By Jane Alexander, Deputy Editor
Early July typically marks a time of great celebration across the United States and anywhere else Americans may be, and for good reason. The opportunity to honor a nation’s birthday and the freedom it signifies is priceless. In this month’s column, though, I ask you to join with me in celebrating something else that can be considered priceless: teamwork. Who among us can’t point to countless examples of this concept, from personal experience or from others? One example that recently came to my attention involves a story from the Consolidated Container Company (CCC) plant in Berwick, PA. It has to be shared.
The CCC Berwick plant is a plastic-bottle-manufacturing operation that produces containers for customers like Dial Corp., Nestle, Johanna Foods and Ventura Foods. Apple-cider season, a busy time for this type of facility, was in full swing Sept. 18, 2013. The plant was humming. Early that evening, however, a mechanical failure led to an arc flash in a bus duct between two production lines. Showers of sparks shot toward the ceiling and moved through the rafters. The resulting fire quickly destroyed a significant portion of the plant. Although the workers in the facility that night were safe, the long-term situation first appeared bleak: The scope of the fire’s devastation could shut down the operation and put 100 employees out of work. That’s where teamwork came in.
According to various plant sources, the response, remediation and reconstruction activities that took place at CCC Berwick over the next few months were committed, selfless, gracious and at times heroic. The operation, in turn, came back stronger than before—in just eight months.
Personnel from across the company came together as a team to avoid production delays. Customers, vendors and OEMS were accommodating. While fire-related property damage loss was probably close to $5 million, there was no production loss thanks to assistance from CCC sister plants (although there was a cost for moving equipment). Despite challenges posed by the catastrophe, the consensus around the facility today is that the entire experience brought an already tight-knit plant family even closer together.
Along the way, several improvements were made: Among them: Equipment and layout is now more efficient, improving plant and labor utilization. There are two fewer production lines than before the fire, but the same amount of production output is being realized. The facility’s new footprint includes newer machines that consume half the electricity for the same throughput as before. The plant also has new zero-waste grinders, and all grinders now sit above ground rather than in pits, which is safer and more efficient. As Paul Koziatek, CCC’s Corporate Director of Risk Management notes, “We learned a lot about risk management, including maintenance, loss control, safety and engineering, and we are bringing that knowledge to our other plants.”
May 22, 2014, was a true day of celebration for CCC Berwick’s employees and friends. The occasion marked the grand reopening of the newly restored plant. Those who came to the aid of the facility the night of the fire and/or participated in the cleanup, reconstruction and return to full production were recognized at this event. We want to recognize them as well.
A full account of CCC Berwick’s fire-recovery effort, pulled off with the strong commitment, fighting hearts and phenomenal energy of a remarkable “team” is available here. A version of this article, including additional photos, will appear in next month’s print and digital editions of Maintenance Technology. Please take the time to read and share the story, then celebrate what great teamwork can do. MT