When the largest independent producer of high-quality metallurgical coke in the Americas first called on MaxGrip for support, the scope was relatively modest. Good results extended the project to include the adoption of strEAM+ and Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) as the company’s global standard.
Internationally recognised as a leading provider of coke production technology, the company produces some of the highest coke quality in the market. Coke is an essential ingredient in blast furnace steel production. It acts as a fuel, provides structural support, and allows oxygen to reduce iron. The company produces 6.3 million tons of coke every year, with international operations in Brazil and India. The 4.2 million tons of U.S. capacity represents about 25 percent of the U.S. and Canadian markets.
Besides sophisticated coke production facilities, the company operates a coal logistics business with domestic and export terminals. As the only company that built new plants in the U.S. in the past 25 years, it uses leading technology to reduce emissions and convert waste heat into steam and electrical power. The company is determined to operate efficiently and responsibly, and focuses on continuous improvement in productivity, safety performance and environmental compliance.
The initial project comprised a Failure Mode, Effects and Criticality Analysis (FMECA) on several conveyors that were bad actors. Regular failures caused production disruptions that lead to 10’s of millions a year in lost revenue and cost the company millions per year in maintenance, parts, and service. By identifying what should be maintained, modified or upgraded. MaxGrip was able to improve the conveyors’ performance to the point where unplanned downtime was reduced by 98 percent and maintenance costs by more than 40 percent.
Reassured by the pilot results, the company asked MaxGrip to broaden the scope to all US operations. The main project goals became reducing the costs for corrective maintenance and repairs, reducing downtime of critical equipment, and standardising preventive maintenance. The decrease in coke prices worldwide is driving down margins. Further improvements in reliability will reduce the corrective costs for unplanned downtime, spare parts, and man hours.
‘The big challenge was to make an effective transition from reactive to proactive maintenance’, says Hans Franck, Senior Maintenance and IT consultant at MaxGrip. ‘The customers’ coke plants with very similar equipment had completely different maintenance strategies. We were asked to help derive the best practices, aiming to standardise and develop a global approach to preventive maintenance.’
The initial FMECA served to justify expenditure on the bad actor conveyors. RCM analysis was the next step towards preventive maintenance. It provides objective justification for improvements, as it demonstrates the case for change in terms of costs and risks. ‘RCM is a powerful reliability tool that applies a structured decision making process to identify critical assets, failure modes, and mitigation actions. The output of this process is a complete maintenance strategy that sustains reliability.’
The software was implemented in a week, but RCM was implemented gradually to allow time for the culture change. MaxGrip strEAM+ for Maximo was an add on to the organisation’s EAM System to structure the planning and engineering process. The software solution utilises reliability data to determine the optimal preventive maintenance strategy and insight in the execution of the strategy. Best practices defined for each coke production site by using the RCM process were added to the failure and maintenance library in strEAM+.
Improving maintenance and performance standards has a direct impact on production and maintenance costs. The new processes and software were put to good use immediately and quickly gained company-wide recognition as a method to justify expenses (Opex and Capex)
A team was dedicated to using strEAM+ and RCM for a full engineering review of a new piece of equipment that needed modifications to meet company standards. MaxGrip provided experienced resources to get the project returning value in the shortest time possible.
The pilot project demonstrated the capability of our embedded RCM analytics in Maximo. It resulted not only in major cost reductions and higher productivity, but also in millions of dollars of additional revenue. ‘Besides these great financial results, major developments included a good understanding of the power of RCM and strEAM+ for Maximo’, Hans Franck concludes. ‘That was the driver for the additional project to analyse other bottlenecks and for the eventual rollout of strEAM+ for Maximo. We helped company personnel to overcome hurdles and bridge gaps wherever necessary to also ensure great long-term results.’