Agriculture

Agriculture Co-Op Finds Less Asset Downtime With UpKeep

A midwest agricultural co-op was established to give farmers a fair and sound means to buy and sell farm commodities. Today, this organization partners with communities, employees, and producers to deliver sustainable agricultural solutions. When the feed division needed a new maintenance system, the company chose UpKeep’s mobile first solution.

Challenge

The feed division of this agricultural co-op produces and distributes livestock feed for mostly pigs, serving farms in an area with about a 150-mile radius.

The co-op expanded its maintenance services from two technicians to a dedicated maintenance team that cares for seven facilities.

At first, the system was very simple: a paper checklist that listed what was done and kept in a binder. This system satisfied auditors and took care of the basics, but it really didn’t help the organization care for its equipment.

Soon after, the division tried to use various record-keeping programs that helped document the maintenance process and then a regulatory program with a maintenance section. Each solution really didn’t deliver the capabilities that the feed division required.

Solution

After some research, the feed division decided to switch to UpKeep. As a result of this decision, the division has been able to reduce recording time, improve efficiency, better prioritize maintenance tasks, and boost team communication. Most significantly, the operators at the plants are happier and experiencing much less downtime on a daily basis.

Reducing Recording Time

One of the main challenges with the former maintenance system was the time it took to record work orders. The old system was web-based, but it operated very slowly and required a tremendous number of steps to complete a work order.

For instance, if technicians were going through the plant with a grease gun doing regular, quick preventative maintenance tasks, it would take them longer to complete the work orders than it would to do the work. They could spend an hour or even the better part of a day just completing work orders in the old program.

Once the division switched to UpKeep, this process was significantly faster. Work orders could be completed very quickly with the phone app. Now, technicians can fill them out in their trucks or anytime they have a cell signal. If a due date needs to be changed on an order, it can simply be dragged and dropped to the new deadline. It has changed the efficiency of the division’s technicians.

Greater Efficiency Means Leaner Operation

The co-op continued challenging the division to save money and become more efficient. When two technicians left, the division manager felt that implementing UpKeep would result in enough efficiency gains so they would only need to replace one of the two positions.

Interestingly enough, the division is still looking for that replacement technician and has actually been running with only three team members for the last year. Although they are not getting ahead with the shortage, they are not necessarily falling terribly behind either. UpKeep has helped them manage a thousand assets.

In addition to the in-house crew, the division frequently employed outside contractors for specific maintenance projects that they have now been able to move in-house.

Contractors brought in to fix something like a grain elevator may run $75 per hour per technician. The nearest contractor to the co-op is three to four hours away, which means travel and overnight accommodations. In addition, the plant experiences downtime while waiting for the contractors. With UpKeep, the division has basically taken the amount of contractor work from what it was almost to zero.

Request Portal Helps Formalize and Prioritize Maintenance Tasks

The division appreciated UpKeep’s request portal as it helped the team stay organized and prioritize tasks. After the division decided to implement UpKeep, the maintenance team met with all the plant managers to explain that unless a request is entered in the new system, it doesn’t exist. Although the team probably has a bigger backlog of requests, everything is documented.

In addition, because the division’s plants may be 60 miles apart, it’s important to minimize technician travel time. UpKeep allows the division to filter everything by location and complete a week’s worth of work orders in one day.

Plants See Less Downtime

One result of the increased efficiency is that the feed division has experienced much less downtime at its plants. The division had great buy-in with UpKeep, and everyone at the plants is just happier.

The division has also seen a shift in the type of maintenance requests that have been coming into UpKeep, which signals an overall improvement in operations. At first, most of the requests were equipment-related requests; they were repairs on physical plant assets that were needed to manufacture the animal feed. Now, many requests are just minor issues. The equipment is running much better. The techs are now spending more time working on the equipment instead of doing paperwork.

Communication and Trust Increases

In the past, the lack of transparency between those requesting maintenance services and the technicians caused communication breakdowns, frustrations, and lack of trust among team members.

The operators would get frustrated because they thought they told a maintenance tech about an issue but nothing got fixed. Whatever the situation, there was a breakdown in communication. As a result, sometimes the operators would just give up and not report something that really needed attention. UpKeep has changed all that.

Since everything is entered into the UpKeep system, operators and technicians have complete documentation and transparency. As a result, the trust between all those players as well as the plant managers has increased.

QR Codes Impress Auditors

The feed division has also chosen to barcode all its equipment, which has impressed visiting auditors. The auditor spends a week at the division and is very familiar with the operations and has seen the division’s progress. In the past, she would go to every plant and look at paper maintenance records. Now, she can review each plant on UpKeep.

Future Plans

As the co-op moves into its second year of using UpKeep, it hopes to better organize its parts that can get scattered across multiple locations. Being able to find and access parts at multiple locations will be a goal.

In addition, the division hopes to move to a meter-based system so equipment could be maintained based on runtime instead of a calendar-based schedule. Integration with some of the division’s automated systems as well as reaching out to other divisions within the co-op are also goals for the future.