Brew Dr. Kombucha found its growth ballooning over the last several years, and maintenance practices had not been high on the priority list. When Ryan Still joined the management team in November 2019, one of the first things he did was look for and implement a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS).
“I realized quickly that we had a very large need for a CMMS,” said Ryan, Maintenance Manager at Brew Dr. Kombucha. “We basically had almost no preventative maintenance tasks that were organized in any way. We had no asset management and no spare parts inventory. Basically, we had a couple of mechanics who would come over from the shop anytime anything would break.”
Although the original teahouse has been around for several years, the brewery began operations about four years ago.
“Before I joined, the plant was a very, very small operation,” Ryan said. “It’s just kind of been ballooning the past few years and there wasn’t anybody at the helm who knew about best practices for maintenance or reliability. As a result, we have been building from the ground up.”
Ryan took his new position last fall seriously, and by the end of his first week, he had started a free UpKeep trial. Brew Dr. Kombucha began by setting up a work request system to organize and process maintenance requests as well as address preventive maintenance needs.
“We had narrowed down the final choice to two CMMS vendors, and UpKeep just seemed like it was the perfect size for us,” Ryan explained. “The barrier to entry was really low. I could get a quick free trial and download the app on my phone, and we could play around with a little bit of the functionality and get comfortable. We decided it was the right size, the right trial, the right costs. UpKeep checked all the important boxes.”
One area where UpKeep has made a big difference at Brew Dr. Kombucha is in production. Currently, the plant runs two large production lines, a medium one, and two smaller lines. Before UpKeep, Brew Dr. Kombucha asked employees to enter requests into a spreadsheet but had little compliance.
“Many of our requests were verbal,” Ryan explained. “A mechanic might walk through the plant and hear 10 requests, but they were not remembered even if they were written down. We had no organization or tracking of the work that needed to be done so we had no idea what our actual costs were.”
This had an ongoing effect on production levels. “In the past, if we came close to producing 100 pallets a day in product, we would have been celebrating,” Ryan continued. “Today, we’re easily hitting 140 or 150 pallets every day. In fact, we keep setting new records. It’s nice that we’re starting to get to a place where things are feeling more reliable, more stable and more consistent.”
Ryan said another pain point was the fact that spare parts were not tracked and often got lost. The company found itself paying high expedited shipping costs when equipment broke down.
“When parts needed to be ordered, they were just thrown on a credit card and never tracked,” Ryan said. “If we had spare parts, nobody knew where they were or how many we had. When a machine would break, we’d have to order parts from Italy, which would take weeks. We regularly had times when our lines would sit down for days or weeks while vendors rushed in parts.”
After the implementation of UpKeep, spare parts are now ordered before they run out and can be located quickly. “We have spare parts sitting on a shelf, and we know what we have and we know what we need,” Ryan said. “Purchase orders are generated automatically, and that’s been hugely helpful. There have been a number of times that something has gone off on the floor, broke down, and we were able to get it resolved within 10 or 15 minutes because we had the part and we knew where it was. When you consider that our average cost for downtime is $2,500 per hour per line, that’s a huge savings.”
In the past, Brew Dr. Kombucha simply fixed equipment when it broke or invested in an annual rebuild service. “We would fly people in at a cost of $45,000 per service call, shut down our lines for a week or two, and rebuild the equipment,” Ryan said. “We had no preventative maintenance schedule. The idea of basic cleaning, inspection, tightening, or lubrication were not on anyone’s radar.”
Today, Brew Dr. Kombucha has almost all of its assets in UpKeep and the company is adding quality data on an ongoing basis. “We’ve attached technical drawings and maintenance manuals to the assets,” Ryan explained “We put stickers out on the floor so people can scan an asset and get everything they need in one spot.”
The company is still adding information, but ideally, the company wants to tie all open work orders, closed work orders, preventive maintenance schedules, spare parts lists, technical manuals and MRO data to each asset so all information is easily at the technician’s fingertips.
Although Brew Dr. Kombucha has made amazing strides in shifting from emergency maintenance to preventive maintenance, the management team has aspirations to keep moving toward predictive maintenance practices in the near future.
“We’d like to try out some sensors to help us monitor our 100 fermenting tanks,” Ryan explained. “All of these require some level of temperature control. We also have utilities, and it would be nice not to have to physically go check all of these things all the time.”
The company plans to track the glycol temperature for its chilled system and a couple of its bright tanks. If temperatures fall out of an acceptable range, sensors can send alerts to the main CMMS. “Right now, we’re performing daily checks on all of these things,” Ryan said.