Project 5.2: Identifying a Power Plant Problem
You are an independent consultant and operate a business known as
Pro-Active Consultants Inc. from your home. Four days ago you
received a telephone call from Paullette Machon, who is vice president,
operations, of Baldur Agricultural Chemicals (BAC), a company with
manufacturing plants across the country. She said she has a task for you
and invited you to visit her at the BAC office at 1450 Disraeli Crescent
(of the town or city where you live).
“I want you to drive over to our plant in Gordontown,” she
announced, “to look into a technical problem in the power house.”
(Gordontown is 43 miles from your city, has a population of 15,700, and
its primary employer is the BAC plant.) “I’m concerned that power house
costs are rising at Gordontown just at the moment when world fertilizer
prices are dropping,” Ms. Machon continues. “This is causing the compa-
ny to be uncompetitive in both national and international markets.”
Ms. Machon explains that BAC requires a lot of hot water and steam
in its manufacturing operations. However, over the past two years fuel
consumption at Gordontown has risen by 18%, numerous breakdowns
have occurred that have interfered with production, and there has been a
sharp rise in production costs. She has visited the power house repeat-
edly, but has never found anything that could be attributed to poor oper-
ation. In fact, the power house has always been immaculate.
Now Ms. Machon wants an independent consultant to take a look,
talk to the people in the power house, and try to identify any production
She also hinted that the problem may not only be technical. “The
present chief engineer at the BAC power house is Curt Hänness, and he
is to retire in three months. BAC management has to decide whether to
promote Harry Markham, the existing senior shift engineer, or to bring
in a new chief engineer from outside the company. On paper, Markham
is ideal for the job. He has worked in the power house for 15 years (he
is now 36) and always under Hänness, so his knowledge of the plant
and its operations cannot be challenged. Yet the rising costs indicate that
all is not as it should be in the plant, and we want to be sure that the
new chief engineer does not perpetuate the present conditions.”
She said she would inform Hänness and Markham that she has
engaged you to study the hot water and power generating system in their
power house, and that they are to expect you.
You visit the BAC power plant in Gordtontown today. During your
talks to plant staff and tours of the plant you make the following notes:
1. Housekeeping excellent—whole place shines (but is this only surface
polish for impression of visitors?)
2. Maintenance logs are inadequately kept—need to be done more
often. Need more detail. Equipment files not up to date and not
properly filed.
3. Boiler cleaning badly neglected. Firm instructions re boiler cleaning
need to be issued by head office.
4. Flow meters are of doubtful accuracy. May be overreading. Not
serviced for three years. Manufacturer’s service department should
be contacted (these are Weston meters). Manufacturer needs to be
called in to do a complete check and then recalibrate meters.
5. Overreading of meters could give false flow figures—make plant
seem to produce more steam than is actually produced.
6. Good housekeeping obviously achieved by neglecting maintenance.
Incorrectly placed emphasis probably caused by frequent visits from
company president, who likes to bring in important visitors and
impress them. Hänness likes reflected glory (so does Markham).
7. Shift engineers are responsible for maintenance of pumps and vac-
uum equipment. Not enough time given over to this. They seem to prefer straight replacement of whole units on failure rather than pre-
ventive maintenance. Costly method! Obviously more breakdowns:
they wait for a failure before taking action. A preventive mainten-
ance plan is needed.
8. Markham seems O.K. Genial type; obviously knows his power
house. Proud of it! But seems to resist change. Definitely resents sug-
gestions. Does he lack all-round knowledge? Is he limited only to
what goes on in his plant? Is he afraid of new ideas because he
doesn’t understand them? Young staff hinted at this: too loyal to say
it outright, but I felt they were restive, hampered by his insistence
that they use old techniques that are known to work but are slow.
Nothing concrete was said—I just “felt” it.
9. Hänness has done a good job training Markham. Made him a car-
bon copy. Hänness doesn’t do much now. Markham runs the show,
and has for over a year. He expects to get the job when Hänness
retires. It’ll be a real blow to him if he doesn’t! BAC might even lose
a good company man.
10. Discussed microprocessor-controlled CORLAND 200 power panel
with staff. Young engineers had read about it in “Plant
Maintenance”—eager to have one installed (I described the one I’d
seen at Pinewood Paper Mill). But Hänness and Markham knew
nothing about it—didn’t seem to be interested. Are they not keeping
up-to-date with technical magazines?
When you return to your office you write an evaluation report for
Ms. Machon. You can either address both the technical problems and
the personnel difficulties within the one report, or write two separate

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