Heritage.
Biting the bullet.
Newmark brings new eatery to Port Authority space.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2022 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |