PolyExcel

Trusted manufacturer for numerous industries addresses ongoing workforce challenges and prepares for the future with a modern maintenance management solution.

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Introduction

Utah-based PolyExcel takes pride in manufacturing high-quality twines for various industries. The organization’s satisfied customers include mostly agribusinesses and construction companies. They count on PolyExcel for durable twines and cords that meet strict standards of excellence and enable them to carry out daily operations. 

A team of three maintenance managers oversees technicians across PolyExcel’s facilities. According to, Darwin Knight, who co-directs the company’s maintenance department, they don’t lead from desks, instead taking a hands-on approach to maintaining PolyExcel’s extrusion equipment and other critical assets. 

These aren’t simple machines, nor is melting plastic into cordage a simple production process. The folks at PolyExcel have a lot of physics and chemistry challenges on their minds. They required a solution to streamline any parts of their job that can be streamlined, allow for more robust data analysis, and enable efficiencies to help them thrive despite ongoing workforce shortages.

The Challenge

Workforce shortages topped the list of challenges in Limble’s recent survey of maintenance professionals in the facilities management and manufacturing sectors. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated what was already a growing concern for hiring teams and managers across the space, leaving nearly 1.5 million jobs open. By 2030, the Manufacturing Institute and Deloitte predict that a lack of available skilled labor will leave companies scrambling to staff an additional 2.1 million positions.

Almost 70% of manufacturers surveyed agreed that their industry is facing a skills shortage. Answers varied, however, as to the primary cause of the trouble. Respondents cited issues ranging from a lack of interest among young people to insufficient opportunities for learning the right skills in school. PolyExcel found themselves among the 34% of manufacturers who cite retiring baby boomers as their biggest workforce challenge. Knight says that an outgoing “cache of legacy knowledge” was what inspired him to start reviewing CMMS platforms in the first place. The organization simply could not allow decades of best practices and hard-won industry insight to disappear

“It used to take us hours to prepare for a shutdown. Not anymore. The tasks related to shutdowns are easily replicated, put onto dashboards, and assigned to personnel so that they get taken care of.”

Darwin Knight, Co-Director of Maintenance

Limble’s features for parts inventory management and data analysis made it stand out as a potential game-changer. Prior to implementing the award-winning CMMS, Knight says, “We had never taken an inventory before.” Data analysis was seriously lacking pre-Limble as well. PolyExcel knew what it was ordering and what it had on hand, but they weren’t able to analyze asset performance and ordering histories in a way that helped them plan maintenance activities around production requirements. 

This lack of insight resulted in plenty of confusion and wasted time. Technicians sometimes took days to address breakdowns and managers lacked the means for tracking performance or promoting accountability. With retirements looming and the daily challenges of legacy processes continuing to grow, PolyExcel recognized that investing in technology like a CMMS could no longer wait.

The Solution

Limble stood out from the competition thanks to its ease of use and implementation. Knight needed something he could trust his technicians to actually use. Additional complexity would only cause new problems. 

The PolyExcel team got started with a pilot program, introducing Limble for a small number of their most critical assets. Throughout the process, Limble’s team offered a range of options to suit PolyExcel’s needs.  

The trial run was a huge success. They’ve since started rolling out Limble to the rest of the organization. As they continue to reap the benefits of more efficient, data-driven maintenance, they’ll continue evolving the way they apply Limble to ensure they thrive in a new era.

“Limble has allowed us to take individual pieces of data and turn them into real information. We don't go into a meeting anymore and say, I think, and I feel. We say, I know.”

Darwin Knight, Co-Director of Maintenance

The Results

PolyExcel is still fairly early in its relationship with Limble. They are, however, already seeing impressive improvements. When it comes to efficiency, Knight estimates that PolyExcel has “cut walk-around time by half.” 

Though there’s work still to come, PolyExcel can credit Limble with totally overhauling its maintenance function. As Knight puts it, the difference is already “night and day.” Whatever the future brings, PolyExcel knows they have an ally in Limble. Knight notes that choosing Limble has meant more than access to a great product. He says he would recommend Limble’s people just as highly as its platform. 

Custom workflows and handy templates

New custom task lists for specific types of breakdowns and downtime-causing events help PolyExcel prioritize work effectively. “It used to take us hours and hours to prepare for a shutdown,” Knight remarks, “not anymore.” PolyExcel’s maintenance department now has plans of action at the ready whenever key assets break down. Problems that once produced hours or days of chaos are now managed with ease. 

Usability was among PolyExcel’s top priorities when reviewing CMMS platforms. Knight calls it his number-one must-have and confirms that Limble has more than met his needs. Without the need to learn complicated new systems, his team can access Limble on the go to ensure they quickly execute tasks. When a work order calls for something new or complicated, it’s simple to find detailed instructions and keep extrusion equipment in top condition. 

Bringing a plant that’s operated one way for almost 40 years into a tech-enabled future was never going to be simple. That said, PolyExcel’s team credits the Limble team with making implementation and adoption as smooth as possible. “Limble has been there every step of the way,” says Knight. Best of all, Limble has emphasized flexibility throughout the entire engagement. Rather than force PolyExcel down a prescribed path for maintenance transformation, they’ve “provided us with multiple solutions that have made it work for us.”

“It's much more than a partnership. We absolutely depend on Limble.”

Darwin Knight, Co-Director of Maintenance

Entering a new era of efficiency

For PolyExcel, transitioning to a modern, cloud-based CMMS platform was nothing short of a transformation. Knight jokes that clipboards and pens were among the most advanced tools his team used to manage maintenance tasks. When it comes to parts inventory management, the team had historically taken a “coffee can” approach. Though the team knew which parts they had on hand, they rarely had the right part at the ready. Instead, they searched and searched, leaving equipment out of commission and leaving output and revenue on the table. 

Access to data has empowered PolyExcel’s maintenance team to reach a new standard of excellence that demonstrates the pride they take in their work and the quality of their products. “Limble has allowed us to take data and turn it into real information,” said Knight. This enables the maintenance team to operate with more confidence, make more informed decisions, and advocate for the resources it needs. Knight continues, “We don’t go into a meeting anymore and say, ‘I think’ or ‘I feel,’ we say ‘I know.’” Knight can tie maintenance work to a verifiable ROI and show that the function is worth trusting as more than a tactical cost center

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Reduction in ``Walk Around Time``

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Improvement in Parts Inventory Accuracy

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Decrease in Mean Time to Recovery

Equipping the next generation

Among Deloitte’s recommendations for addressing manufacturing’s talent shortages is a call to “create pathways to tomorrow’s jobs today.” Implementing the right time- and headache-saving technology has done just that for PolyExcel.

They knew there were shifting attitudes and expectations across the workforce. Incoming employees won’t thrive or even stick around if they think their organization is stuck in the past.

“To the credit of the folks that have worked here, they have made it work for a long time,” says Knight. He recognizes, however, that it’s not realistic to expect incoming employees to excel under the same circumstances. And they can’t afford to view decades of experience as a hiring prerequisite in the current labor market. 

Fortunately, the next generation of PolyExcel employees won’t need to spend decades or even years with the company to take advantage of all the lessons the organization’s maintenance and facilities professionals have learned. They’ll instead hit the ground running thanks to a single source of essential data, documents, and training resources.

“Limble is a very solid pillar of our organization.”

Darwin Knight, Co-Director of Maintenance

Flexibility and vision for the future 

For the team at PolyExcel, Limble is more than a partner. “A partner,” said Knight, “may get sick or decide to go fishing. Limble is there all the time, always delivering exactly what we need them to deliver.” 

More than anything, Limble has given PolyExcel a number of options for writing its next chapter. “That’s what we didn’t have before,” says Knight, “options.” With more data at its disposal and the ongoing support of the Limble team, the maintenance team will continue to evolve and grow.

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