Ockert Fourie is managing director at Equilibrium Asset Management Solutions (Equilibrium-AMS), located in Pretoria, South Africa. The company specializes in computerized maintenance management system implementation, offering maintenance planning and other business process automation services.
Fourie’s current focus is on helping Equilibrium-AMS clients manage asset maintenance at two coal mines, which generate several billions of dollars per year for South Africa. Previously, he used another CMMS to track the maintenance of up to 700 pieces of machinery—including motors, pumps, conveyors, chutes and more—at each site.
Fourie also wanted to analyze historical data to identify areas where he could reduce costs and increase production. However, the software vendor was unable to provide this data when he asked for it.
“They were in breach of the service-level agreement [SLA] they signed with us, and that led me to go out and seek something else,” he explains.
This, along with the fact that the system was difficult to use, expensive and not cloud-based, led Fourie to search for a new CMMS that would meet all of his needs. This CMMS case study highlights his company’s story.
“Before, there was no control over the maintenance. With Fiix [formerly Maintenance Assist] implemented, we were able to take control in order to conduct proper maintenance planning.”
Ockert Fourie, Managing Director
New Software Adopted for Its Support, User-Friendliness
CMMS software users typically get the most value out of their system through the backlog of historical data these solutions store on assets, which can be used to identify trends and make adjustments. For each machine, this data can include:
- Frequency of repairs performed or needed
- What inventory parts were used, and how many
- The normal operating conditions of machinery, plus conditions during failure
For example, a maintenance manager may notice that a certain conveyor rarely breaks down, which leads them to reduce the frequency of scheduled maintenance for that piece of machinery. This saves labor costs and improves operational efficiency.
According to the SLA Fourie signed when adopting his old system, the vendor was required to offer a backup of historical maintenance data once a year—But the vendor failed to deliver this essential service.
Fourie’s former system was also expensive to implement and difficult to use: He had to undergo a two-week training course just to learn the basics of creating work orders. The system’s complexity also made the process of entering a work order tedious.
Thus, he sought a new CMMS with high-quality support and an easy-to-use work order management . This would replace the existing software at one mining location and introduce it at a second site; a coal washing plant where only spreadsheets were used at the time.
As shown in the screenshot above, Fiix’s work request form only asks for basic information, such as name, phone number and email, as well as a description of the work needed, the associated asset, expected time to complete and the priority level of the request.
This interface is simple to understand and begin using, even for less tech-savvy workers.
“With Fiix, you have the onboard help videos,” Fourie says, referring to the training videos and other materials Fiix offers its clients. “Being so easy to use, it just made the workflow that much easier.”
New Cloud-Based System Is Faster, Cheaper to Implement
Once Fourie decided Fiix was the right system for his needs, he moved forward with implementation at the two mining sites, which went much more quickly—and cost less—than his previous solution had.
“For many of the big systems, the implementation is very expensive,” Fourie notes. “With Fiix, it’s much cheaper, and the implementation they offer is quite quick.”
For the coal washing site, Fourie outlined three steps his team took to prepare for implementation.
⇒ Step 1: Fourie’s team first needed to determine asset information standards, including:
- Which assets needed to be entered into the system
- Which characteristics to note for each asset
- How each piece of machinery should be labeled in the system
⇒ Step 2: To identify this information, Fourie and his team prioritized the most important machinery—that which needs to perform constantly for the plant to continue running—and identified the ideal operating conditions for each. They then created a basic coding system so each asset could be found quickly when searching in the software.
⇒ Step 3: Next, Fourie conducted a pilot test of the system to get feedback from workers and make sure everyone on the site understood the standards put in place. He also verified the above asset information on-site and created spreadsheets with detailed asset profiles. This information included details such as:
- Make and model
- Purchase price
- Asset condition
- Serial numbers
- Warranty information
From there, all Fourie had to do was import the data into Fiix in a CSV file. All in all, the implementation, including gathering the data, took about one week.
Finally, Fourie says that support during the implementation process was strong, which helped speed up the process. To help users get started, Fiix offers access to educational videos, such as an implementation roadmap, as well as to a CMMS knowledge base with best practices and strategies.
“Fiix provides clients with a lot of information and follow-up emails once you’ve activated the account,” Fourie also notes.
While Fourie’s priority was strong work order management, he found the other functionality offered, such as preventative maintenance scheduling, barcoding and reporting, a “nice surprise.”
With his old system, creating a preventative maintenance schedule was time-consuming and reporting wasn’t effective because the vendor couldn’t deliver historical data to analyze. With Fiix, these processes are now automated, and historical information is both readily available and accurate.
Fiix Leads to Increased Profits
Fourie says he saw the greatest benefits of Fiix at the coal washing plant that had previously relied on spreadsheets and paper-based methods.
“Before, there was no control over the maintenance,” he says. “With Fiix implemented, we were able to take control in order to conduct proper maintenance planning.”
Without software, maintenance planning requires using calendars and paper work orders. Managers must remind themselves when work is scheduled, which means work is more likely to be performed late or forgotten altogether—and can quickly increase the chances a machine will stop working.
Even if a CMMS is already in place, it can be difficult to create an effective maintenance schedule if it has a poor user interface, as Fourie learned firsthand.
Overall, scheduling work with Fiix reduced machine breakdowns by approximately 15 percent and cut labor costs in half at both plants. This resulted in an increase in coal production of 28 to 29 percent, or about 100,000 additional tons of coal—worth roughly $450,000, Fourie says.
According to Fourie, another significant benefit of implementing Fiix is the ability to report, on a weekly and monthly basis, on specific key performance indicators.
Unlike his previous solution, Fiix allows him to dump spreadsheet data backups into his servers each week to preserve for reporting purposes. As a result, Fourie’s team can track downtime and identify root causes of problems, which leads to more informed decision-making.
“For example, we could see that some of the chutes were getting blocked due to the large size of the [coal] so we re-engineered the chute,” he explains. “Just by doing that, we managed to save about three or four production hours per day.”
What’s more, since Equilibrium-AMS took on these coal mining projects, about $200,000 worth of equipment has gone missing from the job sites. Moving forward, Fourie is working on using Fiix to implement a QR code labeling system, which physically tags assets with QR codes that correspond with their profile. These codes can be scanned by a mobile device to view the profile or generate work orders on-site.
“That’s a very big issue for us, so we’re going to see, year-over-year, what impact that will have now that we can properly track assets,” Fourie says.
Finally, Fourie continues to find value in Fiix using its application program interface (API), which allows him to build functionality in the system that is customized to his particular needs. Specifically, he’s developing a way to use condition-monitoring devices and send data automatically into the CMMS.
Condition-monitoring devices can track different things occurring in a machine, such as vibration, temperature, water pressure or lubricant conditions. Users can then set up normal operating parameters for the machine, and the system will notify the user or generate a work order when the condition readings fall outside those normal parameters. This type of maintenance can reduce labor costs further, because work is only needed when the assets display abnormal readings.
Overall, Fourie says the adoption of Fiix has made a huge impact on his business, and he looks forward to reaping additional benefits from the system in the future by continuing to build functionality using its API.
“If we end up taking on additional mines, we want to make full use of Fiix,” he says.