Maintenance becomes less of a grind at flour manufacturer

Paul Boughton

Allied Mills, part of Associated British Foods, has been able to turn its perception of maintenance on its head thanks to in depth analyses undertaken by SKF. Indeed, as opposed to being seen as a necessary evil, maintenance is now viewed by Allied Mills as a fully integrated element of the company’s business effectiveness model. Perhaps most importantly, the implementation of SKF’s maintenance programme has meant that the ratio of unplanned versus planned maintenance at the company has been completely reversed, with planned work now accounting for 90 per cent of the total, while significant reductions have also been made in Allied Mills’ stores value and stock holding costs.
Duncan Lawson, Group Engineering Manager at Allied Mills, explained: “With so many rotating elements within our processing facilities, we needed a company with a vast level of global knowledge and experience in the field. As a result, we invited SKF in to see what they could offer and whether they could assist us in the design of an accurate and effective maintenance strategy.
“Our existing processes and procedures had delivered significant benefits, but in an increasingly challenging manufacturing environment, our focus was shifting towards providing long-term sustainability and a value added service from our manufacturing teams.”
The first step in the preventative maintenance programme was to perform detailed Client Needs Analyses (CNA) at each of the three Allied Mills’ plants in Belfast, Manchester and Tilbury.
The CNA analyses were conducted during discussions between key managers and engineers at Allied Mills and a team of SKF professionals to gain a snapshot of the current maintenance strategy and its efficiency.
The CNA process uses a sequence of assessment questions from each of the four main facets of SKF’s Asset Efficiency Optimisation (AEO) process, which focuses on improving processes, culture and technology: maintenance strategy, work identification, work control and work execution.
Using the data gathered from the initial assessments, SKF engineers were able to analyse the results and create an action plan and route map for Allied Mills to adopt. 

Described as, “A real eye-opening learning process”,  by Lawson, it asked what challenges existed towards maintaining current performance, what Allied Mills was doing well and, just as importantly, what the company could do better.
In many instances, the CNA process highlighted preventative activities that Allied Mills was able to undertake using its own in-house expertise; but it also highlighted the need for a significant maintenance strategy review, something that both Lawson and his Managing Director already suspected.
With the help of SKF Asset Management Services, a thorough review of all maintenance tasks was justified technically to promote the efficient use of labour. One advantage was that Allied Mills used similar equipment at all three of its plants so company-wide processes and procedures could be standardised.
“The team at SKF examined the majority of the plant,” Lawson explains, “using Failure Mode and Effect Analysis (FMEA) to determine the best maintenance approach for all of our assets. They then studied each piece of equipment and machinery, breaking it down into its component parts, in order to envisage the impact that a failure might have. They then looked at the spares stock, the existing maintenance schedule and whether it was reactive or predictive. We also looked at the general performance of the maintenance discipline. From these results we were able to make the first major changes in our maintenance ethos.”
Interestingly enough, although not unique in the world of manufacturing, the first major change identified was departmental.

Lawson explains: “We quickly realised that we were weak at interfacing between production operations and maintenance. They were very much perceived as two separate entities and, at times, operated as such – with the metaphorical brick wall, as so often seen in many other companies, between them.”
The first step, therefore, was to integrate them into one department, having them both report to a new internally appointed manufacturing manager. The benefits were immediately apparent, almost instantly both had visibility of each other in terms of agenda and operations and, perhaps most critically, team working was enhanced.

“In addition, the integration of the new concepts introduced by SKF, saw our Computerised Maintenance Management System (CMMS) transform into a manufacturing tool, greatly enhancing its benefits and effectiveness to the enterprise as a whole,” Lawson added.
“We also realised that there were areas to which we had given too much prominence in our maintenance strategy. It quickly became clear that SKF was helping us to work smarter rather than harder. In some instances, we learnt that it was okay simply to let something come to the end of its lifecycle and then replace it; it was not deemed a critical component and did not warrant the level of support we were giving to it. In other cases the reverse was true.”

Paul Deighton, Business Manager at SKF’s Asset Management Services, explains: “One of the first things we highlight to customers is the importance of the relationship between maintenance strategy and the overall business model of the company. If you look at a traditional key performance indicator, which equates maintenance as a cost per tonne of production, then it is obvious why many consider it as a necessary evil. However, by showing companies to look at it the other way – tonnes of production per unit cost of maintenance – then, more often than not, maintenance is suddenly seen to be an intrinsic, value-added element in the business model.”
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