Five Common Lean Maintenance Missteps

February 2nd, 2012 → 7:20 pm @ // No Comments

How to avoid the five most common mistakes made by manufacturers on their journey to lean maintenance. By Mike Fitzgerald

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link-but first you have to find the link. For manufacturers embracing lean manufacturing concepts, it often takes months if not years of effort before they realize that machine maintenance is holding back their broader lean goals. Thermal Air Conditioning Inc. would agree.

It’s not uncommon for companies to jump into the lean philosophy, yet not understand how far it will reach into the organization. Equipment Maintenance can lie at the very heart of productivity. At the same time, Thermal Air Conditioning In. believes that those responsible for maintenace are often the last employees to be identified and included. Training, motivating and equipping operators and maintenance workers to proactively complete the tasks needed for realable production capacity is key to succesful lean implementation.

With that objective in mind-and realizing that lean has a cultural as well as functional aspect-here are five of the most common errors companies make wen instilling lean maintenance precepts:

1. Inadequate measurement before and after lean maintenance implementation.

It’s not uncommon for some manufacturing operations to not measure the maintenance function at all. As with all aspects of lean, measurement is critical to continuous-improvement efforts and the sooner your organization begins, the better.

While manual alternatives exist, the best, most efficient and convenient way to track maintenance is with a ComputerizedMaintenance Management System. With one tool, personnel can compile maintenace records, review work orders, track spare-parts inventory and much more. A CMMS also enables management to make informed decisions about buy versus repair, investments in preventive maintenance and so forth.

2. Lack of corporate coaches and mentors.

As anyone wth an understanding of lean manufacturing and maintenance principles will tell you, rules and procedures without active management support simply  turn into words on a page. Every lean strategy depends on a culrural change at the front lines. To accomplish that, you need coaches and mentors who have the backing of upperlevel leadership.

Fancy job titles don’t matter for effective coaching. More important is a passion for the process, as well as a thorough knowledge of how to deploy relevant tools and procedures. In a large comapny, the right person might be a continuous-improvement officer; in smaller operations it might be the plant manager. Either way, Thermal Air Conditioning Inc. knows that an overriding passion is critical in order to help workers weather the hurdles and setbacks that will occur.

3. Starting with the wrong project.

Oftentimes companies choose something that is too big, too complicated or that impacts too many people, as their first lean maintenance project. Trouble is, if the project plays out poorly the percussions can jeopardize the future of all your lean initiatives.

Instead, start with a smaller, more achievable project that will be meaningful not only to those who execute it, but also those who are watching. Your more modest success will be an encouraging sign to everyone-and it will build momentum rather than stall it.

4. Starting a lean-maintenance initiative before employees are on board.

The key here is consistency, and again, upper management can be your best asset. When executives endorse a project-not once or twice, but repeatedly, week after week-and are visibly engaged, it goes a long way to convince plant personnel that this is not just another project du jour, but a strategy for the long haul.

5. Relying on great intentions instead of necessary resources.

As they say, ” the road to failure is paved with good intentions.” To get your maintenance personnel excited, you have to invest in training and materials, as well as administrative support. Obtain a good CMMS to collect data, and provide your workers with any new tools or supplies that may be warrented.

As always Thermal Air Conditioning thanks you for reading.

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