AKWIRE for Maximo User Group

A Planning and Scheduling Journey from Copy-Paste to State-of-Art CMMS Solution

by Mariah Patterson on August 18, 2016

Sometimes facing the smallest challenges can snowball into the largest opportunities. In business, we learn to adapt to changes, and hopefully learn to anticipate what might be needed down the road so we can be prepared for the inevitable.

Spencer Ford, current Senior Planner and Scheduler for Hinton Pulp, knows these things all too well.

Building planning and scheduling processes to save on exorbitant helicopter rides

As his career began, he started out as an equipment technician for mobile equipment. The job was located in a remote company town on the west coast of British Columbia, accessible at the time only via boat or helicopter.

In order to keep ahead of equipment needs, Spencer learned quickly to foresee what would be needed, and to keep those items in stock. After all, he explained, a spark plug may be a small ticket item, but if it’s needed and not available, the downtime of the equipment could mean a significant expense.

“You couldn’t just run down to the corner store and get something,” he says. “Planning and scheduling came to the forefront of my career very, very quickly.”

The boat only arrived in town twice weekly and the barge only once every two weeks. The helicopter was more readily available, but at exorbitant rates.

As the serviceman there, he was the sole planner in the service center. “Literally, any jobs we needed parts for was generally a minimum of a week – often two weeks – away, unless we paid dearly for a helicopter ride.”

Consequently, Spencer and his boss started building processes. They laid out all preventative maintenance programming and equipment servicing on the 87 pieces of mobile equipment for the entire year. Then, they would draw up a document and take it to the dealer, outlining the needs and scheduled maintenance. “What they would do is package up the parts two weeks ahead of time. They would put it on a boat, it would show up and we would put it on the shelf.”

From there, the mechanic could just grab the box he needed and complete the servicing.

If it works, keep going

Although some would consider these inefficient and antiquated standards now, the system ran so seamlessly that they did the same with other pieces of equipment and the equipment dealers, methodically conveying serial numbers of every piece of equipment.

While it was undoubtedly a lot of work to set up the system, the benefit was that when needs would arise down the road, the information was already in place to help speed along the process.

“The nice thing was if we needed anything for these pieces of equipment, we could just give (the part supplier) the unit number. They already had the serial number, they already had all the information they needed. They could just run with it.”

The organization ahead of time was necessary; otherwise, “you’d tear something apart and it’d be sitting there on a hoist for up to two weeks to get parts.”

Zeros to heroes – forging new systems

The elaborate system wasn’t without flaws, though. Because they were part of the company supply chain, Spencer and his team had to source any necessary items from the sister location first. They learned to work around it by asking the supplier to set up a specific OEM part numbers for the maintenance kits they needed.

By doing this, it sped up the process and assured that they would have the specific parts they needed arriving on a more efficient basis.

“We went from zeros to heroes pretty quickly,” he jokes. “The managers hated it at first because we were circumventing their system.” However, once they saw how efficient the new process was, Spencer and his boss were invited to give a presentation on their endeavors.

Although he loved the rugged region, Spencer left the area when the town was dismantled and turned into a fly-in camp. His thought was to be home every night and closer to family, so he opted to move.

“It was paradise lost,” he recalls nostalgically.

He returned to the area where he grew up, and transitioned into the forestry industry. With planning and scheduling in nearly every facet of his career path, Spencer has been working for West Fraser since 2007 and it was here when he finally became acquainted with another way to help streamline efficiencies.


The perfect planning and scheduling solution for the IBM Maximo CMMS

“I’ve been looking for a scheduling program for 25 years,” he says. Up to that point, everything was manually completed on Excel spreadsheets, a process he began using decades before. “I was literally copying and pasting and typing in."

"That would generally take a half a week to get the whole crew laid out and any updates which are inevitable needed to be done manually and then shared with concerned parties. There was just never anything out there for the planning end from a CMMS (computerized maintenance management system)."

“But the big thing was scheduling. Once you had planned work, how do you get it done at the right time at the best cost, the safest, and most productive way?”

He and his boss attended a Canmug conference in Canmore, Alberta to look at a recently-launched Maximo module and it was here that a vendor suggested he speak with a specific vendor ‘down the hall’.

That vendor was Gerry Lamarche, vice president of Solufy. After the two exchanged some questions and possible scenarios, Spencer began to consider he had finally found the ideal planning and scheduling program.

“What really impressed me was that every question I asked, he had an answer for it immediately. I really became intrigued. He was the only one who could talk the same lingo as me. He knew what I was talking about; he knew what I wanted”.

“As we were talking, he’s actually configuring his software not only to answer my questions but to show me the answer.”

Adding value by constantly improving systems

He and Solufy exchanged dialogue for about four months, Spencer said. After that, the company purchased the software. “We’ve been using it for 4 ½ years now.”

And they haven’t looked back in that time, Spencer said. And now, they’re looking forward.

“We’re in the process of upgrading IBM Maximo at five of our local mills (we own many throughout North America) and all five of them will be running Akwire vScheduler.”

One of the key purposes of the upgrade is to have the mills streamline their processes. While each mill has different needs, he explains that by implementing the same procedures, all the locations will be able to utilize the same training modules and other components.

When the upgrades are complete, “we can send staff from site to site or look at each other’s data and it will be the same configuration as ours.”

Spencer’s career has taken him to several different communities, crossing industries and constantly looking to improve processes. The one constant feature is a never-ending drive to improve and streamline systems, improving conditions for every person, every facet of the company.

“I believe if something doesn’t add value, don’t waste the time or effort just for the sake of doing it. You’ve got to do stuff to add value.”

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Mariah Patterson

Mariah Patterson began writing as a child as a way to fill her time when her family moved to an isolated region in Maine. With no close friendships, developing cabin fever from intense snowstorms and only one fuzzy Canadian channel on TV, she created her own world through writing.

She began her

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