Case Study: PetStar's Road to Reliability Success

Christer Idhammar, IDCON INC

After so many years of preaching, teaching and implementing better processes and execution in RM, it is greatly rewarding to see the one of the plants we have worked with reach maintenance excellence. It’s proof that what we believe in and teach at IDCON works and generates great results if implemented. In the many Current Best Practices audits we have done over the years, with the average score ranging from 1-100, it’s extremely unusual for a maintenance organization to score 75 or higher. The CBP, which thoroughly rates how well more than 200 elements of “right things to do,” is executed. It is an objective and fair assessment to help a plant, mill, factory, or mine get to a stage where they perform at top level.

In most cases where we have worked, the organizations have improved several areas and reached impressive results, but only two of the hundreds have been awarded Reliability and Maintenance World Class certificates from IDCON.

One of these organizations is PetStar, in Toluca Mexico, the biggest food-grade PET recycling plant in the world (2019), and part of the Coca-Cola companies. And, it’s in these situations I am reminded once again that I do what I do because I love working with people in the industry.

Working with PetStar felt positive from the start, just in that the company had a very clear vision and mission and they lived by it. I also have to admit that it was also a feel-good client since they are concerned with benefitting the environment and social consciousness. Their vision: “To be a reference of excellence worldwide through inclusive recycling of the PET container, offering their clients social and environmental responsibility, by contributing as a solution for climate change.”

We did the first CBP audit at a PetStar that has 300 employees, 42 of whom were in maintenance, and developed the first improvement plan in 2016. They scored 52.2 CBP points. As per our assessment, they embarked on implementing their improvement plan and upped their score to 65 CBP, already within one year. The next step was developing an improvement plan including education and on-the-job coaching for the maintenance organization. By late October 2018, they reached a whopping score of 78.8 CBP points, the highest score IDCON has ever awarded. The improvements they did increased quality production throughput by 2%. I have to admit that it is remarkable that this was achieved in a little more than three years. It also filled me with optimism. In our job of helping our clients improve reliability and maintenance performance, we in general deal with organizations that need a lot of help and it can, sometimes, feel like climbing a very tall mountain, especially those times when you feel there is blow back from unidentifiable Mildreds, or worse, higher-ups. I carry a negative connotation, being the person who comes in and advises on what can be improved and how to implement those improvements. In some ways, PetStar felt like that perfect example I’d waited on for a very long time—a healthy organization that had the foundation to achieve maintenance excellence.

They had the four cornerstones of successful reliability and maintenance: strong visible and engaged leadership, competent employees willing to improve, well-defined processes, a partnership between operations and maintenance, and they were ready to work hard on their continuous improvement.

It doesn’t matter how you look at, twist or turn it, but you’ll come back to the same principles. And in extending myself into particular examples, here’s one I really like. Maintenance is really like healthy living:


#1 Take care of your body, eat right and exercise -> PM

#2 Regular checkups -> Inspections. Early detection can save your life.

#3 Assertion/diagnosis -> root cause analysis

#4 Planning -> what should you do to get well/stay healthy

#5 Scheduling -> when/how often should you do it

#6 Execution -> Do it and you’ll live longer/your health will improve.



The key to PetStar’s success started at the top. CEO Jaime Cámara and Director of Operations Bernardo Salazar were both visibly engaged and interested in following up on implementation and provided any needed support. They understood the importance of consistent long-term engagement, and this is a detail where I’ve seen so many others fail.

As a result of this strong leadership, PetStar was an attractive place to work, so it was easy to employ competent people to execute the improvement plan. Add to it that they had well-defined processes, and where they didn’t all employees were enthusiastic in executing the best practices documented in the improvement plan. Maintenance and operations worked closely together in that partnership I speak of so often, and everyone was interested in continuous improvement. Some visual examples of what they accomplished include:


  • Equipment modified and designed for maintainability such as ability to inspect and safe access for lifting of equipment.
  • Motors, gears, pumps and other rotating equipment kept as spares in store are rotated on set intervals.
  • Delivery and staging of parts and tools for planned and scheduled work in designated areas.
  • Using applicable tools for condition monitoring.  
  • Root Cause Problem Elimination executed with well-defined triggers.


The next step for PetStar? They plan on doubling their capacity with one more production line. The efficient maintenance organization they now have will allow them to do that with only 20 percent more maintenance employees.


What you will see in a plant with world-class maintenance:


Frequently used material and tools are kept in “Vending machines.” Each employee has a keycard for the drawers that hold the tool or equipment they need. This saves a lot of valuable maintenance hours compared to going to the storeroom and asking the attendant to provide the items. This system also offers a great overview of consumption and restock, as well as keeping track of specialty tools.

Visiting an electric motor and other rotating spares storeroom, all items are turned toward the isle, making it easy to rotate shafts on a regular basis to prevent brinelling of bearings. A simple color-coded system shows when it was last done.


Cleanliness and organization of lubricants is very important. Using plant-standardized lubricants reduced the different types from 38 to 8 in their neat and clean storeroom. Circulation and filtration of oils is programmed and continuous. Desiccant breathers on tanks keep moisture and airborne contaminations out of oil tanks.



Parts and specialty tools are staged by the storeroom staff in close proximity to the process line before a scheduled shutdown. In this case, the staging area is set up about a week before shutdown, which is a sign of excellent planning and scheduling performance.  


Root Cause Problem Elimination is done in a “RCPE cube” on the plant floor on the same day as a problem is discovered and has met a trigger. 


Work Environment

Another example of World Class (and in the heavy industry unfortunately an often overlooked benefit) was how well PetStar cared about the work environment and its employees. The facility was state of the art with an exhibit/conference center built in adobe, showcasing local plants planted in a rooftop garden, which kept it naturally cool and comfortable without the need for air conditioning.

PetStar also took the extra measure to care about their employees on an individual level. At the end of every month they had a short ceremony to celebrate all employees with birthdays during that month.

Already in the 1970s this was the scenario at many plants in Sweden. A control room could look like an executive suite, a homey kitchen area where the employees could cook a meal. Break rooms with sofas and armchairs, plants inside, and a view of the outside. Nice locker rooms with saunas sometimes even gyms and pools, while in the U.S. coming into some of the paper mills looked like a prison. Some didn’t even have lockers the workers had to hang their clothes in chains hung from the ceiling. 

Still today, when I visit some plants it’s like that and even the supervisor is confined to some crummy, awful office. In Sweden there are laws that dictate these conditions, one is that the worker has to see daylight. Some of the people I’ve worked with were very suspicious at what they thought sounded like a “vacation” and said “If we had this at home, workers would be hanging out in there doing nothing, instead of working!” My response: “Where do you think they hang out doing nothing instead? They hang out where you cannot see them.” Everyone benefits from a good work environment. It begins with the mere fact that if we’re happier being at work, then what we are expected to do over eight hours will also become more rewarding.

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About the Author

Christer Idhammar is president of IDCONInc., a Raleigh, N.C.-based reliability and maintenance management consulting firm which specializes in education, tra...