Maintenance Improvement Project at DMS Powders

Over the last four years M-Tech Consulting Engineers (Pty) Ltd performed a maintenance improvement project at DMS Powders in Meyerton with exceptional results.

A quote from DMS in relation to the project: “Based (on this project’s results) we sincerely recommend M-Tech to any prospective company that wants to improve their asset management / maintenance situation. They are a highly professional team, who go to the utmost to effect relevant transformation in the business”.

A quote from an external auditor associated with the South African Asset Management Association after the latest audit under the heading Discussion of the audit findings: “The fact that DMS Powders is approaching full ISO 55001 compliance across-the-board is interesting, and a rare occurrence. This can only be achieved when a comprehensive and sound systems road-map is used to guide the development process, senior management is in full support of the process, and good buy-in from all staff has been obtained."

M-Tech employed a three phase process, executed as follows:

Phase 1 - Basic improvement - Mid 2011 to end 2012.
Phase 2 - Intermediate improvement - January 2013 to mid-2014.
Phase 3 - Advanced improvement - started January 2015, completion mid-2016.

Each of these phases was preceded by an audit to establish progress during the previous phase as well as identifying specific issues which should be addressed in the present phase. Such information was in each case augmented by a SWOT Analysis. The objective of the SWOT Analysis was to have DMS personnel evaluate the organisation, taking stock of improvements reached since the previous phase, and determining which additional concerns need to be addressed during the next phase.

The following critical asset management facets were progressively developed during the three phases:

  1. A complete physical asset management strategy was developed over the three phases, starting with a rudimentary strategy in phase one, and an eighty per cent strategy in phase two, which was finalised during phase three. This strategy was augmented by detailed management procedures to ensure that the strategic intentions are reached in a well thought out and planned way.
  2. A critical part of the Maintenance Improvement Project was to improve the business culture in the Maintenance Department. This was a particular problem area when the project started - DMS Powders outsourced maintenance over a number of years, which led to a very poor culture in the department, between the department and upper management, and between the department and other departments. At the start of the project the culture was such that good results were not sustainable at all.
    • The approach to improving the culture was based on M-Tech’s “top to bottom team-forming” small group techniques. These techniques work with groups of personnel forming a cross-cut through the organisation (typically an engineer, supervisors, planners, and artisans) to ensure improving the quality of top to bottom and bottom to top interaction in the department. The main purpose of the cultural change was to get a unity of outlook in the department. In this process the department culture was developed towards a culture of taking individual responsibility for the ailments of the department in phase one, a culture of problem solving in phase two and a Reliability Culture in phase three.
    • One of the outcomes of the small group activity was the development of the first level requirements for the strategy. This was then developed further by M-Tech and refined by the DMS maintenance management team.
  3. As mentioned above, the strategy was supplemented by approximately twenty management procedures, which were developed in conjunction with the DMS maintenance management team. These include important topics such as Work-order Flow, Shutdown Management, Condition Based Maintenance, Root Cause Analysis, Maintenance Plan Development (RCM), Continuous Improvement, Configuration Control, Documentation Control, Skills Matrix (training), etc.
  4. Job Profiles were also developed for all the important positions in the maintenance department in conjunction with the Maintenance Management Team. Profiles were developed for engineers, supervisors, and the different classes of artisans (a total of 10 job profiles).
  5. A Maintenance Plan for the organisation was also developed. This was done in a phased manner, using RCM (Reliability Centred Maintenance) to determine which preventive tasks should be incorporated into such a plan.
  6. During the first phase a total Hardware Breakdown Structure of the business was developed and prioritised in order to determine the “maintenance significant” items (MSIs). In phase two all these MSIs were subjected to a full FMEA/FMECA analysis to determine the critical failure modes that need to be addressed. In phase three these critical failure modes were subjected to RCM analysis and Maintenance Task analysis (MTA) to determine the constituent tasks / task content to be included in the Maintenance Plan. Condition Based Maintenance assessment / recommendations was performed by a well-known South African condition monitoring expert.
  7. A very important component of the development of the organisation concerns the managerial focus employed in the management of maintenance. The first phase of the project aimed to develop the organisation towards Basic Care, with a focus on the MSIs. Phase two developed the organisation towards a Condition Based Focus with respect to the critical failure modes of the business. This was followed by a move to Pro-activeness in phase three.
  8. To top it a first-class Management Focus was developed, starting with a people focus through leadership in phase one, improved management processes in phase two, and full management excellence in phase three.
  9. At the same time a considerable number of DMS personnel have been trained by M-Tech’s Terotechnica Maintenance College in Pretoria. The training focused on various aspects of the discipline and in so doing it prepared them for their relevant contributions to the business. One of the DMS engineers is also busy with his Diploma in Maintenance Management through the Terotechnica Maintenance College and they are contemplating sending other engineers to do the same.

A very important reason for the success achieved was the continued support of the plant’s upper management. Without this, the project would most probably have been stopped after one or two phases. This support included a request for the inclusion of cross-department training as part of the total approach. Such training included training the personnel of the Production Department in Root Cause Analysis, together with the Maintenance personnel. This approach promoted a new set of values, especially in the area of Equipment Care, and seeking a Reliability Culture (instead of the historical Breakdown Management Culture).

The above led to a very distinct improvement in the performance of the department (improving from 31% of World Class before the project started to 48% at the end of the first phase, 61% at the end of the second phase, and a 75% being achieved at the end of phase three.

Results experienced by DMS Powders included a reduction in production resource consumption (a Masters Student at the University of Pretoria used DMS Powder’s actual data to prove a pronounced reduction in raw material usage, including power usage, water usage, and production time inputs as the maintenance situation improved). This was submitted for his Master’s Thesis and corroborated by two leading overseas Asset Management academics.

Further to this, DMS Powders experienced an increase in income of 16% over this period (adjusted for the Production Price Index, based on 2011 = 100%). This can naturally not all be attributed to this project, but the project was a major factor. Added to this the maintenance cost reduced significantly over the period, while plant output increased significantly.

Also see the article published in Vector of November/December 2016.