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Visible and invisible savings.

In my earlier column I wrote about the "Fox versus the Hedgehog" approach to maintenance. That column was also published in TAPPI's "Ahead Of The Curve" electronic newsletter and included in the weekly poll. The poll results showed that only 16.7% of all respondents thought their company was a "Hedgehog" company. The rest viewed themselves as "Fox" organizations, or as a mix of Fox and Hedgehog.

This means that most organizations take a short-term approach to savings that in the long term will be very costly. I frequently see examples of this in my client organizations. One common example is that cost saving initiatives almost entirely focus on visible cost savings, while waste built into the day-to-day work system are overlooked or ignored.

Short-term thinking can also increase costs. For example, it is not uncommon that someone can, without approval, add a job to a maintenance shutdown on short notice. This can easily delay startup by several hours and increase maintenance requirements, producing additional costs of more than US$ 40,000. The same person might require several approvals to buy a tool for US$ 900!

Below are some examples of short-term behavior. I hope you do not recognize any of them--but if you do, you are not alone.

Shutdown schedules often remain wide open until the morning of the shut down, so the following can be a common phenomenon: A shut down of a paper machine is estimated to require 10 hours to complete all necessary work. The first money-saving step is to cut the shut down to 8 hours, so some work must be postponed since bringing in more contractors to complete the work will cost too much visible money. "Perhaps we can run the three rotary steam joints until next shut down; they do not yet leak," is one suggestion. These jobs are cancelled along with some other work deemed "not urgent."

During the shutdown, the operations manager added three jobs that had been forgotten and omitted from the preliminary maintenance schedule. This delayed the startup by 3 hours. The coupling for one dryer section drive was to be replaced. After pulling the coupling off the shaft, workers discovered that the new coupling had not been requested from the store. When it was finally found, the coupling was not prepared to the right shaft diameter, nor did the key way fit. This was one of the last jobs, so no time was given to prepare coupling properly. The old coupling was put back and welded; it would be fixed correctly later.

At startup, the steam system to the dryer cans was started too fast, resulting in a lot of water hammer in the pipe systems; two of the three carbon rings in the rotary steam joints cracked and the joints started to leak. They could be shut off, but this would result in a 10% slowdown when making heavy grades until the next shut down. Also, the cost of repairing the joints went up tenfold because of the damaged seal surfaces. The coupling lasted and was forgotten, but after three months and three shutdowns. The bearings in both motor and gear failed. The welded coupling was too stiff and poorly aligned. This caused 6 hours of lost production and additional maintenance costs.

At the root of this example of waste is poor discipline--in work prioritization, time management, work planning, etc. Yet in this organization waste is known and accepted.

Fixing these problems will take time because it includes cultural change. "We must save what we can in the short term--we don't have time to deal with this now and it will cost money to improve our work system" is a common saying in this organization.

The time it takes and the cost to improve is visible cost; the existing waste embedded in the work system is invisible. Too often, visible cost saving takes over--in the cancellation of training programs, reductions in the number of planners and supervisors, postponing needed maintenance work, etc. Instead, mills must make long-term improvement initiatives. A long-term cultural change initiative will substantially improve mill performance.


The following is a call for papers. We are looking for speakers for the 18th Annual Pulp & Paper Reliability and Maintenance Conference and Exhibit in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, October 18-22, 2004. Please call + 1 919 847-8647 ext 107 if you would like to make a presentation.



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:

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Reliability and Maintenance Management
Author:Idhammar, Christer
Publication:Solutions - for People, Processes and Paper
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Previous Article:OK days are here again!
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