Uptime is key to production at American Gypsum plant

Reliable Plant
Tags: maintenance and reliability
Located between Denver and Grand Junction, Colo., American Gypsum’s Eagle Plant operates around the clock to produce more than 113 miles of wallboard each day. One small hiccup in a continuous production line that includes well over 1,500 pieces of equipment can spell disaster from both a financial and order fulfillment perspective.

In a plant spanning a quarter-mile in length, maintenance crews for this 24/7 operation are faced with ensuring conveyor systems, crushers, hammer mills, feeders and mixers – along with the primary forming line – are running at their highest production levels without failure. Because American Gypsum recognized how important it was to keep its wallboard operation running reliably and smoothly, the plant set out to find a maintenance management software system that would improve how their maintenance department tracked equipment history.

There is a better way
As maintenance superintendent Bill Baxter tells the story, it was the maintenance department that embarked on finding the right tool to replace its manual maintenance process, which included log books full of hand-written equipment records.

“We knew there was a better way to manage the data related to equipment PMs, repairs and scheduled maintenance,” says Baxter. “Keeping the production equipment running as much as possible with minimal downtime was key for us. While searching for a maintenance system, our team focused on that objective and sought a package that was easy to use, simple to learn and without all the ‘extras’ that were unimportant to us.”

The result of the search by the team was the selection of Benchmate. Chosen for its simplicity and intuitive interface, Benchmate was immediately implemented and made available for use by both maintenance and production personnel with little training required. The new system rapidly took shape and soon became the key tool for maintenance management.

As users quickly became comfortable with the system, mechanics and electricians within the maintenance department learned how to easily create a parts requisition within the Benchmate system and send it directly to purchasing. This enables all maintenance requisitions to be housed within one system before going to the purchasing agent for review, approval and issuing purchase orders.

Beyond the maintenance department
On the production side, operations personnel began to utilize the trouble call function that is accessible to all crew foremen on the plant floor. Trouble calls are issues that may arise at any time and require the attention of the maintenance department. Rather than having to track down a mechanic or electrician, production personnel simply enter information pertaining to the problem area directly into Benchmate. Maintenance department workers can then review the trouble call log and determine what action is required and when it needs to be addressed. This capability enables the maintenance department to know exactly what is happening with production equipment at all times. And, when the services log is created, a complete history of work performed against production equipment is maintained in the system for reference purposes.

Baxter attests that Benchmate has enhanced the way his team performs maintenance. Each week, a down day is scheduled just for planned maintenance. This allows the maintenance team an opportunity to review work to be performed and plan accordingly to accomplish the required tasks that keep the plant’s production equipment properly maintained. Complete equipment history data is maintained so that workers know exactly what has been done to every piece of equipment being tracked in Benchmate.

The heart of maintenance
“Preventive maintenance is the key to our production uptime,” says Baxter. “We use Benchmate extensively to schedule our planned maintenance. It is the ‘heart’ of our maintenance management activities.”

American Gypsum normally sets preventive maintenance intervals based on expected equipment life from major parts down to component levels. Routine inspections are made on all critical components to detect any suspected failure points before failures actually occur. A mishap with even a drive belt could shut down production, resulting in major schedule delays and losses.

To ensure that planned maintenance is optimized, step-by-step instructions are loaded into the Benchmate system that specifically outline work to be performed. Technical documentation and manuals are electronically attached within the system for quick and easy reference whenever required. Quick access to an equipment schematic or specific part diagram can save mechanics and electricians valuable time and improve their work performance.

Reports are generated routinely that show weekly maintenance planning, backlog of outstanding jobs and number of man hours expended against equipment maintenance. These reports assist Baxter and his team in scheduling downtime and prioritizing the outstanding work orders that need to be executed.

Rock solid support
When it comes to system support questions, Baxter notes that Benchmate is quick to respond. American Gypsum depends on this fast turnaround whenever issues arise. Knowing support is only a telephone call away helps assure the maintenance team that any potential system problems – or even what may turn out to be a routine question – is handled professionally and thoroughly. The same level of service applies to system upgrades. American Gypsum’s maintenance crew relies daily on the availability of the Benchmate system. With seamless upgrades, interruptions to work processes and related activities are minimized.

“The future use of Benchmate for us will be in the area of spare parts inventory,” says Baxter. “We currently have a large portion of our spares in the system, but we still need to add several records in the near future. Our plan is to use bar code scanning for our storeroom which will certainly improve our spares tracking and management of parts inventory.”

In this small town nestled in the valley of the Colorado mountains, American Gypsum continues to produce sheet after sheet of quality wallboard. Stacked high in a short-term finished goods warehouse, the wallboard is quickly shipped to what will become an ultimate destination in either a home or building. As the nation’s fifth-largest wallboard producer, American Gypsum knows it must maintain a continuous production process to remain competitive. With Benchmate keeping track of critical equipment, this plant will continue to supply the construction industry with top-grade wallboard products and enhance its position as a market leader.

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