Weldwood of Canada, Ltd., is a leading producer of plywood and lumber products. To meet ever-increasing demand, the company, a subsidiary of International Paper Co., recently made key investments in new technology to increase plant capacity at its facilities in western Canada. Among the tools used were new computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS) that have been installed at six of its plants in British Columbia and Alberta. These systems, from Avantis, a unit of the Invensys Production Management Division of British-based Invensys plc., have helped make the plants more productive by streamlining maintenance procedures. In addition to increased equipment uptime, the system has increased efficiency of scheduled maintenance work and reduced costs for spare-parts inventories. The improved practices have led to production of more consistent and uniformly high-quality wood products.

Weldwood's Williams Lake plywood plant, 330 miles north of Vancouver, British Columbia, produces 230 million sq. ft. of plywood each year from spruce, pine and fir logs. Logs are first stripped of their bark in giant debarking machines and are cut into standard lengths for processing. The logs are soaked in water for eight hours to soften the wood, then a sophisticated spindle lathe rotates each log horizontally and peels it into one-eighth-in.-thick sheets of veneer. The lathe produces veneer at a rate of up to 4,000 sheets per hour. After sorting by moisture content, the sheets enter drying ovens. They're then sequenced into stacks of face, core and back layers, and glued together before being compressed under heat and pressure to make plywood. The plywood is finish-cut into 4x8-ft. sheets, then wrapped in plastic and strapped for shipment.

The company had previously used an outdated mainframe computing system for managing main-tenance functions. The system did not integrate the maintenance functions with plant purchasing systems, which made it cumbersome for automating purchasing paperwork for ordering parts. This, in turn, required larger inventories of spares to be on hand.

Weldwood management reviewed several CMMS systems before selecting the Avantis PRO system. It was installed first at the Williams Lake plant, and was in use in early 2000. Management rolled it out to five additional plants within the following year.

The system is now integrated with all aspects of solid-wood products manufacturing at Weldwood's Canadian plants. It's used to track equipment and asset utilization, schedule manpower for maintenance and repair services, track and manage parts inventories and disbursements, and generate work orders automatically for preventive maintenance and on-demand for emergency repairs. It enables management to link operations that are diverse in type and geography.

"Our Mobile Shop is a good example of how our systems work," says Rick Brandson, Williams Lake maintenance supervisor. "We have a three-bay shop for working on vehicles and heavy equipment. Every piece of equipment we have comes through here for routine service and PM, including welding equipment."

Mobile equipment supervisor Don Gibson says his crew monitors "odometer readings and fuel consumption statistics on all the trucks and mobile equipment, and we track actual hours of equipment operation in the plants." Weekly readings are entered into the Avantis system, he says, and the program tracks the average use of each machine, then predicts and schedules PM based on that data. Gibson says he uses the system to project when he'll need to do large jobs like engine and transmission replacements.

The database used for maintenance planning at Williams Lake handles data on equipment usage from division-level entities down to departments, then machinery type and parts lists. Similar databases are kept for the five other Weldwood plants and coor-dinated and monitored at headquarters in Vancouver.

Brandson says that in addition to facilitating production gains, the new CMMS system was an important tool in Weldwood's achievement of ISO 14001 certifi-cation at Wil-liams Lake. It helped the company meet stringent audit requirements for environmental systems because of the perform-ance audit trail it provides on all equipment and maintenance operations. Now, he says, the plant has achieved a near balance of incoming and outgoing ma-terials, both for fuel purposes and environmental issues. For example bark and waste are used to produce heat for drying lumber and for heating buildings. In summer, waste chips are trucked to a power plant that burns them to generate steam.

Brandson says he hopes to continually refine the system's capabilities. "Because we had a small staff doing the implementations at all of our sites, we could pick the best practices from each," he says. "Every time someone comes up with a creative twist at one plant, we all have the ability to use it in our own."

Avantis, Inc., 880 Laurentian Drive, Burlington, Ontario L7N 3V6, Canada; 888-282-6847;