Maintenance managers meet to share experiences, meet vendors

By Susanne Retka Schill | March 26, 2015

Ethanol maintenance managers met in Des Moines, Iowa, for their semiannual gathering to meet with vendors and learn from each other. In the best attendance yet, nearly 50 maintenance managers from plants in 12 states gathered, along with 85 vendors, for TEAM M3 March 24 to 25.  The full name explains the group's goal: Today's Ethanol Advanced Management, Maintenance Managers Meeting.

"The meetings had a very modest beginning when they started in 2006 at Amaizing Energy in Denison, Iowa," said Darrell Pedersen, maintenance manager at Corn LP, Goldfield, Iowa, and the organizer of the Des Moines meeting. The meetings started with a small group of managers from ICM/Fagen plants who got together to discuss problems and successes at their newly built plants. Also, at the beginning, many of the managers were coming from other industries and needed to learn about the ethanol process. Today, the group is open to all, regardless of the process technology or builder. Multiple plants have hosted the meetings, often at the plant itself.

TEAM M3 meetings are informal, with most of the time on the first full day left open for managers to meet with vendors. Short meetings are held with technical presentations from invited vendors, many of whom provide parts, repairs and maintenance services, along with new technologies and equipment.  The second day is devoted to a long discussion session, where managers bring up specific questions or issues with things like blower fans, evaporator maintenance, centrifuge issues, pump alignment and vibration technologies, and more.  

In addition to the twice yearly gatherings, the group communicates regularly. "We currently have 100-plus members in our group, Pedersen said. "We email issues, good and bad, that we're having to each other, as well as to borrow parts if we happen to be broken down.  It is an awesome group to belong to, because you have a ton of knowledge at your fingertips," he said. "Through the TEAM emails, discussions and meetings, maintenance managers can network with those with experience and not have to reinvent the wheel every time they have a problem."

Recently, one of the group's members, Tom Boekman with Louis Dreyfus Commodities developed a website, www.ethanolnetworks.com to host forums for maintenance managers, as well as plant and laboratory managers, as another way of sharing questions and expertise.