Throughout our 130+ year history, Anderson International has always been a highly collaborative company. In recent years, as we’ve grown our engineering departments, the Anderson team has hired strong communicators and trained all engineers on improving and streamlining communications with customers and suppliers. This process has only accelerated since the COVID-19 pandemic began, with engineers flying to polymer plants less often and participating more on teleconferences, sometimes four or five in a day, to resolve technical requests.
What hasn’t changed during the pandemic is how important it is for engineers to listen carefully to customer concerns. During a recent exchange over several emails with a plant manager in Asia, we learned that operators were running two different polymers on Anderson equipment. The plant manager wanted to adapt the equipment and setup for a smoothly running polymer process to a second polymer that they were struggling to control the quality of. This shift meant that the company would risk disrupting a successful polymer line with no guarantee that operators could improve the quality of the second polymer. Understanding that the goal ultimately did not involve the first polymer line, the Anderson engineer outlined a series of adjustments in the second process to account for the variation in polymers. The two engineers worked together to fine-tune the Anderson equipment, and the customer avoided degrading performance on the first polymer process and improved the quality of the second polymer.
When we’re troubleshooting issues at a polymer plant, the Anderson engineer will often need to gather information at multiple levels. Equipment operators are closest to individual processes and understand how the slightest changes affect polymer throughput and quality. Maintenance personnel can give engineers a perspective on how often parts within a production line need to be repaired or replaced, how wear affects the product, and details about average downtime. Polymer engineers bring knowledge about how polymer processes have changed over time, while management teams focus on how business issues related to operations affect both short-term and long-range goals. A quality partner will employ experienced engineers trained to address concerns at each level.
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Let’s take one common problem we encounter at customer polymer processing facilities: substandard polymer feed quality. Every situation is different, but Anderson engineers’ approach to resolving these issues involves collaboration between various departments or even between the processor and the supplier. First, Anderson engineers work with the processing company’s management and engineering teams to understand the specifications set by the end user and the requirements for feed quality to meet these standards. From there, Anderson will work with operations personnel to examine each step in the process and identify areas of concern. It’s vital to establish trust between all team members to make the process adjustments necessary to guarantee polymer quality and production rate. Together, for example, if we find the production rate is suffering because they’re hitting limitations on motor consumption, we can adjust the finishing line or even remove pieces of equipment to increase throughput. If we exhaust all of the adjustments built into the Anderson finishing line, that’s when we can bring in the supplier to discuss improvements to the input feed. Collaboration across all companies involved in the process is key to resolving these issues quickly.
The COVID-19 pandemic adds the complexity of working remotely, and getting to the bottom of quality and throughput issues now requires more upfront and thorough dialogue about potential problems. Some companies provide videos or live streams during teleconferences, allowing Anderson engineers a closer look at their polymer line for troubleshooting. Other processors rely on live presentation feeds for training on Anderson equipment or established videos and materials for their training and problem-solving needs. Innovative thinking about communications and collaboration help keep polymer plants running at their best.
To learn more about the flexibility Anderson builds into our finishing line, or how we can collaborate with your team to improve your polymer process, contact us today.