By John Day, PE – Engineering and Maintenance Manager for Alumax Mt Holly 1979-1998



Alumax of South Carolina is an aluminum smelter that produces in excess of 180,000 MT of primary aluminum each year.  It began operation in 1980 after a 2-year construction phase.  The plant is the last greenfield aluminum smelter constructed in the U.S.   Alumax of SC is a part of Alumax, Inc., which has headquarters in Norcross, Georgia; a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. Alumax, Inc. is the third largest producer of primary aluminum in the U.S. and the fourth largest in North America.

The vision of general management was that the new smelter located on the Mt. Holly Plantation near Charleston, SC, would begin operations with a planned maintenance system that could be developed into a total proactive system.  At the time in 1978-79, there were no maintenance computer systems available on the market with the capability to support and accomplish the desired objectives.  Thus TSW of Atlanta, Georgia was brought on site to take not only the Alumax of S.C. maintenance concepts and develop a computer system, but they were to integrate all the plant business functions into one on-line common data base system available to all employees in their normal performance of duties.

Since the development and initial operation of the Alumax of SC North America.  Alumax of S.C. was selected as one of the seven “Best of the Best”.  And in 1989, Maintenance Technology magazine recognized Alumax of SC as the best maintenance operation in the U.S. within its category and also as the best overall maintenance operation in any category. Mt Holly’s proactive model is shown below in figure 1.


From a basic point of view there are two maintenance approaches.  One approach is reactive and the other is proactive. In practice there are many combinations of the basic approaches.

The reactive system (see Figure 1) responds to a work request or identified need, usually production identified, and depends on rapid response measures if effective.  The goals of this approach are to reduce response time to a minimum (the computer helps) and to reduce equipment down time to an acceptable level.  This is the approach used by most operations today.  It may well incorporate what is termed as a preventative maintenance program and may use proactive technologies.

Proactive maintenanceFigure 1 – Reactive Maintenance Model   

The proactive approach (see figure 2) responds primarily to equipment assessment and predictive procedures.  The overwhelming majority of corrective, preventative, and modification work is generated internally in the maintenance function as a result of inspections and predictive procedures.  The goals of this method are continuous equipment performance to established specifications, maintenance of productive capacity, and continuous improvement. Alumax of SC practices the proactive method.  The comments which follow are based upon the experience and results of pursuing this vision of maintenance.

Proactive Maint

Figure 2. Proactive Maintenance Model – 1979

Please comment on these approaches which were designed in 1978-1979.

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