Those of us working in the world of manufacturing and facilities management are frequently called upon to find ways of improving maintenance. But maintenance-improvement practices come in many different forms. What are maintenance best practices? What’s under the “maintenance umbrella” anyway? This list goes on and on. Often, though, there’s a bigger question: Should we focus on maintenance or on the equipment?
In some of today’s plants and facilities, 30% to 40% (or more) of the maintenance hours worked are for reactive or emergency repairs. Many reactive maintenance organization haven’t always been that way, however. They may have slipped into it because of cost-improvement initiatives, re-organizations, or higher than normal technician turnover. In the process, their equipment has become more problem-prone than in the past; leaks have not been stopped, vibrations have not been curtailed; and root causes have not been addressed because, they claim, “we just don’t have the time or the resources.”
FINDING THE ELEPHANT IN MAINTENANCE
When looking for an elephant, many people think they need to know everything about the beast, including its habits and behaviors. All that research and digging through tons of evidence can bog down the process, though. The fact is, we rarely need a microscope to find an elephant. We just need to follow the tracks.
Improving maintenance in a reactive organization does not take a microscope either. Just follow the tracks. Chances are, reactive-culture-type plants and facilities really don’t have the resources to undertake a widespread maintenance improvement effort in a sustainable manner. Yet, as they continue slipping deeper and deeper into the reactive abyss, with no apparent hope, they are surrounded by herds of invisible elephants.
In reactive-maintenance plants and facilities, it shouldn’t take extensive data analysis to point to the biggest, most critical opportunity for improvement. Nor should it take a fancy maintenance-improvement practice, initiative, or activity to address the problem. Consider these five basic steps:
Step 1: Pick a target. Focus on the biggest equipment-related interruption to production throughput. Look for the largest equipment-related complaint in the facility. Check out the highest maintenance cost. Pinpoint the area having the highest number of maintenance “emergencies.”
Step 2: Focus on the condition of the equipment identified in Step 1. Go look at it. Is the condition satisfactory? Or is it leaking, bouncing, missing parts, patched together? Are there operation work-arounds?
Step 3: Focus on the past years’ maintenance and operations history for the equipment identified in Step 1. Are the PM tasks accurate, complete, and properly performed? Are the operating procedures accurate, complete, and followed?
Step 4: Focus on the skills and knowledge of the people responsible for setting up, operating, and maintaining the equipment identified in Step 1. Are they properly trained and qualified?
Step 5: Focus on improving the EQUIPMENT, the PEOPLE, and the WORK PROCESSES.
IN THE END
Sometimes, it’s NOT about maintenance problems, but, rather, about equipment problems, including, improper operation, raw materials, lack of training, and worn tooling, among others. If you find yourself in a reactive-maintenance mode, the goal may NOT be to improve maintenance but, instead, to improve the reliability of problematic pieces of equipment to free up maintenance resources and enhance operations. You do that “one elephant at a time.”TRR
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Williamson is a long-time contributor to the people-side of the world-class-maintenance and manufacturing body of knowledge across dozens of industry types. His background in maintenance, machine and tool design, and teaching has positioned his work with over 500 companies and plants, facilities, and equipment-oriented organizations. Contact him directly at 512-800-6031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tags: reliability, availability, maintenance, RAM, skills training, workforce development, workforce issues