Quick Changes for Business 2011

Software Keeps Manufacturing Equipment Humming

John Moore,|Special to CNBC.com

not only brews beer, it runs its own in-house bottling operation. But disaster struck during one of its bottling runs.

AssetPoint's TabWare helps Dogfish Head maintain its bottling and brewing equipment.
Photo: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

One of the spigots broke and fell into a bottle. The company had packaged three pallets of beer before realizing there was a problem. Throwing away all that beer wasn’t an option for a small craft brewer like Dogfish Head, so the crew had to open the pallets and inspect each bottle individually.

All of that could have been avoided had the company had then what it now has — asset management software to automate the maintenance scheduling of its manufacturing equipment.

“A regular preventative maintenance program on that bottling line would help assure that that kind of failure doesn’t happen,” says Paul Crist, senior vice president of global sales and marketing at AssetPoint, which makes the TabWare solution in use at Dogfish Head. “If you’re having that equipment inspected on a regular basis and doing appropriate preventative maintenance on that device, you’re significantly improving the probability that that would never happen.”

Asset management software helps all types of manufacturers reduce risk and control costs, particularly in an economic environment that demands high efficiency and maximum equipment uptime to meet customer demand.

“A majority of companies are doing a very high percentage of their work as break/fix — it breaks, I fix it,” Crist says. “The advanced companies are moving that dial to where 70 percent of their maintenance work is preventative maintenance.”

Asset management software allows maintenance crews to establish a maintenance schedule for manufacturing equipment using a variety of parameters, such as date, hours used, electricity consumed, or miles accumulated.

“When you hit those triggers, the software will automatically issue the work orders out to the maintenance staff,” Crist says. “The more preventative maintenance work you can do, the lower the cost that maintenance is. More importantly, you’ve significantly improved the uptime of your assets. And by doing that you’ve improved your manufacturing capabilities to meet demand.”

Until Dogfish Head implemented TabWare in September, the company had no system in place to plan or track maintenance work, says John Wren, maintenance manager at Dogfish Head.

IBM's Maximo software manages the maintenance of equipment and facilities for the Sacramento Area Sewer District, including more than 400,000 assets in the system.
Photo: SASD

“We used spreadsheets and whiteboards. We weren’t even scheduling,” he says. “[Asset management software has] allowed us to plan our work a week at a time, so we know what everyone’s doing. It also allows us to track our emergency type work, so we can see the machines causing us the most grief and make some modifications.”

The company initially began monitoring equipment on the bottling side. Earlier this month, it began using TabWare to monitor its brewing equipment, as well. The software keeps tabs on everything from the main brewing kettles to bottle fillers and crowners.

“We have a single brew line and a single packaging line,” Wren says. “If that’s equipment’s down we’re stuck. All of it is critical. We’re doing some rebuilds that we weren’t doing before, and we’ve got them scheduled before a failure should occur. We’ve made the machines more reliable and we’ll continue to do that.”

If asset management software is important to a small craft brewer, it’s absolutely critical for a large refinery such as Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd.

“We had engineers doing maintenance, but the knowledge wasn’t there,” says John Mruttu, general manager of KPRL. “It was a bit like flying an airplane blindfolded. By having a system in place, have a continuous view of the [equipment] lifecycle. It allows you to track the continued cost, and you can make better decisions with the correct information.”

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KPRL uses IBM’s Maximo software to track and manage a wide range of equipment, including pipes, compressors, turbines and heat exchanges.

“From an asset intensity perspective, oil and gas typically is more than two times more asset intensive than any other industry in the world,” says David Womack, IBM global director of strategy and business development for the chemicals and petroleum industry.

For the oil and gas industry, equipment maintenance is critical on two fronts: safety and meeting market demand. Additionally, production activity can vary greatly depending on market conditions.

AssetPoint's TabWare helps Dogfish Head maintain its bottling and brewing equipment.
Photo: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Demand patterns have shifted since the global economic slowdown began in 2008. Refineries often move from full production to offline and back, a complicated process that often reveals unexpected issues.

“There’s a very specified maintenance regimen that has to take place,” Crist says. “That regimen can be defined within software, so when you make the decision to bring that asset back online, that automatically triggers a series of preventative maintenance and work order tasks that the maintenance organization has to do. You can mothball it for a month, then bring it back online and have confidence that you’re not going to go through several weeks of getting it back up and running because of maintenance issues.”

For any company involved in manufacturing, the critical issue is how well those assets are used to meet the bottom line.

“If you have good control of your manufacturing process and maintenance of your manufacturing equipment, the ability avoid unexpected shutdowns or delays due to asset problems is dramatically improved,” Crist says. “The goal is to get that asset uptime into the high 90 percent range, so that when you need your factory to be pumping out orders, it’s there, it’s reliable, and it allows you to commit lead times to your customers and successfully deliver on those lead times.”

That’s been the case at Dogfish Head, which over the years has expanded its reach beyond the Milton, Del., area. 

“It helps us get what we plan to get to market,” he says. “We have a certain number of SKUs and brands that we want to get to all of our distributors at a set time, and this helps us get it there on time.”