Operating System Drives Reliability
EP Editorial Staff | June 16, 2020
The Americold Operating System connects a global facility network to improve transparency, awareness, and asset reliability.
By Keith Ruprecht and Brian Dunn, Americold Realty Trust
Americold realty trust, Atlanta (americold.com), temperature-controlled warehouses are a “mission-critical” component of the food supply chain. Our function is to ensure the safe, secure preservation of foods that feed communities across the globe. Thus, the reliability of our refrigeration systems and material-handling and automation equipment within our temperature-controlled warehouses relies on all 13,000 employees. We accomplish this with the Americold Operating System (AOS).
With 183 sites across three continents in five countries, it is extremely important to operate as one company. To do so requires an operating system that ensures integration through associate engagement, leadership, end-to-end strategy, and a continuous focus on improvement. AOS provides a roadmap for building capability within our teams and continuous improvement across our work processes. Sites that have the highest levels of AOS maturity demonstrate a direct correlation with our highest overall business performance.
The Maintenance Excellence component within AOS is focused on developing reliability and maintainability expertise, improving maintenance cost as a percentage of replacement asset value, lengthening the mean time between failure, and creating a culture of reliability practitioners. In short, it’s our playbook for reliability. Strategically the elements follow the PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act) cycle.
The first, and most critical, element, is Standard Work. It provides routine meeting agendas that are directly linked to the performance elements of Maintenance Excellence. Standard Work defines each meeting objectives, attendees, agendas, inputs, and desired outcomes. It also lays the foundation that enables our maintenance teams across 183 sites to operate as one and provides a roadmap that enables our daily/weekly success.
Decision making requires accurate data, and data from our enterprise management system (SAP) feeds our Standard Work dashboard. The dashboard provides the financial results, key activities, reliability performance, and forward-looking performance indicators that allow teams to pivot quickly to close gaps and seize opportunities for improvement. The dashboard is known across the organization as the Maintenance One Pager.
The Maintenance One Pager allows any team member at any facility to monitor critical performance metrics such as spend, energy, asset availability, PM effectiveness, safety, and process-safety management (PSM). It is the driver for daily and weekly meetings, and our monthly reliability meetings. The monthly meeting is when we review, as a larger team, what’s working and what can be improved. It’s at those meetings that maintenance teams develop plans to address bad actors and methodically reduce unplanned maintenance and increase asset availability.
Results transparency is a key component and each employee is able to see where and how they affect our business through Maintenance Excellence. The weekly One Pagers at the facility level are rolled up to the district level and, from there, to the regional level. This information roll up and cascading down allows each level within the organization to actively participate in the ownership and improvement of maintenance excellence through standard business-review meetings. Having everyone engaged from the CEO to front-line operators provides visibility and ownership for our reliability journey.
The dashboards are part of the Maintenance Excellence Playbook. Having a playbook further enables the teams to understand the issues, highlight where support is needed, and provide levers to pull to close the gaps, as well as excel. As we grow externally through acquisitions or internally through new builds, the playbook is deployed to the new teams and facilitates early adoption of the AOS culture.
As the story goes, good data in means being able to pull good data out. For the Maintenance Excellence data required to build out our KPIs (key performance indicators) and KBIs (key business indicators), we use SAP. Consolidating the data into a minimum number of platforms provides easy assimilation and reporting.
For our Energy Excellence performance data, we use real-time energy-monitoring data from our utility, Cascade Energy, as well as Schneider Electric’s (se.com) energy-tracking solutions. KAI (key activity indicators) data is derived from SAP reporting and augmented with in-house solutions (SharePoint and readily available/editable apps).
Refrigeration systems are what provide the cold for our temperature-controlled warehouses. These systems are high energy users if not closely monitored and proactively managed. Americold uses integrated refrigeration-control systems and our highly skilled in-house refrigeration personnel to monitor pressure, temperature, vessel levels, peak demand, wet bulb, and kWh consumption. The condition-monitoring side of our system primarily involves oil analysis, vibration, thermography, and ultrasonic.
Data from the control systems is not what separates Americold from others. It’s the power of 13,000 associates working together to be great stewards of energy. In fact, Americold is ranked #1 in the world on the list of cold-storage companies for Energy Excellence by the Global Cold Chain Alliance. This is accomplished through superior energy-management programs driven by highly engaged energy teams. These practices have delivered 8.2% reduction in energy intensity (kWh/catch weight) compared to our 2011 baseline, and reduced kilowatt-hour consumption by 9.8MM YOY (2018 to 2019). EP
Keith Ruprecht is Director Maintenance Reliability at Americold Realty Trust, Atlanta (americold.com). He has been responsible for developing the Maintenance Excellence element of the Americold Operating System. Previously, he served as Manager Operational Excellence Asset Management for Coca-Cola North America.
Brian Dunn is Vice President of Facility Maintenance & Energy at Americold. He directs strategic development of the company’s Maintenance and Energy Excellence programs. Prior to joining Americold, he was Director of Reliability Maintenance for Kellogg Co.