The Skeldon factory ceased operations late last Friday after encountering a problem with a shredder that is the latest in a series of minor glitches responsible for major downtime.
Over US$230 million later, the state-of-the-art factory is still lagging behind and GuySuCo has called in a Trinidadian technician to assist with a shredder after its motor was damaged.
According to factory management, the motor on the shredder was not functioning properly and as a result although the factory did continue crushing cane, it is being done on a significantly lower rate and a bypass shoot arrange had to be made.
Factory management told Stabroek News that “last week two problems were encountered; the first being that that the shredder motor got damaged and was replaced and is now awaiting balancing… second, failure of a modification done by Bosch, we are experiencing a frequency of chokes.”
Stabroek News was also told that the factory had over 79 hours of downtime last week because of a variety of issues, including the eight chokes. It was explained that each choke, which is caused by overfeeding of the conveyor, caused up to two hours of downtime. Workers had to remove the excess cane. “They have to remove the choke and every time that is done there goes two hours. Two hours by eight chokes is 16 hours alone,” a manager said.
This publication was further informed that Bosch Engineering, the South African firm that was given a US$30 million contract to fix a multiplicity of mistakes originally made by contractor CNTIC (China National Technical Import and Export Corporation), has also made errors. Stabroek News was told that the choke frequency was a “bad design” choice made by Bosch and that modifications would have to be done locally.
“We had to take out a deflector plate…it was removed and the other thing is the team had to put in a local breaker ball which Bosch disagreed to install,” a manager said. He noted that also a windage plate was removed and the door to the conveyor had to be adjusted as they all lead to a build-up and choke.
He said that because Bosch worked on the conveyor and it was a reverse rotation system, when chokes occur the entire system has to be shut down. Factory management is hoping that once the Trinidadian technician is able to balance the motor on the shredder and local technicians are able to revaluate the conveyor design, Skeldon will grind continuously.
Last week’s downtime was a far cry from when the factory officially began grinding the second sugar crop of the year. A manager said that “the first week we achieved 136 operation hours,” while adding that the goal was 130 hours. He said that the Skeldon did have to work on consistency because of the major fluctuation discrepancies week to week.
Today Skeldon is expected to resume regular operations and factory management stated that the 79 hours of downtime is not likely to be repeated for the week. The week which ended on September 7 fared significantly better, with just over 24 hours of downtime and under four of those hours were due to mechanical issues.
Skeldon management said that they went to the Board of Directors with their concerns over work done by Bosch and additional work that local teams will be required to do. Management stated that the board has remained mum on the matter. GuySuCo’s Chairman, Raj Singh, is expected to visit the factory on September 23, at which point factory management is hoping that they can raise their concerns.
After GuySuCo’s dismal first crop performance, Skeldon’s production is even more critical in this second crop is even more critical as the company scrambles to meet its quota for the European market while satisfying local needs.