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STEEPED IN TRADITION, EXPANDING WITH TECHNOLOGY

Spidex software being usedMajor investment in new plant will practically double output at the Simpson With established long-term contracts to fulfil, Simpson’s Malt is gearing up for the increase in demand for malt production. Two new 350-tonne Germinating and Kilning Vessels (GKVs) are being constructed, with another two to follow next year together with new barley handling equipment and effluent plant. When the new equipment is commissioned,Berwick-upon-Tweed will be the largest privately-owned maltings in Europe, with an annual output close to 250,000 tonnes of white and green malt.At the heart of all this technology, however, is a cereal crop and the associated vagaries of weather – a poor barley harvest in any of the large crop-growing nations can have a knock-on effect that ripples right around the globe.

Chief Engineer Pat Richards explains; “It’s not just bad harvests that affect the market – unusually good harvests affect supply and demand as well. The malting industry is a global one and we are affected by what happens elsewhere, even though we predominantly supply the UK. If you then factor into those peaks and troughs the emergence of new markets (increased demand for malt whisky in China, for example) there can be a lot of variables to contend with.”“We need to mitigate against that by ensuring that we are as efficient as we can possibly be. When conditions get tough it’s the inefficient plants that will go under.” As Chief Engineer, Richards is ensuring that his maintenance department plays a pivotal role in the drive for increased efficiency.“When I joined the business five years ago I introduced manual systems that moved us to a more preventative and predictive maintenance regime. The next stage was to give our engineers the means to update and review maintenance information electronically.”

“Of all the options available to us, Mainsaver suited our requirements best and the implementation plan proposed by Spidex was delivered fully in line with our own productivity objectives.” Mainsaver went live at Simpson’s Malt in June 2007, and the benefits were already starting to appear not long afterwards.The company deployed Mainsaver’s Shop Floor module on terminals throughout the giant site so that the engineers could log on and off within a reasonable distance of where they were working.

“Once we started to get daily intelligence into Mainsaver,we could see very clearly where we were spending our time. One small production area in which we knew we had regular problems actually turned out to be responsible for 30% of our work. The difference now is that we know the extent of the problem and can address it in an informed way.”“Similarly, we gained a wealth of new detail on the small tasks that every maintenance department has to do. I can tell you very accurately how long it will take three of my engineers to build a conveyor and how much it will cost.What I couldn’t do previously was tell you how much time and expense was going on ten-minute jobs. Now I have that information and we can target preventative maintenance in order to reduce them. “

Another success story brought about by the Mainsaver installation has been a significant move towards best practice in the management of stores.Mainsaver now holds details of all the spares Simpson’s needs for the site, their optimum on-hand quantities and where each is used. The overall value of the stockholding is now known, unnecessary stockholding has been eliminated and there are always critical spares available when required.“The conveyors are operating at full-tilt, all the time.” says Richards. “When you are running continuously, all day every day, it is absolutely vital that the equipment is backed up by the appropriate inventory so that a component that cannot be fixed is immediately replaced.”“If a kiln fan breaks down and we lose a day’s production because we don’t have a replacement part to hand, that equates to around 300 tonnes of white malt. And that day is lost forever - we don’t have spare ones in which we can catch up.”

“Good management of stores is therefore essential, and we’re now achieving that with Mainsaver.”One further encouraging outcome from Mainsaver’s deployment at Simpson’s Malt could be on departmental headcount. It is a common fallacy that maintenance management software is used primarily to identify over-manning and create the case for redundancies. Not in this case.Pat Richards; “Mainsaver shows me how many jobs are still outstanding on the work queue, the number of engineer hours available to do them and the subsequent percentage job completion rate.” “Using this information, I have been able to put together a strong justification for recruiting two additional engineers. It’s just another example of the priceless information that is now available to me.”

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