BRUSSELS, May 1, 2014 (PPI Magazine) - Over the past couple of years Metso has set up a maintenance business line that is separate from capital product sales and supply. The company has shifted into a decidedly different maintenance business model nowadays. John Cullen, vice president of services portfolio management for the Services Business Line, explains the factors that differentiate the offering.
PPI: What are pulp and paper producers expecting today from automation asset maintenance and how does Metso answer these needs?
John Cullen: Today's pulp and paper producers expect Metso to help them to optimize the maintenance of their automation assets. They have in mind a target system availability and want to lower operations and maintenance costs while still hitting those uptime targets. We offer three solution areas that can help: Customer Care, Intelligent Maintenance and Lifecycle Management. Customer Care is about providing expert support when process control issues occur so that customers do not have to keep expertise on site. Lifecycle Management is about building with the customer a long term investment program to reduce maintenance costs associated with older equipment, increase availability and improve process efficiency.
Please explain the term "Intelligent Maintenance."
The intelligent maintenance concept is about focusing attention to the areas where it is actually needed. For wearing parts such as valves, sensors and motors, it's about understanding their condition and basing maintenance and repair on actual wear and not time. Maintenance is thus scheduled only when needed. For control systems, it's about monitoring the process and system to detect the early signs of operational or process issues that could be caused by anything from incorrect settings to a circuit board starting to fail. This allows maintenance to be scheduled before there is a significant impact on production. In one case one of our engineers was monitoring a piece of equipment at a customer's site. He detected that production had deviated from the expected value and he recommended that a parameter setting needed changing. The change was made and production efficiency improved by 5% for that piece of equipment. The customer did not even realize they had an issue until we told them.
Intelligent maintenance of wearing parts is exemplified by the maintenance of valves. In a typical mill shutdown, we avoid having to remove around 60-70% valves by analyzing valve condition in advance. That results in significant cost reductions. Then when we repair an item we make sure it is repaired according to the original manufacturer's guidelines so that the repaired item can function as new and have a long operational life.
Aside from maintaining uptime, what are the valued-added components in your maintenance offering?
I see the biggest value added component from our service team is their process knowledge. Quite often our engineers are asked to change a particular item that is repeatedly failing. Instead of just taking the spare parts order, we look to understand the process root cause and propose solutions. We fix the cause not the symptom. For example, one customer in Chile asked a colleague to replace a sensor. The colleague pointed out that there was a bigger problem with the process that needed to be fixed first. After optimization by Metso, the customer now saves many thousands of Euros a year in costs.
Has Metso made organizational changes to address the new maintenance philosophy?
The first key transition occurred in 2012 when Metso set up an independent service unit within our automation division tasked to develop and grow the services business. Our goal is to work with our customers to improve production and maintenance efficiency irrespective of whose equipment they have. In today's competitive market, our customers have to get what is in place working better and frequently do not have the luxury of buying new, more efficient equipment. This leads to our second change in 2013 which was to create inside services a new service line focused to providing performance solutions and to build up this organization with the acquisition of ExperTune. (ExperTune provides control diagnostic and optimization products and services.) The beauty of ExperTune's PlantTriage product is that it allows us to identify production issues and their economic impact in both control elements (valves, pumps, sensors) and control systems (parameters, system loading). Not only can we provide products covering everything from valves to QCS to DCS but services to optimize maintenance and production for the whole system.
Several mills have outsourced all their maintenance needs, including automation, to a single supplier. What is Metso's approach?
Mills outsource to a single supplier to improve maintenance efficiency. It works well if you have multiple pieces of equipment each serviced by a separate company. In this case, one company should be able to more efficiently schedule maintenance and get higher productivity. So we do see a case for a single maintenance service supplier for automation and actually have agreements for this with a number of customers. We feel there is less value when the contract brings together all areas of maintenance. You have to ask yourself if the company that is best at maintaining millions of Euros of equipment is also the best company to keep your toilets clean and operational. Our view is that it is not. This seems to be supported by the market where we have seen some mills that have implemented a single supplier for all maintenance now move towards single supplier agreements in specific areas. As such, our focus will be on providing automation system managed service solutions.
QCS maintenance is done by some customers nowadays but some prefer in-mill residents. Where do you see QCS maintenance heading?
Some mills have taken out in-mill residents with basic maintenance being done by the mill team and more advanced maintenance by Metso on a periodic basis. This has been made possible as Metso has designed its QCS product to be more reliable and to simplify basic maintenance by the mill's own maintenance team. All of this reduces the time required for maintenance and the efficiency of resident engineers if they are maintaining a single QCS.
Other mills have decided to take another approach whereby they keep a resident but extend the tasks that they do. In most cases this means taking responsibility firstly of the maintenance of other suppliers' QCS and in many cases also analyzer maintenance. This improves maintenance efficiency and cost effectiveness. Metso has a number of residents offering this enhanced scope and we see this as a trend that will continue.
I see the next stage of cost optimization in mills as optimizing maintenance and production efficiency - not just for the QCS but for every step of production. Tools and remote diagnosis will have a key role in this but I also see a new role for residents - acting as the local link to implement these more advanced services.
What is the role of remote diagnosis and maintenance help?
Remote connectivity is core to improving maintenance efficiency and effectiveness. It allows our service team to quickly bring in global expertise no matter what time or day to help to effectively resolve unexpected process and equipment issues. In many cases this can be done without time consuming site visits that can delay a return to production. Intelligent maintenance is supported by remote connectivity that helps Metso diagnose issues before they impact production. A solution is offered before there is even a need to call us.
Total cost of ownership or lifecycle cost of automation infrastructure can be a factor in purchasing decisions nowadays. What is Metso's approach?
Our approach is to help our customers not only minimize the total cost of ownership but also to help them maximize production efficiency over the lifecycle. Our approach starts with the products that have high reliability when properly maintained and offer best in class production efficiency for their price point. We then apply the intelligent maintenance concept to maximize product life and production efficiency while lowering maintenance costs. Finally, we offer our performance solutions to help optimize production efficiency - to get the target production yield with the minimum raw material and energy costs.
Automation systems sometimes need upgrading to avoid obsolescence. How is that lifecycle extension made cost effective and easier to budget?
There are a number of ways that Metso makes lifecycle extensions more cost effective and easier to budget. Firstly, we work with our customers to produce lifecycle plans to identify when upgrades and replacements will be required. Customers like this as they can use this for long term budget planning to reduce or eliminate investment spikes that could impact cash flow. Secondly, for automation system software, we provide a Perfect Life solution. For a monthly fee the lifecycle plan will be implemented over the life of the agreement. This means simpler budgeting as there are no investment spikes. Our intention is to expand this concept also to hardware in the near future. Finally, sometimes our customers need to make savings to be able to afford to invest. Here Metso can help with it performance solutions. Many of the process optimization packages we offer have payback in less than nine months and can help to permanently reduce costs. The savings can then be used in subsequent years to help fund an investment program.
Condition monitoring and advanced process control are now in Metso's maintenance portfolio. Please explain the reasoning.
In a very competitive market our customers want to know how they can improve their production and maintenance efficiency. These areas are instrumental in Metso being able to help our customers deliver against these goals.
We have added condition analysis and monitoring as it is a key component of an intelligent maintenance solution. Understanding the condition and performance of equipment coupled with other operational data is vital to cost effective maintenance.
We have added process optimization (advanced process controls) and control performance (controls optimization) as we believe that customers can extract more value from their investments by optimizing their processes and their controls. In a recent case, we were able to deliver well over a million Euros of annual savings to one customer site.
What new maintenance services and products have been introduced lately? Are more coming and can you tell us what they are aimed at?
The most significant introduction to our portfolio in the last year has been the introduction of our Metso ExperTune PlantTriage product and our Control Performance solution built around it. Put simply, this product and associated service examines a production system and identifies the underperforming controls based on economic impact, isolates the root cause and proposes the solution. Root causes that can compromise plant efficiency may be anything from process design issues, valve under or oversizing, faulty equipment to incorrect parameter settings. Just getting the controls working correctly can release hundreds of thousands of Euros of savings even before optimizing at the process level.
Mark Williamson is a journalist/engineer based in Thornhill, ON, Canada.
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