Maintenance Reduces Fleet Size

By Larry Stewart, Executive Editor | September 28, 2010


Jim Fuchs, Quarry Maintenance Manager
Jim Fuchs,
Quarry Maintenance Manager

Cold Spring Granite


Headquarters: Cold Spring, Minn.

Specialty: Producing dimensional stone

Equipment Value: $50 million

Fleet Makeup: 200 quarry machines, including drill rigs, cranes, large trucks and loaders

Facilities: Two main repair shops, with maintenance facilities in 18 quarries

Equipment Staff: 55 maintenance people, 21 quarry-equipment mechanics

Market Range: 36 quarries in nine states and Canadian provinces




TPM throughly trains operators to maintain their machines.
Dave Terres (far left), coordinator of Cold Spring's total productive maintenance (TPM) program, and Jim Fuchs walk through a maintenance manual with loader operator Marty Welle. TPM throughly trains operators to maintain their machines.
Marty Welle checks his machine's tires.
Marty Welle checks his machine's tires. By the time the TPM process is complete, the operator will clearly be responsible for all daily maintenance and for alerting the maintenance department when scheduled service is due.

Better TPM = Better Operators

Cold Spring Granite is cross training more operators today to ensure productivity. When a machine's regular operator gets sick or goes on vacation, a replacement can step in quickly and keep stone moving. Maintenance manuals produced during TPM events are important resources.

"When somebody fills in for a regular loader operator," Fuchs says, "it's real easy to go through the book. Takes maybe 15 or 20 minutes to review the maintenance practices, and he's ready to keep that machine productive."

We have these things called shot saws in the plant—big reciprocal saws that cut granite blocks into slabs," says Dave Terres, corporate total-productive-maintenance (TPM) coordinator for Cold Spring Granite, one of the world's largest producers of dimensional granite. "Before we started the TPM effort, we were thinking we needed to buy four or five more of them to improve production—at $1 million each. But we hit them a couple years ago with TPM and instead of buying new ones, now we have a couple that sit idle once in a while."

TPM is primarily about maintenance, but it directly affects productivity. It starts with a weeklong inspection and training event where people crawl all over a machine until they know it inside and out. Problems are fixed. Operators are handed a great deal of responsibility. It sounds simple, but TPM is reshaping the way Cold Spring maintains, operates, and replaces equipment.

"It removes the age-old philosophy that says, 'I run it. You fix it'," says Terres. "Today, keeping equipment productive is a joint effort, and our costs associated with repairs and downtime have fallen significantly."

TPM clearly assigns responsibility for equipment productivity throughout the company. Regular preventive maintenance on quarry equipment is still the job for Jim Fuchs' maintenance department, but TPM expects operators to do daily maintenance.

"We're not asking operators to be mechanics, but they need to be more involved in taking care of equipment," says Fuchs. "The whole company is going through the lean-manufacturing process—trying to drive waste out of the system and reduce costs."

TPM events bring together all the employees of Cold Spring Granite.

"We take a cross section of people from throughout the company, including the machine's operator," Fuchs says. "We will pull an accountant out to work on a front-end loader because we all need to understand how important equipment is to our productivity and profitability."

The team gathers during the TPM event to learn the basics of how to maintain the machine. Then they spend the week examining Cold Spring's current process for ways to improve it.

"We thoroughly clean and inspect the machine," says Fuchs. "We will go in with squirt bottles and rags if we have to in order to get the thing clean enough to do a proper inspection.

"We look for and record any and all abnormalities—everything from problems with the transmission and leaky seals to lights or windshield wipers not working. All the items are repaired. The idea is to bring the machine back to like-new condition."

Major repairs are scheduled for completion within 30 days. They photograph the machine and the maintenance process, and assemble an operator's maintenance manual.

"It deals with everything—identifies every grease zerk, how often each zerk needs grease, which grease to use, how many pumps go into each joint. It tells how to clean the machine—if there are any areas they should not spray with high-pressure water—that sort of thing," Fuchs says.

At the end of the week, operators know exactly what they're expected to do and how to do it. They're also charged with watching the hour meter and notifying the maintenance department when the machine is due for preventive maintenance.

Perhaps the most cost-effective change initiated by TPM has been empowering operators to tell maintenance people when something is wrong with a machine. This is where TPM begins to test the partnership between maintenance and operations.

"One of the big lessons of TPM has been teaching our operations people how important it is that equipment always runs at its full potential," Terres says. "We've all had to learn not to be afraid to shut equipment off.

"For example, a lot of our drills have two hydraulic hammers. If a seal fails on one of the hammers, rather than shut it down to fix the seal, there are supervisors who would keep running with one hammer. Those machines can drill more than 6 feet per minute through solid rock. But with a hammer down, they're working at half speed. They're better off to shut the machine down for half a day and fix the problem. With the machine running properly, they'll get that downtime back in a day."

"We had operators who were afraid to say anything about equipment problems," Terres explains. "Now we're telling them that if they hear or see or feel something that seems wrong, they should bring it to our attention right away.

"When an operator catches something early, we can get replacement parts ordered. He keeps operating until the parts come in, then we stop the machine and fix the problem. The machine goes back to work without all the downtime, and that's really what supervisors want to see."

Cold Spring has almost three years of experience with TPM in their plants, and has been working through quarry equipment for nearly two years. Terres says they can see maintenance costs and downtime falling. The number of major failures is coming down too, although it's early to measure results. More importantly, the company is getting control over replacements.

"Part of the company's philosophy for getting into TPM is that, if we can do a better job utilizing existing equipment, we can eliminate replacing as much equipment or buying new," says Terres. "Until we know that we've gotten everything we can out of a machine, we're not going to go out and buy a new piece."