Manufacturing

Packaging Manufacturer Discovers How Transparent Information Increases Technician Motivation

A midwest packaging company is dedicated to efficiently producing its products using recycled and sustainable sources. As the company grew, it needed to find a better way to manage its work orders and inventory. One division was the first to choose UpKeep’s mobile first solution as its answer, and the other plants are expected to follow suit in upcoming  years.

Challenge

The division of this packaging company had been using a combination of systems, including a different computerized maintenance management system (CMMS), a proprietary spreadsheet solution, and some manual work processes to manage its day-to-day business requirements. However, the division was struggling with work order organization and inventory accuracy.

Before UpKeep, the division had no accurate way of keeping track of work orders, whether that was for a preventative maintenance task or machine repair. Employees felt a lack of motivation because they simply didn’t know what needed to be done.

In addition, the division was unable to efficiently manage a large inventory valued at between $3 million and $4 million, leading to extra parts, lost components, and unneeded equipment downtime.

Solution

The division abandoned its disorganized combination of semi-effective systems and replaced them with UpKeep’s mobile-first solution, achieving cost savings and increased efficiency. By streamlining both work orders and inventory management through UpKeep, the division saved $250,000 in materials costs alone while also reducing the time spent in meetings, boosting employee morale, decreasing equipment downtime, and setting up a long-term system that would facilitate better business decisions into the future.

Easy Sell, Easy Onboarding

The maintenance manager had used UpKeep in a previous company so he could enthusiastically recommend the product from experience. He was able to get buy-in from the management team as well as the operator leadership on the plant floor. One of the big selling points was the ability to enter an order right on employees’ smartphones and include a picture of the problem. An image summed up problems easily and made it really quick and convenient for employees to put in a work order.

Reduced Meetings Saves Time

Since the division could now track time entries, completed work orders, work order turnarounds, and technician efficiency, the company has saved significant amounts of time in reducing the number of meetings that used to be held to keep everyone in the loop.

Management is able to get a nice snapshot of what’s been happening by logging in and accessing the information at any time. Before UpKeep, the managers held one-on-one meetings twice a day in an attempt to share that same information. Now, instead of having to meet twice a day, only one or two meetings per week is necessary.

In addition, maintenance systems coordinators would have had to spend hours every day manually inputting the information on a computer, which often didn’t happen. 

Accurate Data Fuels Smarter Decision Making

In the fast-paced packaging industry, it can be challenging to understand how materials are being used, how frequently equipment needs to be serviced or repaired, and what the ideal levels of inventories should be without accurate data.

The division’s machines are running all day, every day, so consumables on those machines constantly. Prior to UpKeep, raw materials were tracked on a spreadsheet, and there was really no good way of knowing how often those supplies were being taken off the shelves.

Since employees now have access to UpKeep on their phones, they can simply scan the materials as soon as they remove it from inventory. If more material comes in, it is immediately scanned before it’s placed on the shelf. This is significant when the company carries an inventory of between $3 million and $4 million.

The division now has access to accurate inventory levels at all times and can track vendors and their lead times. For example, if the division knows it can get a spare part the same day from one vendor, they may decide not to carry it in the inventory.

In addition, because the division now has an accurate record of how frequently equipment needs to be serviced or when parts typically need to be replaced, they can make better planning and purchasing decisions.

The division can see which critical spare parts are needed every week and which components are breaking every quarter. This has led the division to keep a more accurate quantity on the shelf based on how frequently they are expected to use them and how long reorders take. Savings amounted to about $250,000 this year just from having accurate, accessible information in UpKeep.

Transparent Information Increases Technician Motivation

Maintenance technicians may have trouble staying on task if they don’t understand how their work plays into the company’s overall operations. One of UpKeep’s strengths is to provide a greater level of transparency for all employees, helping them to understand they are all working on the same team toward a common goal.

Before UpKeep, there was a lack of motivation and a lack of direction among the employees. UpKeep has been a motivator for the technicians, reminding them of jobs they need to do. It helps them schedule their day since they know what’s coming.

Since the division runs shifts around the clock, UpKeep also helps keep the lines of communication open between shifts. If someone on the second shift inputs a work order, and the third-shift technicians don’t get to it, the first shift technicians can see the issue that came up the night before. That motivates them to hit the ground running, get to that machine and see if they can solve the issue.

Gaining that level of transparency motivates technicians to complete their assigned tasks for the day, communicate any problems they find, and work together as a team to keep everything running smoothly. This, in turn, has created a greater amount of trust between the technicians and the management team.

Better Inventory Management Means Quick Machine Repair

When machines at the plant went down before the division had UpKeep, it often took weeks for repairs to be completed due primarily to inventory management difficulties.

Once a technician inspected the equipment, they had to obtain the needed parts, which were often disorganized and difficult to find. It usually required emails, phone calls, and shuffling through the inventory shelves.

Now, the division has assigned parts to specific assets and created a shelf labeling system. All the parts have a specific spot on a specific shelf where they belong. The team can easily access the location of any part in UpKeep on their phones. The division estimates that it saved $150,000 to $250,000 as a result of having a better handle on its inventory.

Employees now have access to an accurate inventory of everything the company has in stock—which is important, since the inventory consists of several thousand parts. They know which parts are in stock and where they are, which parts need to be ordered, and which parts are on the way. That information helps employees know immediately how long the machine will be down. 

Connecting Facilities Through UpKeep

The company originally started using UpKeep for only one division, but it plans to eventually connect all 27 of the company’s facilities through UpKeep. Since all the machinery is similar, all the facilities would be able to see what parts the other facilities have in stock and take advantage of one another’s inventories.

If a major component goes out, one plant can see whether another plant already has it, saving $60,000 to $80,000 per part. This eliminates having the part remain unused on a shelf and eliminates the long lead time for an overseas order to be delivered.

That means less downtime, which translates to reduced costs, greater production and more profit, which fuels better customer service and speedier growth for the future.