Planned Maintenance Turnaround

Measurements affect people in many ways. Certainly they provide graphic representations of performance and results that are vital to planning and guiding an organization to sustained high performance. But it seems to be true also that measurements drive behavior, and when displayed where everyone involved can see them, they reinforce attitudes and actions that bring about those positive results.

The importance of measurements was evident in the performance turnaround achieved by the maintenance department of the L. A. Dreyfus Co., Edison, NJ. In 1996, it was in a classic "breakdown maintenance" mode. There was a modest but ineffective preventive maintenance program in place. Mechanics and electricians spent most of their time on corrective maintenance. Equipment downtime was a major issue and management believed the solution lay in changing the maintenance approach.

Charles Brooks Associates, Inc. (CBA) of Charlotte, NC, was invited to benchmark the operation. The resulting benchmarking report, presented to the company's managers in May 1996, contained several recommendations designed to transition the company to a planned maintenance approach. One of the recommendations was to develop and implement a measurement system. CBA also offered a rule-of-thumb guideline by suggesting that the best maintenance operations show a planned vs. unplanned work order ratio of 3:1. "Three to One or Bust" eventually became the title of a chart that tracked the departments progress toward achieving a planned maintenance approach.

The company struggled with the concept, but tackled the change process in earnest in early 1997. The first step was the establishment of a planning function within the department. That required a "leap of faith" that is difficult for many companies. To make that leap, maintenance team leaders Don Siwicki and Scot Bishop had to convince themselves that a planned operation would be more efficient than a reactive one. If that were true, they should be able to handle the workload with two fewer mechanics on the floor. Seasoned mechanics Ed Slover and Charlie Huffsmith, with guidance from Bishop and Siwicki, took on the maintenance planner assignments and built the planning operation from the ground up.

A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) was an integral part of the company's data system, but had not been activated. Slover and Huffsmith tackled the job of developing an equipment numbering system that set the stage for full CMMS implementation. In the meantime, CBA consultants Ed Warden and Charles Jackson reviewed and revamped over 200 existing preventive maintenance (PM) routines in preparation for loading in the CMMS.

As the PMs were cleaned up, the planners began assigning them to mechanics and electricians as planned work orders. The ratio of planned to unplanned orders began to improve although it was still well under the 3:1 ratio suggested by CBA.

In September 1997, the maintenance team leaders felt they could do a more effective job of planned maintenance if they had an in-house capability to perform predictive maintenance testing previously contracted to outside firms. Arrangements were made to obtain a vibration analysis system along with the assistance of an experienced technician who could provide training and help establish a program designed to focus initially on the most critical equipment.

Mechanic Dan Milo agreed to take the job of predictive maintenance technician and spent several weeks learning the system and establishing routes for data gathering.

In November, Milo detected signs of bearing failure in one of the company's very critical product forming machines. He alerted management and arranged to have it replaced during the weekend when the factory was shut down. When they assessed the savings, L. A. Dreyfus managers were stunned to find they had avoided $140,000 in downtime-related costs by preventing an almost certain breakdown. The total cost of parts and labor to change the bearing was less than $1000.

By April 1998, planners Slover and Huffsmith had completed the job of shutting down the CMMS, loading the equipment numbering system, and populating the database with the revised PM routines.

Using the CMMS, the maintenance team leaders were finally able to produce meaningful data. CBA consultant Gene Rowe developed a list of cost-related measurements which would show how well the department was performing.

The development of machine histories from information on completed work orders was a key objective. However, mechanics and electricians who had not been accustomed to providing written information were initially reluctant to do so. A performance objective was developed requiring that each technician provide work order completion information, including labor hours, so that at least 90 percent of the hours reported for pay purposes were covered by maintenance work orders.

Currently, 92 percent of all maintenance labor hours are related to work orders and recorded in the CMMS. Another strong indication of the effectiveness of the new maintenance approach was the monthly volume (in pounds) of rework (off-quality material) produced due to machine failure. By the end of 1998, it was reduced by 77 percent and, by the end of 1999, rework due to mechanical failure was 15 percent of what it had been two years before.

In the 1996 benchmarking report, Charles Brooks consultants had outlined the kind of potential benefits, in terms of greater equipment reliability and reduced cost, L. A. Dreyfus could achieve through planned maintenance. Although it seemed optimistic at the time, the 23 percent decrease in maintenance labor cost and a 30 percent reduction in machine downtime exceeded their expectations. At the end of 1999, the planned to unplanned work order ratio was 4.1:1 for the entire year.

Charlean Gmunder, president of L. A. Dreyfus, has been more than pleased with what the maintenance team has accomplished. She says, "Not only do we have a system of metrics to show our improvements, but we are no longer operating in the chaotic, breakdown mode we once were. What's even more amazing is the change in our people and their attitude toward their work."

In recent discussions with several members of the L. A. Dreyfus maintenance department, they recalled lessons learned that are worth remembering if your company is pondering a change to planned maintenance:

  • There has to be a serious commitment. Upper management support is vital. It is equally important to communicate the reasons and strategy for the change to the hourly people to gain their understanding and support.
  • Be flexible. There is no simple, 1-2-3 formula for implementing planned maintenance because every maintenance organization is different. The concept is the same, but the process differs.
  • Be patient. Don't underestimate the culture change involved in moving to the planned maintenance approach. Progress is made on a "two-steps-forward, one-step-back" basis. More than once, the L. A. Dreyfus staff found that progress was snagged and modified their strategy in order to move the process ahead. MT

Information supplied by W. Coby Frampton, Charles Brooks Associates, Inc., Charlotte, NC; (800) 868-3553; and R. Pete Johnson, L. A. Dreyfus Co., Edison, NJ.

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