As maintenance and reliability professionals, we are being asked to deliver like never before. Today's economic conditions demand greater levels of reliability and increased maintenance productivity with an ever-increasing focus on reducing costs. In order to survive, an organization's plans must turn to optimizing maintenance capacity as a means to achieve its goals.
Continuous improvement processes such as lean and its tools have been the process of choice for most organizations over the past 10 years. Although the business sides of these companies realize tremendous improvements, oddly enough many maintenance processes are left to be a part of someone else's lean event—or simply made "leaner" as a result of having less than before. There's no doubt the maintenance process eventually will be targeted for change through the revelation that maintenance cannot keep up with the reliability demand of a leaned organization, thereby becoming a victim of lean. On the other hand, a savvy organizations can choose to proactively apply lean tools to improve its process by design.
Across the industry, we see three business motivators driving our need for improvement:
Although each of these motivators targets improvement for different reasons, the solution is common. You must open the flow of the maintenance process and improve capacity if you are to survive.
Among the reasons maintenance "bats in the cleanup spot" in the continuous improvement lineup is the traditional view held by many companies that a maintenance department is simply a "cost" to an operation. Thus, the only way to improve "cost" is to reduce it! Additionally, many organizations are cutting what they consider to be "muda" (Japanese word for "waste") out of their maintenance budgets without necessarily making changes in how they operate. Doing so, they severely handicap the maintenance organization's ability to ensure adequate reliability in equipment and processes, therefore furthering the negative spiral. In this scenario, there are even considerations of decentralization, which places maintenance at the place of concern to compensate for the absence of reliability.
What exactly is lean maintenance?
First, lean maintenance is process improvement, not an outcome or consequence of cutting resources to keep up with external demands. Otherwise, maintenance will have appeared to achieve the goal of being lean, but probably lack the effectiveness and efficiency required to sustain itself or deliver the value required by the environment at which it's applied.
Secondly—and quite simply—lean maintenance is the application of lean techniques and tools to the maintenance process to drive out waste (anything within your process the end user would not be willing to pay for). The challenge is converting or translating already-known elements of lean into the maintenance process. The most common elements of lean can be applied to any process, including maintenance.
The Lean/Maintenance Conversion Chart (see Table I) takes lean elements and shows the maintenance equivalency in three primary areas of the maintenance process.
Value stream mapping of the maintenance process…
In their 1996 book Lean Thinking, James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones de? ned ? ve basic principles that characterize lean. These basic principles should be applied for each product or product family:
In order to apply lean principles, we must agree that maintenance is indeed a process, rather than an event. As a process, Preventive, Predictive, Corrective, Reactive, Project, Production Support, etc. can have different value streams. Therefore, they must be addressed individually, much the same as different products in the production value stream.
Principle 1: Specify value in terms of the end user…
The end user of the value provided by maintenance can be de? ned either as the entity that requires the equipment to operate, or as the end user of the product being made by the equipment. It doesn't matter because the required behavior should be the same. The value typically can be defined as work performed in order to attain the required level of reliability of the organization's equipment. Naturally, not all work performed will provide the same level of value. Consequently, work must be prioritized based on the criticality of the equipment to the operation, as well as its impact on safety, the environment and production throughput.
In maintenance, this value is produced via our throughput (transaction) of applied labor hours. This is our "product." Questions around this product can include:
Principle 2: Identify all steps in the value stream, eliminating those that do not add value…
As shown in Fig. 1, one of the most effective methods for performing a VSM for maintenance is to participate in standardized "ride-along" exercises. These physically trace a job from start to finish, documenting all steps and times captured for each with the exception of actual work times. Estimates are fine, as the emphasis is on the muda "around" the job, not questioning the craft skills within the job. (IMPORTANT: This is NOT a time study and the exercise must be preceded by educational materials that convey the point that the muda is a reflection of the process, not the worker.)
Principle 3: Make the remaining steps flow smoothly…
Once identified, muda that is preventing optimum flow must be removed—but in an order that maximizes labor without consuming it, as it is easy to become overwhelmed by the opportunities uncovered by the VSM exercise. At this stage, it is important that the productivity of the system be measured to document improvements to the system.
Principle 4: Have the customer pull value from the previous upstream activity…
Having the customer pull value from the process is comparable to not performing work before it is required. It is frightening to see how many organizations think of backlog as a bad thing. They see this work as being overdue. Allowing work to accumulate in the backlog for a reasonable amount of time provides several benefits, including:
Principle 5: Pursue perfection though continuous improvement…
As with anything, the goal must be to continuously improve against your key performance indicators (KPIs). However, once a process is documented, particularly one as intangible as maintenance, it becomes easier to make adjustments that can be leveraged across the organization. With a documented plan, and using the exact tools in other areas of the operation, it becomes easier to communicate the maintenance process, ensuring less chance that performance will slide back to what it was prior to the improvements.
Survive to thrive
By removing muda in the maintenance process through proven lean techniques, work order cycle time is forecasted and ready backlog is reduced, driving the need for optimized scheduling to fill smaller windows of availability. This cause and effect scenario demonstrates a dynamic process where true continuous improvement can be pursued.
Although you can find most companies already working on "pockets of excellence" driven by local need, such as Planning & Scheduling, PMs and work order systems, true systemic strength comes not from activity-based improvement but from a holistic solution focused on flow. The identification, measurement improvement and analysis of our true commodity, applied (value-added) labor hours, is the key. That's because the powerful combination of these tools in the correct order will almost double the flow of your maintenance system without increasing individual performance. This untapped capacity is the key to survival. MT
Ed Stanek, Jr. is the co-owner/president of LAI Reliability Systems, Inc. With a focus on maintenance and reliability systems for the past 24 years, he has worked extensively on all aspects of process optimization. Combining the concepts of constraint management, lean and reliability, Stanek has redefined how maintenance optimization and continuous improvement are implemented.
Tibor Jung, co-owner/CFO of LAI Reliability Systems, Inc., has over 25 years of experience in the field of maintenance and reliability improvement. His expertise in optimizing key production processes, as well as maintenance and reliability processes, allows him to provide more holistic solutions to clients' needs. Such solutions are geared toward bringing together previously conflicting factions within an organization, with the focus on greater reliability to "get more product out the door" and lower costs.
Telephone Stanek and Jung at (615) 591-8900.
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