Engineering efficiency: Preventative plant maintenance system boosts productivity

Kenneth Sullivan

Research that led to significant improvements in efficiency in operations at an Intel Corp. semiconductor manufacturing facility has earned national recognition for an Arizona State University engineer and a doctoral student.

Kenneth Sullivan and Doug McDonald have won an award from the American Society of Civil Engineers for the article they co-authored about their research and its application at the Intel plant in Chandler, Ariz.

Sullivan is an associate professor in the Del E. Webb School of Construction Programs in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

McDonald, who is set to complete work for his doctorate in construction management in December, works as a facilities manager at the Intel Ocotillo site in Chandler. 

Their article “Leadership Principles and Performance Measurement in Facilities Management: A Case Study” appeared in the ASCE journal Leadership and Management in Engineering.

The report details their development of a system to predict failure and other potential malfunctions of plant equipment. The predictive preventative maintenance program enabled the manufacturing facility to avoid any costly interruptions to its production process for more than a year after it was implemented.

The system took prevention efforts beyond simply attempting to avoid equipment failures by performing periodic maintenance checks. Provided with iPads programmed to “document anything even a little out of the ordinary in the workings of the equipment,” plant technicians and engineers “are able to find performance abnormalities even as the equipment is operating,” Sullivan explains.

“This is a very pro-active approach to ensure you can take care of problems before the problems force you to shut down” the manufacturing process, he says.

“This is a direct application of sustainable engineering, and a good example of academia and industry working together to accomplish something that directly improves efficiency and profitability,” Sullivan adds. “Everybody walks away with a win.”

The ASCE award will be presented in October in Montreal at the organization’s annual conference.