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Week of 5 March 2024: Maintenance--my favorite month

Email Jim at jim.thompson@ipulpmedia.com

It is my favorite month because maintenance can pay huge dividends. Or maintenance can kill you if you ignore it.

I've told many mill related tales of maintenance in this column over the years. For some reason, when I started to think about maintenance for this year's column series, I went back to my youth and some maintenance disasters that took place when I was a teenager at home.

The first one involves our old '56 Chevy. My dad, my brother and I had gone to an evening cattle auction in a nearby town. When it was over, it was dark. We got into the car. It started fine, but when dad turned on the headlights--nothing. We had to call mother to come and get us.

Overnight, dad apparently thought about the light issue and when we went to get the car the next morning, he checked the high beams. They were just fine. He had been driving around with one low beam burned out, and when the second one burned out, the immediate assumption was that we had no lights.

How many problems in the mill have you seen that were caused by such neglect and the subsequent analysis was so flawed? I suspect the answer is many.

Another one. It was springtime. I was in the 8th grade and taken out of school for a week to plow. We had all our old tractors going. I was driving at 1939 John Deere Model A. In fact, we had two of these. Late one afternoon, I noticed it was getting hot, but I ignored the problem. It was near supper time, and I wanted to get to the house, about a 15-minute drive from the field I was in. I drove the tractor into the barnyard and stopped it. It never started again. Perhaps if I had left it running and slowly added water to the radiator, I could have cooled the engine without damaging it. As it was, the pistons were frozen. Pure neglect.

Signs of a problem, ignored. Ever heard of this happening in a mill? Of course.

Now, I will say this. Over my career, maintenance in our pulp and paper mills has gotten better. We have largely gone from breakdown maintenance to preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance. Now, the most advanced are using sophisticated instruments to diagnose and identify problems well be for they happen.

That's on the mechanical side.

My opinion is those responsible for the software side are less sophisticated at predictive maintenance of their assets. They still seem to be in the preventive maintenance mode and still have lots of "bumps in the night." And this is without talking about cybersecurity--a entirely different animal.

Be safe and we will talk next week.

March Maintenance Platinum Sponsor: RMR Mechanical - We perform as planned! 770-205-9646

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