Professionalising maintenance to increase the availability of machines and installations at Sappi

Every year, about 300,000 tonnes of wood-free coated paper leaves the Sappi factories in Maastricht. Worldwide, Sappi is one of the biggest producers of white, glossy paper that is used extensively for producing high-quality printed matter. Throughout the world, Sappi employs more than 17,000 people divided over the regions of America, South Africa and Europe. In Europe alone, an average of some 2.5 million tonnes of wood-free, coated paper is produced on 8 different sites. The biggest paper machine in Europe, with an annual production of no less than 560,000 tonnes, is at Sappi in Austria.

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Johan Vandelaer
Technical Manager, Sappi, Maastricht

PDM was hired in to professionalise maintenance at the Sappi factory in Maastricht and to increase the availability of the machines and installations, and by so doing lower costs drastically.

Outsourcing maintenance activities

Both in Maastricht and Lanaken in Belgium, there are two paper machines of more than 100 metres in length that are largely maintained by Sappi’s own technical service. In Maastricht alone, 84 people work in the maintenance team, partly in shifts, partly 9 to 5. “It certainly isn’t that we carry out all the work ourselves,” explains Vandelaer.

“We also outsource a large part of our maintenance activities.” Whether they switch to outsourcing or not depends strongly on the risk of damage. For example, in the Finishing department in Maastricht, there are several cutting and packing machines. If one of these machines is temporarily inoperative, the risk of damage is considerably slighter than if one of the two paper machines is idle. This is why we prefer to outsource the maintenance in the Finishing department and carry out all the maintenance on the paper machines ourselves. We asked PDM to optimise the maintenance carried out on the Maastricht site. The basic principle behind this was to increase the availability of the various machines and installations and to improve mutual communication between the Maintenance and Production departments.


After identifying the current and future activities of the maintenance teams at Sappi Maastricht and establishing the bottlenecks in the present workflow, we designed a new workflow. Among other things, gate-keeping was set up and the necessary changes were made to the work preparation and planning roles. PDM realised a clear steering structure and unambiguous communication by introducing performance indicators. A lot of attention was also devoted to supervising middle management in their new roles in the organisations. Using framework sessions, we established everyone’s responsibilities and translated these into a new organisation structure. To gear this new way of working and the desired management information to each other more effectively, we also tightened up the structure and use of the SAP system for the maintenance department, and also co-operation between Production and Maintenance.

Johan Vandelaer
Technical Manager, Sappi, Maastricht

The result: a transparent, restructured organisation, steering of one of the maintenance organisations on the basis of KPIs, and on optimised workflow.


Based on a mutation plan, all changes in the organisation were laid down and implemented. One remarkable difference with the previous situation is that now there is a short meeting between production and maintenance every day. All the information exchanged is filtered here and, if necessary, converted into practical maintenance instructions. There is also feedback regarding completed actions during these sessions.

“The result: a transparent, restructured organisation, steering one of the maintenance organisations on the basis of KPIs, and an optimised workflow,” says Vandelaer. “It’s too soon to be able to establish whether we have actually saved 15% on our maintenance costs but the early results are promising up to now.”

Johan Vandelaer
Technical Manager, Sappi Maastricht

The target was to finally save approximately 15% on the maintenance costs, by means of fewer personnel and less maintenance work, among other things.

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