Maintenance Quarterly: Uptime Is Key to Wallboard Production

Kathy | June 1, 2007

0607_mq_maintenancemanagement_img2A value-added maintenance management system helps an industry leader stay competitive in a demanding market.

Located between Denver and Grand Junction, CO, American Gypsum – 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 1500 pieces of equipment can spell disaster from both a financial and order fulfillment perspective.


In a plant extending 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 this wallboard operation running reliably and smoothly, it set out to find a maintenance management software system that would improve how equipment history was tracked.

A better way
As Maintenance Superintendent Bill Baxter tells the story, it was the Maintenance Department that set out to find the right tool to replace a manual process that 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,” states Baxter. “Keeping the production equipment running as much as possible with minimal downtime was key for us. While searching for a maintenance management 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 team’s search led to Benchmate, which was immediately implemented and made available for use by both Maintenance and Production personnel. The new system rapidly took shape and soon became the key tool for the plant’s maintenance management. As users quickly became comfortable with the system, mechanics and electricians within the Maintenance Department learned how to create a parts requisition within the system and send it directly to purchasing. This now enables all maintenance requisitions to be housed within one system before going to the purchasing agent for review, approval and issuing purchase orders.

Beyond maintenance
On the Production side, Operations personnel began to utilize the Benchmate system’s trouble-call function— something 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 the system. 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 lets Maintenance know exactly what is happening with production equipment at all times. Furthermore, when the services log is created, a complete history of work performed against production equipment is maintained in the system for reference purposes.

Baxter notes that the software application has enhanced the way his team performs maintenance. Each week, a down day is scheduled just for planned maintenance. This provides the Maintenance team with 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.

The heart of maintenance
“We use the system extensively to schedule our planned maintenance, the ‘heart’ of our maintenance management activities,” says Baxter.

American Gypsum normally sets preventive maintenance (PM) intervals based on expected equipment life from major parts down to component levels. Routine inspections are conducted 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, stepby- step instructions outlining the work to be performed are loaded into the Benchmate system. 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 showing weekly maintenance planning, backlog of outstanding jobs and number of man hours expended against equipment maintenance are routinely generated by the systems. These reports assist Baxter and his team in scheduling downtime and prioritizing the outstanding work orders that need to be executed.

Rock-solid support
Proper technical and system support is critical. Thus, Baxter maintains an annual services agreement that provides access to the Benchmate help desk and other support areas. Knowing support is only a telephone call away helps assure the Maintenance team that any potential system problems—or even what may turn out just to be routine questions—are handled professionally and thoroughly. The same level of service applies to system upgrades that are performed seamlessly to minimize interruptions to the plant’s work processes and related activities.

According to Baxter, the future use of the maintenance system for the plant will be in the area of spare parts inventory. “We currently have a large portion of our spares in the system,” he continues, “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 shortterm finished goods warehouse, product is promptly 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 a reliable maintenance system keeping track of critical equipment, this plant will continue to supply the construction industry with topgrade wallboard products and enhance its position as a market leader. MQ

Bob Nichols is founder and president of Benchmate. E-mail: bobn@benchmate.com; telephone: (360) 678-8358






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