A successful blend of tradition and technology

Published:  05 May, 2017

PWE takes a look at how a CMMS solution is helping increase production efficiency at Simpson’s Malt.

Simpson’s Malt was founded in 1862 and is still today a family-run business. Its production facility at Berwick-upon-Tweed produces 235,000 tonnes of malt annually and has seen significant investment in state-of-the-art manufacturing equipment in recent years. However, at the centre of all that technology is barley, a cereal crop. A poor harvest in any of the large crop-growing nations can have a knock-on effect that ripples right around the globe.

Chief engineer Pat Richards explained: “The malting industry is a global one and we are all affected by what happens elsewhere. It’s not just bad harvests that affect the industry – unusually good ones have an impact on supply and demand as well. If you then factor into those peaks and troughs the emergence of newer markets (for example, the growing popularity of malt whisky in China) there can be a lot of variables to contend with.

“We need to mitigate against those factors by ensuring that we are as efficient as we can possibly be. If conditions get tough it will be the inefficient plants that go under.”

As chief engineer, Richards is ensuring that his maintenance department plays a pivotal role in the drive for increased efficiency: “When I first joined the business, I introduced manual systems that moved us to a more preventative and predictive maintenance regime. The next stage was to give our engineers the means to update and review maintenance information electronically. Of the CMMS options we evaluated, it was Mainsaver from Spidex that suited our operational requirements best and just as importantly, the implementation plan they put together was scheduled and delivered fully in line with our own productivity objectives.”

After Mainsaver went live at Simpson’s Malt, the benefits started to appear soon afterwards. The company used Mainsaver on terminals throughout the giant site so that the engineers could log on and off within a reasonable distance of where they were working.

“Once we started to get daily intelligence into Mainsaver we could see very clearly where we were spending our time”, says Richards. “One small production area in which we knew we had regular issues actually turned out to be responsible for 30% of our work. The difference now is that we know the extent of the problem and can address it in an informed way.

“Similarly, we gained a wealth of new detail on the small tasks that every maintenance department has to do. I can tell you very accurately how long it will take three of my engineers to build a conveyor and how much it will cost. What I couldn’t do previously was tell you how much time and expense was going on ‘ten-minute’ jobs. Now I have that information to hand, and we can tailor our preventative maintenance regime in order to reduce them. “

Another success story brought about by the Mainsaver installation has been a significant move towards best practice in the management of Stores. Mainsaver now holds details of all the spares Simpson’s needs for the site, their optimum on-hand quantities and where each is used. The overall value of the stockholding is now known, unnecessary stockholding has been eliminated and there are always critical spares available when required.

“The conveyors are operating at full-tilt, all the time”, says Richards. “When you are running continuously, all day every day, it is absolutely vital that the equipment is backed up by the appropriate inventory so that a component that cannot be fixed is immediately replaced.

“If a kiln fan breaks down and we lose a day’s production because we don’t have a replacement part to hand, that equates to hundreds of tonnes of product. And that day is lost forever - we don’t have spare ones in which we can catch up. Good management of stores is therefore essential, and we’re achieving that in Mainsaver.”

One further encouraging outcome from Mainsaver’s deployment at Simpson’s Malt could be on departmental headcount. It is a common fallacy that maintenance management software is used primarily to identify over-manning and thereby create the case for redundancies. However Pat Richards explained: “Mainsaver shows me how many jobs are still outstanding on the work queue, the number of engineer hours available to do them and the subsequent percentage job completion rate. Using this information, I have been able to put together a strong justification for recruiting two additional engineers. It’s just another example of the priceless information that is now available to me.”

For more information please visit: www.spidexsoftware.co.uk

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