Maintenance with foresight

Jack Mans, Plant Operations Editor

November 12, 2015

5 Min Read
Maintenance with foresight

Chemolux, a manufacturer of machine dishwashing powders and tabs, has introduced a preventive maintenance strategy developed with Bosch Packaging Services Inc. at its plant in Foetz, Luxembourg, that is showing exceptionally good results: No major stops have occurred during the past five years, maintenance costs have decreased, and consequently, efficiency has increased by a two-digit percentage.

Chemolux is part of the Henkel group and was acquired by McBride plc in 2007. McBride is one of Europe's leading manufacturers of laundry and dishwashing products. About 180 different finished products are produced and packed at the Foetz facility, with 30 fully loaded trucks being dispatched to customers every day. Chemolux's main customer is Henkel, which accounts for 47 percent of total sales. Other customers include Tesco and several private labels.

Dynamic solutions

Just-in-time production (JIT) is part of the core entrepreneurial philosophy of many industry players. Downtimes of production machinery can lead to loss of production at short notice. JIT production focuses on producing exactly required amounts for exactly the time when they are needed, rather than producing goods in advance and supplying customers from stock.

Benefits of this strategy include decreased over-production, waiting times and transport costs, as well as a reduction of capital tied up in stock. At the same time, resources can be saved by streamlining production systems. To make all this work, the implementation of a comprehensive maintenance strategy is essential.

From the start of its production operations at its Luxembourg facility, Chemolux has systematically applied the JIT production strategy. It is an obvious solution for a company that has no dedicated storage space and can store no more than half a day of production output. However, the strategy still entails quite some risks for Chemolux. Minor machinery downtimes may force production to cease on short notice.

For a short period in 2006, the company solely relied on corrective maintenance, such as conducting ad hoc maintenance work to restore the machines to their normal operable state.

For 15 years, Chemolux has also been relying on Bosch technology for packaging its products, while continuously expanding its lines. The company acquired its first Bosch machine, a Model HSM flow wrapper (see "Obsolescence Kits for HSM flow wrappers" on p.34), in 1997 and now operates 15 lines consisting of two different machine types.

Flexibililty and continuous improvement

"Chemolux acts in a very dynamic market, where products are changing fast. Therefore, high flexibility and continuous improvements of the production processes are of utmost importance," says Ludovic Ghesquière, maintenance manager at Chemolux. Due to unsatisfactory production efficiency on some lines, Chemolux carried out a technical audit in cooperation with Bosch. Bosch suggested two distinct stages for the improvement process.

In a first step, modernization of the older equipment led to state-of-the-art technology on all lines. In a second step, a dedicated preventive maintenance program was implemented for long-term sustainable improvements.

An aggressive chemical production environment, combined with high operating speeds of the machines for several shifts per day, requires more changeovers of parts subject to wear and tear and shorter maintenance intervals. Therefore a customized maintenance program to ensure durable machinery became the center of Chemolux's new strategy.

No last-minute surprises

Bosch's preventive maintenance service package ensures that the required maintenance is conducted at the appropriate time and at regular intervals. Well-trained Bosch service technicians support the optimization of overall machine performance.

The maintenance service ranges from regular line check-ups all the way to complete maintenance packages, with a service technician at the customer's plant 24/7. The biggest challenges at Chemolux consisted of finding the right maintenance intervals for all lines and implementing the new maintenance concept within the organization.

Annual maintenance plans for each line were established, focusing on the entire production process and integrating all departments, particularly supply chain management. "With our maintenance program fixed a year ahead, we can prepare all interventions and encounter few, if any, last-minute surprises," says Philippe Gosset, plant director at Chemolux. This is especially important in Luxembourg, as all suppliers must be registered with and identified to government authorities.

Different levels of PM

Today, Chemolux has a preventive maintenance program in place that is conducted at different levels on the different lines. The machines are checked and cleaned every shift, day, week or month, depending on the requirements of the individual lines. "Thanks to the scheduled intervals, we have our lines under control and can deliver a high service level for our customers," says Ghesquière.

The organization of maintenance activities is now much more fluid and predictable, resulting in reduced costs. Plant manager Gosset adds, "Thanks to the preventive maintenance program, we have higher overall product quality and less waste." This is also important with regard to the external audits that Chemolux customers conduct before concluding a contract. As a result, no major production stops have occurred at Chemolux for the past five years.

Measurable results

Chemolux has implemented a key performance indicator to assess the results of the preventive maintenance program. It measures the improvement in terms of costs and efficiency, and they have been considerable: maintenance costs decreased by 11 percent between 2008 and 2011. Machine efficiency has increased by 13 percent during the same period. As with all long-term projects, improvements are permanently ongoing.

Another key benefit for Chemolux is the transparency of maintenance costs. When buying new machines, every company wants to know the total cost of ownership. "No other provider of packaging machines could give us such transparency," Gosset emphasizes.

The establishment and audit of the maintenance program also had the positive side effect of intensifying the relationship between Chemolux and Bosch. Regular inspections are always carried out by the same Bosch maintenance technicians with Chemolux-specific expertise. In turn, Chemolux took the opportunity to develop internal training programs.

"Today, we achieve faster product changeovers and have real experts working on our machines," says Gosset. Ghesquière adds: "Our goal was to switch from a customer-supplier relationship to a real partnership, and we have achieved this to our complete satisfaction."

Bosch Packaging Services Inc., 919-877-0886,

Bosch Rexroth Corp., 800-739-7684,

Rockwell Automation, 414-382-2000,


About the Author(s)

Jack Mans

Plant Operations Editor

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