Expert charts pathway to Nigeria’s industrial revolution

...Reveals why companies suffer operational losses

A mechanical engineer, Benjamin Onunwor, has revealed that many industries in Nigeria experience losses because their plants are not functioning at full capacity.

He said as long as this technical hitch persists, Nigerian industries will not achieve optimal results and the economy will continue to suffer.

Onunwor made this known during an exclusive chat with BusinessDay on Friday in Port Harcourt.
He revealed that industries in the country are still operating with breakdown maintenance strategy which reduces profit and makes growth difficult.

“They are using old and outdated maintenance practices to manage critical operations. They use breakdown maintenance strategy. “This strategy allows continuous operation of an asset until it shows signs of fault. Then it is shutdown for inspection and troubleshooting to find the fault and fix it. “Sometimes it takes a whole day or more. It does not help productivity in critical operations. A critical operation is one that is designed to maximize profitability by running at 100% installed capacity, 24/7 hours in 365 days for 3 or more years,” Onunwor explained.

He posited that for Nigeria’s industrial sector to experience transformation and catch up with their western counterparts, industries need to operate without plant failure or breakdown.
According to him, the only way for industries to have uninterrupted operation is by adopting what he called proactive maintenance strategy which will enable them to save cost and maximize profit.

He explained: “The solution is to practice proactive maintenance strategy. It comprises of preventive maintenance and predictive maintenance strategies.

“The preventive side will replace strategic parts of the equipment after a number of hours as recommended by the equipment manufacturers.
“The predictive maintenance side is to find faults that still occur after performing preventive maintenance. It uses high technology like vibration analysis, oil analysis, ultrasound inspection and electric circuit analysis to detect the onset of changes in operating condition that result in faults and failures.”

He said that Nigeria must focus on creating an efficient system where production processes would run at full capacity consistently for a minimum of three years.

Such a system, the mechanical engineer stated, would lead to higher profit, industrial growth and economic resurgence.

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“The way to rebuild our economy is to focus on operating all processes and power plants to be able to run at 100% installed capacity, 24/7 in 365 days for 3 or more years. If this happens, then they are operating as designed. They will make profit and grow.

“Many plants do not achieve this because of high rate of equipment failure. This increases operating cost and erodes profit. Plants struggle to meet operating costs.

“What we’re saying is that there is the science in engineering to run machines and they won’t stop to produce but they have to learn it. Our company does this job and we train people.

“So, you find out that the problem of our economy is that our industries are not strong in the sense that all power plants are designed to run 24 hours a day for 365 days.

“If a plant runs 24 hours a day for 365 days, they will make a hell of profit. In 20 years, they will build another plant; they will employ people, they will pay tax, the economy will be growing.

“But when they are shutting down every day, every week, they can’t run, pay salary, they are not meeting up. The business of running process and power plants is to run economically.
“So, the problem they have is that they don’t run all the time and they are spending too much money on maintenance. Professionally speaking, maintenance is a fixed cost. If you say that maintenance will cost N400 million, that is what it’s supposed to be. But the way they’re running, maintenance is not a fixed cost.

“Some months, they maintain 20 machines, some months 10 machines, some months 30 machines because they’re using the outdated method. If maintenance is fixed, the output of the company is fixed, the input of the company is fixed. So, if you can make maintenance fixed, you make profit. But maintenance is not fixed, so they spend a lot of money buying new machines when they shouldn’t buy new machines. This is the problem in the world,” he said.

Benjamin Onunwo expressed readiness to contribute towards the transformation of the industrial sector by partnering with corporate bodies, government parastatals, ministries, departments, agencies and NGOs to train Nigerians on this special skill of proactive maintenance of power plants.
“To transform our plants is to train them to learn this thing. They don’t understand this thing. It looks like magic but it’s not magic. I was trained. So, if you train them, they will do better.

“Some of the guys who retired from the NNPC, I employed them, I trained them and they are now able to see what they were not doing right. If we train Nigerians, they will become skilled and they will run the plants; they will begin to make money. All these young boys moving around, you train them.
“I can train an engineer to work as an engineer; I can train a technician to work as a technician;I can train a helper. Everybody is important. You must not go to university. Nobody is useless,” he said.

Onunwor further stressed that his knowledge in specialised areas of engineering, if applied, would create lucrative opportunities for Nigeria to harness and make a lot of money like her western counterparts but noted that he needs to work with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), which he said is the heart of the nation’s economy, to make this happen.

“I’m a specialist in vibration analysis, ultrasound analysis, alignment and balance, electric circuit analysis
, oil analysis that involves high technology. This is what they use to maintain aircraft – that aircraft can leave Singapore to California and come back. They never fail; they make money. We need to apply these facilities and then we’ll be making plenty of money, government will not be suffering.

“But we don’t manufacture aircraft. We’re operating our facilities. All I’m saying, let us operate them efficiently. We can run the plants for 90% of the time. What does that mean? Out of 365 days of the year, if you run 90%, you know how many days you’re running, you’re making money.

“But now, they’re running at about 60%, they’re losing money. Out of that 60%, they’re not running at 100% capacity; they’re running at about, maybe, 80% capacity. So they’re losing money, still paying salary. There’s too much burden on them,” he explained.

Onunwor, who is the founder and Chief Executive Machinery Company Nigeria Limited, expressed optimism that with real commitment and engagement, Nigeria could, within the next five or six years, cover up her existing technological gaps in the 2nd and 3rd revolutions and advance into the 4th.

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