By Ken Bannister, Contributing Editor
With skilled workers no longer the renewable resource they once were, maintenance departments everywhere face a serious challenge for the future: Increasing quality-of-service and demand levels will significantly stress their ability to deliver unless a new work model is devised. That’s where innovation comes in. Innovation takes full advantage of the attributes that set us humans apart from other life forms (i.e., reasoning, problem solving, communicating through complex, nuanced language forms, abstract thinking, using tools, etc.), especially where adversity looms.
According to management guru Peter Drucker, “Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Translation: If maintenance organizations are to perform work in an environment where time and skill resources are budgeted, they must begin to evaluate their proactive methods and revise them for efficiency and effectiveness. One method I have devised for doing this capitalizes on a combination of problem solving, communication and abstract thinking: I call it the “Minute Maintenance” approach to proactive work.
Minute Maintenance is the pursuit and implementation of proactive methods, processes, techniques and tools designed to reduce or eliminate non-value-added (waste) maintenance activity to produce an efficient and effective result in minutes. It very much reflects a lean maintenance process.
Time is the most precious of commodities. When treated as such, it changes the way one views and approaches maintenance work. Any activity that doesn’t add value takes away meaningful utilization of the maintainer resource.
Take, for example, very large plants or where a maintenance department serves multiple sites/facilities: A centralized maintenance-shop approach means substantial staff time will be spent in back-and-forth travel. Adopting a decentralized or zone deployment system can help to reduce travel time and reclaim precious maintenance resource minutes. Similarly, use of cached inventory locations rather than a large central storeroom can reduce the time spent waiting for parts. In an advanced maintenance state, both strategies can be expanded upon with devices like smartphones and tablets to schedule just-in-time work orders, thereby eliminating time-consuming return trips to central maintenance for new work orders.
Another strategy involves issuing parts to convenient locations near job sites—or having them kitted, staged and drop-shipped internally or by a third-party supplier to the actual job site. This type of inventory transaction has long been associated with small auto-repair shops. Such businesses rarely carry inventory, preferring to place calls to parts-suppliers minutes before items are needed. A supplier, in turn, will kit the needed part(s) and deliver them to the shop in a matter of minutes. Although these are sophisticated strategies and processes that require highly disciplined planning and scheduling, there are many simple activities, techniques and tools that can add value and free up maintenance personnel for deployment where they can be better utilized.
The process in brief
Minute Maintenance achieves results through the introduction of innovative methods, processes and tools at the design phase of an asset or through systematic review, analysis, design and implementation of maintenance improvements to existing practices. In both cases, it is imperative that maintenance be involved in the process.
The Minute Maintenance process adopts a similar approach to the successful review, analysis and design process used in SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Die), a lean process developed by Shigeo Shingo in the late 1950s to reduce time waste during a production line changeover (i.e., achieve a line change in 10 minutes or less). It begins with the maintenance team performing an existing process or PM job plan⎯as they typically would⎯while timing and filming it. The team should include those normally involved in the referenced process, including the planner, scheduler, supervisor, maintainer(s) and operators.
Members of the team then reconvene in a facilitated brainstorming session to critically review the written flow diagram or PM instruction and recorded work session for waste (usually measured based on effort that produces little or no value) and propose improvements. Each idea is captured and reviewed for cost vs. practicality, expected return on investment in time and availability/reliability results. To be clear, some of the recommendations coming out of these brainstorming sessions will require reengineering and involve input from others.
Unlike a production department that may have one line and a handful of processes to consider, a maintenance organization can have hundreds of things to deal with. Expediency, therefore, would typically demand that maintenance departments begin by streamlining their major processes like planning and scheduling and inventory transactions. Or they can start with their most common and repetitive PM tasks like bearing lubrication or pulley and belt inspections.
Activities, techniques and tools
Efficiency and effectiveness is achieved through consistency. Consider a typical lubrication PM asking personnel to place a grease gun on a bearing and pump grease into it. If the job task simply states, “lubricate as necessary,” no two PMs will be completed the same way. With no control parameters specified, the PM would rely solely on the person performing it to understand if the correct grease is being applied in the correct amount to the correct number of bearings. To reach certain bearings, equipment may need to be taken offline and require lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures and machine-guard removal. These are all time-consuming elements, none of which guarantees the equipment will be lubricated correctly every time. Taking a Minute Maintenance approach to this type of PM could result in numerous improvements at different levels.
Level One Improvements: Rewrite the PM job task using objective language. Identify and number all lubrication points on a schematic drawing that can be printed on the PM and/or laminated and attached to the equipment. Identify the grease to be used on the PM task and on the schematic drawing. Calculate the amount required for each bearing, translate into grease-gun strokes and identify on the PM and schematic—for every numbered bearing.
Level Two Improvements: Perform Level One Improvements. Review guard-access issues and design/install remote lubrication line extensions from guarded bearing points to outside the guard, eliminating the need to take off and reinstall guards. If there are many points behind one guard, review the possibility of redesigning it to a 30-second hinged guard (more about this in Part II). Negotiate to perform this PM during a production break so no downtime is encountered.
Level Three Improvements: Perform Level One Improvements. Design and install a centralized lubrication system with all lines connected to an engineered lubrication divider block mounted on the perimeter of the machine. A grease gun can now be attached to the divider block and pumped until an indicator pin visually indicates to the operator that all points have received an engineered amount of lubricant. While this level requires an inexpensive engineering modification, it allows an unskilled operator to perform the greasing—and does not require LOTO or equipment to be taken out of service to perform the PM. Accordingly, what could have taken an hour to complete can be accomplished in under five minutes.
This particular lubrication task could be taken to a fourth level through a fully automated centralized delivery system or by adding a pump and controller, eliminating the PM entirely. This would require another PM: to check that the system is operating correctly and the reservoir is always charged with grease.
Each level incrementally increases efficiency and effectiveness through waste elimination. The level chosen for adoption will depend on many factors—including the budget and the return-on-investment factor.
More tips and techniques will be covered in the March issue.
Ken Bannister will speak on “Minute Maintenance” at MARTS 2014, as well as conduct a Pre-Conference Workshop on its use in lubrication fundamentals. For more, visit www.MARTSconference.com.