The three phases of Ellingson Underground Infrastructure Management and why they matter

A large food or beverage processing and manufacturing facility is like a massive combustion engine: Every part must function as it’s intended in order for the engine to fire correctly. And when it doesn’t, the costs can mount quickly. Disrupted operations don’t just snarl product output but also cause long-term problems with critical infrastructure within a large processing facility. And just like maintaining an engine, sustaining uninterrupted operations is about more than just having the right-sized wrench.


The Assess phase prioritizes repair needs

That’s the impetus for the three parts of the foundation for Ellingson Underground Infrastructure Management: Assess, Repair and Record. It starts with identifying critical issues that enable the right repairs. Each instance in this normally ongoing process rounds out with documenting what you’ve done in such a way that you know exactly what you’ll need to do next, and when to do it.

“We started from scratch with Ellingson, looking at all of the lines in the facility. We have miles of piping, so we’re still working through that process,” said Chad Coogan, senior project manager for The Foth Companies who manages infrastructure for large breweries in the Midwestern U.S. “That early assessment step helps us build a priority list and helps us manage the work that needs done when it needs done to help reduce downtime. Ellingson has a game plan before they come into the facility, get everything coordinated so they get the most out of every trip.”

The fact it happens over time is a major component of the success of the Assess phase. Mapping all the piping within a large brewery or similar facility at one time would be costly and potentially disrupt operations. Working with Coogan, the Ellingson team was able to identify the areas in a large brewery where repair needs were most imminent, then schedule the necessary work in phases. A list of prioritized work enabled plant managers to schedule repairs in a way that left operations uninterrupted.

“Every year, we look at a priority list of which ones we look at next,” Coogan said. “Down the road, we hope to look at all of them. It’s going to be a never-ending process. We may look at some lines every 10 years, but we will always assess those lines again eventually.”


The right Repair work at the right time

Armed with a priority list from the Assess phase, specialists like Coogan and Nestle USA E&S Certification Lead Nick Lindstrom team up with Ellingson to execute on the most-needed repair work quickly and efficiently. For Lindstrom, caustic chemicals are the culprit of pipe and drain failures in the more than 60-year-old plant where more than 300 food and nutrition products are manufactured.

In the Nestle plant, Ellingson’s cured-in-place-pipe (CIPP) lining is the ideal solution to preventing harsh chemicals from eroding the structural integrity of its piping and the scores of drains in the facility’s maze of piping.

“Our cleaning processes use a lot of acidic and caustic products, and when they drain out at extreme temperatures, it degrades pipe over time. When we have drain failures because of that, the repair process can be brutal,” Lindstrom said. “Now, Ellingson can come in with its CIPP process and line the pipes for our core processes. We have about 80% of our core piping lined. Our drain failures have gone to almost zero.”

In the five years since partnering with Ellingson for these repair processes, the elimination of those drain failures now means Lindstrom can focus his time and energy on other important facets of maintaining uninterrupted operations at the massive facility.

“Since Ellingson came in and audited our core processes and lined the pipes, I don’t think so much about drains. We have bigger fish to fry, and now I can devote energy to those things,” Lindstrom said. “There’s always the risk of pipe failure, but especially as we continue to grow and add new infrastructure, this helps us feel like we won’t have to worry as much about pipe or drain failures.”


Recording the continuous process

Once repair work is done to a specific pipe, the three-pronged process resumes, ultimately never stopping. Each repair is documented and becomes part of a running record of both the inspections conducted and work that happens based on those inspections.

Now about seven years into beginning monitoring and repair work with Ellingson, Coogan said he anticipates the amount of work to gradually decline as proactive monitoring and record-keeping touches every part of his facility’s piping and infrastructure. That’s where recording the work that’s been done at each step in the process is valuable to the system’s overall effectiveness in preventing infrastructure failures and keeping the facility operational. Prior to each assessment, the Ellingson team knows exactly where to start and where to look for infrastructure vulnerabilities because of the long-term records they keep at each step in the process.

“It’s a continuous process, and the further we get into it, the less extensive the repair work will be because of the assessments they conduct and the records they keep,” Coogan said. “We have miles of piping, so this is a years-long process. By recording everything they do in every assessment or repair job, we know exactly where we stand.”