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Stevens Lumber Mills reports 80% increase in productivity thanks to SKF’s holistic solutions

Stevens Lumber Mills was one of SKF’s first customers to reap the benefits of their innovative online Quick Maintenance Review (QMR) introduced by the bearing and rotating technology specialist in March this year with the aim of adding value to customers’ bearing maintenance practices.

SKF Territory Sales Engineer, Reinhardt Joubert, explains that this advancement in maintenance practices, which comprises a dedicated user-friendly questionnaire, provides free issue-specific maintenance advice and the opportunity for customers to learn more about bearing maintenance practices. “In addition to being able to review and compare their practices with those of their peers and competitors, customers can also expediently benchmark their practices with similar companies within the same industry.”

Located in Tzaneen in Limpopo Province, Stevens Lumber Mills has been meeting construction customers’ pine lumber needs since 1962, as a leading supplier and stockist of stress graded structural timber and beams, brandering, battens and black cross. During a recent visit to the lumber mill, SKF MaPro Product Manager, Eddie Martens, introduced the QMR offering to the customer. “When I explained that Stevens Lumber Mills will be part of our pilot study, they jumped at the opportunity to partake in our new technology.”

“The Maintenance Manager at Stevens Lumber Mills, Philip Olivier, simply followed the QMR link on our email banner and completed the 20-minute questionnaire,” continues Martens. “The results were then scrutinised by SKF experts and shared with the customer in the form of two tailored, easy-to-download maintenance maturity radar charts.”

The maturity charts clearly identified improvements as well as areas of concern. “In this instance, we noticed a substantial improvement in bearing mounting practices which, in the ‘real life’ situation, translated to the customer seeing a dramatic improvement in unplanned downtime or ‘wrench time’”, notes Joubert.

SKF conducted an initial in-depth three-day CNA-Lube audit in March 2021 that focused on lubrication practices. “The QMR clearly showed that our solutions, which consisted of a task management software system, SKF GoPlant, and a personalised PULSE/IDC kit, increased equipment uptime for the customer,” says Martens.

The QMR also identified further lubrication issues and discrepancies. “However, with our clear understanding of the current maintenance practices on the mill site and armed with the results from the QMR, we were able to recommend and successfully implement several additional solutions for our customer to improve the entire bearing life cycle as a whole,” states Joubert.  “Our multi-discipline solution includes SKF Bearing stock, SKF PT stock, SKF MaPro hand tools, SKF lubricants and SKF’s real-time Task Management system, SKF GoPlant app.”

SKF MaPro tools supplied to the lumber mill includes a portable bearing heater (TWIM 15/230v) as well as dispensing equipment for oils. SKF also supplied battery driven grease guns (TLGB 20) which helped to solve some of the lubrication issues. SKF belt alignment tools (TKBA 40) assisted in increasing correct belt alignment. While there are still some issues around the dismounting of bearings, the number of delays has decreased significantly owing to the use of SKF’s bearing puller set (TMHC 110E). By implementing further documented procedures with the GoPlant system using the tooling provided also ensured that there were fewer problems. While there are still future product purchases to be made, there has already been a marked improvement in the scoring on the second QMR carried out by the mill customer.

Joubert and Martens report that the Lubrication store project, another outcome from SKF’s CAN-Lube conducted in Q1 last year, is also gaining traction. “In a bid to achieving the customer’s ultimate goal of zero contamination, we suggested a complete redesign and build of their lubrication store; an optimum layout will ensure correct use of lubrication while keeping contamination to a minimum.” Some remodeling work is currently in progress on site and building materials have been purchased for planned construction in early May 2022. The mill customer has already implemented the SKF Oil Safe container series and is one step closer to eliminating all the contaminating risks from his process.

According to Joubert, Stevens Lumber Mills owner and CEO, Mrs Monika Smith, was impressed by SKF’s product solutions, based on the results of the QMR, and the rapid improvements they delivered. A decrease in failures was observed within only one month. By implementing further documented procedures with the GoPlant system using the tooling provided also ensured that there were fewer problems.

Moreover, the lumber mill team saw opportunities for improvement in their business and the SKF roadmap inspired them to rise to the challenge. The speed of the culture change on-site was also impressive. The team efforts and successes cascaded on throughout the manufacturing line of the finished goods. More importantly, a compounding effect in improvement throughout the lumber mill business has been observed.

“It must be noted that many of the improvements are driven by Philip Olivier in his commitment to increase production at the lumber mill while cutting costs caused by breakdowns,” says Martens. “As a whole, our customer is enjoying an 80% increase in productivity and with more plans in the pipeline, the lumber mill can look forward to even further lucrative benefits over the coming months,” conclude Martens and Joubert.


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