Maintenance A Critical Component of Lean?

Picture1Traditional manufacturing methods relied on buffer stocks to replenish any production shortfalls should a machine breakdown occur. What happens if, in order to improve flow through the plant, these buffer stores are removed, taking with them the ability to recover quickly from a lengthy breakdown? 

Without contingency stock, manufacturers need to maintain a strong culture of lean in order to sustain a smooth operation. Lean, however, may be the ‘in thing,’ but it’s not fully effective unless you improve your maintenance methods and systems at the same time.

The Link to OEE

Computerised Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS) have been regarded as an essential element in the engineers’ toolbox for many years, being used to manage mission critical activity. However, Operation and Production departments often use these systems to create ‘engineering breakdown’ records as a means to excuse missed production targets.

This limited view usually results in ‘engineering’ being blamed for most output failures, but worse, it results in a great deal of lost economic opportunity because no one is keeping score of the other performance issues which effect Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE).

At the other extreme, OEE Systems are regarded as a production tool and so are often overlooked by engineering, thereby restricting the value of some engineering KPIs. Whilst engineers may work hard to complete maintenance against plan, can we be really sure the plan is sound and is the most effective way to eliminate losses and improve plant performance?

The key issue for maintenance engineers, therefore, must be to identify and complete the most appropriate tasks, by directing maintenance to critical areas identified by OEE and loss management.

So is maintenance a critical component of lean? Yes.

Creating Synergy

Why not bring the maintenance and production functions more closely together, and utilise the data from OEE analysis to generate maintenance requirements? An effective OEE System will also measure failures, reporting on when, how, and for how long.

A dedicated OEE System and a supportive shop-floor culture should provide direction for the maintenance and the key tool for loss management. A spreadsheet method simply doesn’t have the power most complex plants need for OEE analysis, and is often an approach companies quickly outgrow.

For instance, OEE availability metrics detect that the frequent failure of a glue depositor is resulting in 700 minutes of lost production each week. An immediate reaction may be to strip the unit and replace worn brushes. However, further analysis shows that not enough having cartons available has resulted in a significant loss in production time.

‘What if’ OEE analysis shows that several machines of a similar type are having the same problems, and a ‘5 why’s’ test shows that the root cause of lost time for the week is supply. Completing the wrong/unnecessary maintenance, even if done quickly and to the highest standard, won’t enable the plant to run to speed.

Getting the Full Picture

Maintenance decisions, therefore, need to be made using accurate and complete performance data. OEE tools need a powerful improvement agenda so that as incidents are identified, targets, reviews and completion dates can be set. These tasks should be highly visible and be able to provide clear accountability and clarify improvement responsibilities.

Constantly measuring OEE and aligning maintenance plans according to the results will ensure that the most effective maintenance is planned and the most accurate picture of performance is painted.

A good maintenance system and a clear strategy are essential to help resolve the issues OEE systems identify. Integrated OEE and Maintenance systems form an effective combination.

With no buffer stocks, there is no ‘plan B’. In the drive towards lean then, we must concentrate even harder on good maintenance and an effective system – a system that understands, and preferably ‘talks’ to our OEE management system.

Get in touch with Idhammar today to find out how our integrated OEE and CMMS systems can give you the complete picture of your production performance.