Life may be, according to Forrest Gump, like a box of chocolates, but reliability is more akin to a bag of Doritos. Or, is it Cheetos? Ruffles, perhaps. Tostitos? Either way, once you get started, it's hard to put it down.

That's the tale of Frito-Lay and its snack food facility in Fayetteville, Tenn.

After decades of decent yet suboptimized plant maintenance performance, Frito-Lay made concerted efforts to address asset care - including preventive maintenance activities and machinery lubrication - beginning in 2002. With corporate guidance and plant-level leadership, the push to improve reliability has unleashed capacity, productivity and innovation in this high-demand, cost-cognizant industry.

"When plants run really well in terms of downtime, it rains money on the production side," states Mike McKenzie, the company's national reliability manager.

Crunchy, cheesy, salty money.

Are you ready to tear open a bag? Read this case study and savor the flavor of what proactive maintenance policies - including effective lubrication - can do for you.

It Ain't Easy Being Cheesy
As stated in the opening, the snack food business is rough on machinery. Potato chips, corn chips and the like are not seasonal products. In good times and in bad, people like their snacks. High product demand only increases during the summer, around Christmas and New Year, for Fourth of July - most any time families and friends come together to eat. When machines need to churn out the chips, it's hard to find time to perform strategic maintenance work. Add to that an environment where dust from flavorings continually wafts and lands on machinery and rotating components. Plus, it's an industry where all costs are under the microscope (plants produce 99-cent and $3 bags of chips, not million-dollar jet engines). These and other factors have long been challenges for Frito-Lay facilities. The difference between pre-2002 and today is the actions that result from the challenges.

In the past, maintenance was resigned to its fate as a firefighting, Band-Aid brigade.

Why put the time and effort into writing effective preventive maintenance (PM) tasks or scheduling PM tasks if production isn't going to give you the time to perform them and if the workday is going to be consumed by a never-ending supply of emergency/help calls? "Honestly, maintenance in many of our plants was done after the equipment had failed," says McKenzie.

Champion Chip
Company: Frito-Lay North America is the $11 billion convenient foods business unit of PepsiCo. In addition to Frito-Lay, PepsiCo business units include Pepsi-Cola, Quaker Foods, Gatorade and Tropicana. Frito-Lay products include well-known brands such as Lays, Ruffles, Doritos, Tostitos, Cheetos, SunChips, Fritos, Funyons, Munchos, Rold Gold and Cracker Jack. The company has 36 production sites in the U.S. and Canada.

Focus site:
Frito-Lay plant in Fayetteville, Tenn. The 330,000-square-foot site employs 500 people, including 35 in maintenance. The plant is non-union and runs 15 shifts per week. It annually produces 100 million pounds of snacks, including Doritos, Lays, Ruffles, Tostitos, Fritos, Baked Cheetos and Munchos. The plant was built by Eagle Snacks (Anheuser-Busch) in 1986 to produce pretzels. Frito-Lay purchased the facility in 1996 and began production in early 1997. It currently houses more than 2,600 assets.

FYI:
Frito-Lay brands account for 59% of the U.S. snack chip industry. ... Eight Frito-Lay plants are members of the EPA’s National Environmental Performance Track Program and 24 hold OSHA Voluntary Protection Program status.

Why put the time and effort into understanding and executing effective greasing and lubricating routines if you only have time (or are only given the time) for a "fill-and-go"? Fallout from overlubrication and grease oozing from zerks become comfy landing pads for the airborne seasonings as well as dust from cardboard containers.

You get these results:

  • Production sees maintenance - with its overtime and its air-freighting of replacement parts - as a cost drag.

  • Maintenance sees its mechanics as heroes, not for their ability to prevent failure but for their ability to fix the most recent one.

  • Plant leaders see downtime not as a key performance indicator but as something that comes with the business.

  • The plant sees a never-ending cycle of unreliability: PMs not completed lead to equipment failures, which lead to emergencies, which lead to PMs not completed, and on and on.

"We had to move from a reactive situation to one that is proactive and predictive, but we weren't sure how to do that at the time," says McKenzie.

Terry Haycraft, a corporate reliability manager, adds that "we didn't understand the impact of reliability or what it could do to change our business."

Plant engineer Richard Cole (left) and business unit leaders Jason Gower and Jennifer Crabtree monitor maintenance performance at the Frito-Lay plant in Fayetteville, Tenn.

No Small Potatoes
When the chips are down, that forces some to break the cycle and say "enough is enough." Such was the case with Frito-Lay.

Change started in 2002 with the establishment of a corporate reliability group led by McKenzie that would alter the way that plants and the company viewed maintenance and maintenance tasks.

Group members asserted that best practices were out there, hidden in Frito-Lay's 36 plants in the United States and Canada and throughout industry at large.

Group members asserted that downtime and underperforming equipment were not "part of doing business" but instead the result of misunderstanding, skewed priorities and a lack of processes.

Group members asserted that this would be a difference-maker, if done right and done now.

"We are working on a gazillion things. There is always something to do at Frito-Lay. We're all busy trying to meet goals and targets," says McKenzie. "But, what touches all of those? If there is one thing you could work on to impact all of those performance metrics - quality, safety, service, cost, output - what would it be? The only thing that does that is reliability. It touches everything that we do in some form or fashion. We started talking about reliability as 'the great enabler.'"

The group's advice to maintenance and production workers, salary and hourly, was simple and direct.

"Take action now. Fix it forever. Leave no stone unturned," says McKenzie.

The Seven Laws of A.R.M.

Frito-Lay defines the Seven Laws of its Asset Reliability Model (A.R.M.) as:
  1. One hundred percent of the work completed by a mechanic or operator to repair equipment failure or maintain equipment is documented via the work order process.

  2. A skilled maintenance planner develops a detailed plan to ensure all the right parts are pre-kitted, and skilled mechanics are identified to complete the work.

  3. A master preventive maintenance schedule, built using national PM routines and cycle count/run hours, is documented and followed for every piece of equipment in the facility.

  4. Preventive maintenance is an integral part of the master production schedule, and mechanics are scheduled 100 percent of the time to ensure 90 percent static PM execution.

  5. All parts are logged out of the parts room out to specific pieces of equipment, and all identified spares are at 99 percent accuracy for required stock levels.

  6. Mechanics are properly trained and certified in the critical skills needed to maintain, troubleshoot and fix plant equipment. Operators are trained on their role to support A.R.M. processes.

  7. The site has a flight plan to address the top five equipment issues and and the top five structural downtime issues for every processing line in the plant

Crunch Time
Displaying the cross-functional nature of the maintenance issue and the maintenance solution, the reliability team brought Frito-Lay associates from all levels and backgrounds to a Texas hotel in January 2003. They spent two weeks of long days and long nights hammering out a plant maintenance business process which would serve as the path forward and allow a cycle of increasing benefits: Effective planning leads to PMs that are completed, which lead to reliable equipment, which leads to effective planning, and on and on. They created the Asset Reliability Model.

Based on an assemblage of best practices and a new vision that proactive maintenance had a tangible, bottom-line impact, A.R.M. evolved into a nearly 300-page manual, which detailed chapters on: work order management, maintenance planning, maintenance scheduling, preventive and predictive maintenance, parts management, project management, training, and performance measurements. Chapters outlined definitions of terminology; specific activities required; workflow charts; potential obstacles and solutions; roles, responsibilities and accountabilities; and scorecard metrics.

Frito-Lay rolled out A.R.M. in 2004. Every employee at every site received extensive training. Maintenance employees (40 hours) received the most. Members of the corporate reliability group hit the road, spending an additional 20 hours at each plant customizing the program to fit the site. It took three teams two years to cover all of the facilities throughout North America.

After a while, the program was distilled from a 300-page master document down to the Seven Laws of A.R.M. (see sidebar), making it manageable, memorable and usable for individuals on a daily basis.

The remainder of this article will focus on three laws - around scheduling (Law 3), preventive maintenance (Law 4) and training (Law 6) - that tie in nicely with effective machinery lubrication and, specifically, with Frito-Lay's implementation of autonomous maintenance at plants such as Fayetteville, which annually produces more than 100 million pounds of Doritos, Cheetos, Tostitos, Fritos, Munchos, and Lays and Ruffles potato chips.

The Fayetteville plant converts potatoes and corn into some of America's best-known snack foods.

Chips Off the Block
As described earlier, maintenance had difficulties following its schedules because production dominated the relationship, product orders trumped maintenance windows, emergencies were prevalent, and operators sought quick service for machine adjustments and other less-critical issues.

A.R.M. Law 3 rectifies that to a great extent through the creation of a master PM schedule (developed with extensive maintenance and production input) that is documented and followed for every piece of equipment in a facility.

Fulfilling today's product orders remains tantamount, but the value of maintenance to ensure fulfillment of tomorrow's orders (and the next day's, etc.) is much clearer.

"We work with production to prioritize all that needs to get done," says Mike Thomas, a process maintenance resource at the Fayetteville site.

"We have to maintain a balance," adds packaging maintenance resource Julie Murdock. "If we haven't had the downtime windows that we need, we may have to explain why the PM takes priority."

Preventive maintenance is an integral part of the master production schedule (Law 4).

Terry Haycraft is a reliability manager based out of Frito-Lay's corporate offices in Plano, Texas.

Nacho Old Way of Lubing
Done well, PMs maximize the performance, output and life of equipment. Done poorly, the benefits are not as apparent; the results can even be quite detrimental.

Richard Cole, plant engineer at Fayetteville, admits that "our PMs were not world class." In fact, many were too basic to be of use, such as "Go PM a bagmaker." "Good" PM documents were two pages long. That's what happens when PMs are seen as the last priority. Those factors led to "pencil-whipped" PMs where necessary work may or may not have been completed.

Jason Gower, a mechanic who now holds the role of business unit leader for facilities, warehouse and capital projects at Fayetteville, spent several weeks with McKenzie putting together PM templates covering virtually every piece of packing equipment. Input came from sessions with mechanics, operators and vendors. Since Frito-Lay plants utilize similar machines, the templates were applicable throughout the company. Two-page "check the box" PM documents became highly detailed 70-page documents.

"Do they take the 70-page document now every time that they do that PM? No. But they did the first several times and gained a better understanding of what needed to be done, the best way to do it, and why," says Gower. "The learnings that were gained were unbelievable."

The packing machine sessions and additional ones at the corporate and plant level reviewed topics such as PM-related lubrication. Standardization and greater clarity of correct lubrication practices directly affects the performance and life of components such as bearings and gearboxes.

At plants such as Fayetteville, mechanics handle the vast majority of lubrication tasks; operators address some tasks on specific processing machines.

"The maintenance folks had always been taught that you stick the fitting in and grease it until it oozes out - 'that's how dad taught me, and that's how I do it.' We harmed or ruined more than our share of bearings from overlubrication," says Tyler Griffin, who manages compliance, autonomous maintenance and Continuous Improvement at the plant. "We also weren't consistent on our lubrication tools. For the same application, one mechanic would use a hand-pump grease gun, another would use an air-actuated model and another would use a fully automated model."

Training and information resources provided a better understanding of proper and improper lubrication procedures. Lubrication PMs were shifted from calendar based (another big source of overlubrication) to cycle count based. Also, plants better understood what was needed and not needed.

"We plugged 60 percent of the lube points on some equipment because we didn't need it," says McKenzie. "We don't have the high-speed rotation in many cases, and the bearings don't rotate a full 360 degrees. We had previously been filling those things full of lubricant every shift."

Adds Griffin, "After we performed a battery of tests, we removed 70 out of the 150 lube points on a high-speed case packing unit. In those areas, the seal is going to bust or the bearing is going to go bad way before there is going to be a lubrication problem."

An additional benefit to lubrication PMs came through the creation and posting of phenolic labels. These two-tone, color-coded plastic squares, etched with an alphanumeric code, adhere to machines and denote lube points. Cross-reference the code to the PM document to verify location and work instructions (the right grease in the right quantity at the right interval).

Mechanic Joe Wolfe examines a schematic before performing maintenance activities on a packaging machine.

Dip Into Training
Law 4 as well as Law 6 (training) came into play with the implementation of autonomous maintenance (AM).

Is AM about operators performing lubrication and maintenance tasks? Yes and no.

Is AM similar to Total Productive Maintenance? Yes and no.

Frito-Lay categorizes it as a four-step, team-based approach to return like-new appearance and performance to machinery. It takes the Continuous Improvement mentality that Frito-Lay has fostered for 15 years and injects it with technical training and cross-functional asset care. For a given machine or line, an AM team is assembled, consisting of a team leader, operators, a mechanic and a sanitation crew member. Step 1 is an initial cleaning. Step 2 is eliminating contamination and hard-to-reach areas. Step 3 is instituting the principles of Cleaning, Inspecting and Lubricating. (What do you know? Proper cleaning and lubrication keeps that airborne seasoning dust from caking and becoming an issue). Step 3.5 is maintaining the improvements. Step 4 is providing additional technical aspects of asset care.

"Quaker-Tropicana-Gatorade (a sister company to Frito-Lay within the PepsiCo family) is doing TPM," says Haycraft. "TPM has been its business umbrella for many, many years. Our business umbrella isn't TPM; it's centered around the Continuous Improvement process. Integration work has been done to get TPM and CI to compliment one another. We didn't want to revamp all that we had built, so we took a few components that we didn't have, one of those being autonomous maintenance."

Prior to AM, operators were taught how to run their equipment. Through AM, they are also taught how the equipment works from a technical standpoint. This increases knowledge and skills, turns them into "human condition-monitoring sensors", and decreases troubleshooting time for mechanics.

"We have more people now that can identify defects," says Griffin. "Operators knew how to run the machine, but now they know all of the different faults. They know what causes that fault. They can troubleshoot, go back and say, 'If this fault happens, it must be this.' He or she can make a judgment - and perhaps the needed adjustment - without relying on maintenance to do that."

Adds McKenzie, "When an operator calls a mechanic out, he can say exactly what it's doing, how it's supposed to perform and what needs to be fixed. Troubleshooting that may take 45 minutes goes away. 'It's that photo eye that's not picking up that flag.' It's a big difference."

Grease is neatly stored and managed in the parts room.

Training isn't confined to operators. Teams take the lessons they have learned and share those with others, including maintenance leaders and mechanics. One AM team came to a consensus on proper greasing tasks, cycles, quantities and methods of application for a high-speed packaging automation line. The team helped to rewrite the PMs and trained maintenance members on how to perform the tasks.

An example of phenolic labeling.

Training will eventually come full circle. While mechanics do just about all lubrication tasks in the packaging area, the eventual goal is to shift most of those to operators. Handoff will occur after all packaging equipment and personnel have completed the AM process.

"When you talk about gearbox lubrication, that's a mechanic's world," says Haycraft. "Bearing lubrication and similar tasks ... operators can do that."

The ultimate goal is to free up mechanics to do more proactive work.

"If the operators understand what lubrication points need to be taken care of, and we've taken the time to educate and train them, you hand it over," says McKenzie. "You really want your mechanics working on equipment upgrades, getting more out of what you have, equipment hardening, examining the higher-level elements of machinery lubrication and asset care. You want them doing bigger things than manning a grease gun."

Mechanics Wayne Harris (left) and Bruce Moorehead read over some PM instructions in the production area.

Proactive methods decrease downtime, failures and emergencies. Frito-Lay has noted a 58 percent decline in equipment downtime and a 44 percent drop in overall downtime company-wide since 2002. Equipment-related downtime at the Fayetteville plant is a minuscule 0.7 percent. As a result, maintenance can push professional development and innovation.

Mechanics now have the ability to attend one- and two-week classes at training sites in Plano, Texas, and Charlotte, N.C.

And, they can compete in the company's annual innovation contest. Over the past few years, mechanics have submitted projects that have increased productivity, reduced energy consumption and environmental impact, and saved the company millions of dollars.

Take a Bite Out of Downtime

Frito-Lay maintenance leaders offer the following advice on improving reliability and eliminating downtime:
  1. If you want to eliminate equipment failure, the first thing you must change is your expectations about it. Equipment failure is not a "given". It could and should be zero.

  2. Reset your equipment downtime goal, communicate it broadly within the organization and then hold yourself personally accountable to achieve it.

  3. The downtime number must be readily available to every person in the site.

  4. Every person on every shift must understand the role that he or she plays in eliminating downtime.

Big Cheese
Downtime figures and innovation projects are just a few of the notable achievements since Frito-Lay and its plants halted the cycle of unreliability and installed a more proactive model. This cycle runs smoother, with a dose of proper lubrication and a path that has been cleared of roadblocks.

"With greater understanding and cooperation, we are making better decisions as a team," says Jennifer Crabtree, a maintenance business unit leader for computerized maintenance management systems and parts room management at the Fayetteville site. "Those decisions are having a huge impact on reliability and on the business."

It is raining money ... and corn and potato treats.

"From a capacity standpoint, we have unleashed a facility the size of Fayetteville in the last five years," says McKenzie. "We've unleashed 100 million pounds of capacity. The numbers are huge. We are making more pounds that we ever have."

Tyler Griffin is the compliance manager at the Fayetteville site, as well as its manager of autonomous maintenance and Continuous Improvement.

By unlocking the potential of existing facilities, the company has not had to purchase capacity in the form of new plants or new lines. In many cases, it has eliminated the need for overflow equipment to create buffer inventory and for overflow labor to staff that equipment.

"I think the majority of our plants, and the majority of our leaders in our plants - and certainly at the regional vice president and division vice president level - really see everything that we have done and continue to do as a means to maximize productivity and growth," says Cole.

Reliability may just be like a bag of Frito-Lay snacks. Rip it open. Get a taste of what's inside. Once you get started, you'll find it's hard to put back down.