Optimizing Maintenance through Lean Practices

Lean manufacturing has proven time and time again to be a powerful process for optimizing manufacturing in today’s competitive environment. Organizations are adopting Lean manufacturing practices today more than ever in hopes of improving their throughput, quality, and productivity.

Often times, we begin our Lean journey with a strategic focus on our product lines. We map our processes and eliminate waste by streamlining our changeovers and level loading tasks. We 5S our areas to ensure that we have the right tools in the right places at the right times. All of these efforts usually pay big dividends for our organizations.

A common mistake many organizations make is that we leave our maintenance departments out of our Lean implementations. We may expect them to participate in our Kaizen events, TPM workshops, and equipment improvement teams but we fail to look at our maintenance activities as value added processes that can be improved using the same Lean practices that we apply to our product flow lines.

Maintenance processes are often ripe with “low hanging fruit” or opportunities for improvement such as an MRO Storeroom that is not organized in such a way that parts are easily found, signed out, and restocked to ensure that we have the right parts on hand when needed. Our maintenance workshops are often unorganized and cluttered, making it difficult and time-consuming to find the tools we need when we need them. Our work flow processes are often full of unproductive steps such as rework, hunting or looking for OEM manuals or work instructions, tearing down a piece of production equipment for a repair or PM only to learn we do not have the correct replacement parts on hand.

I challenge you to look at your own maintenance organization and determine if there are opportunities for improvement or low hanging fruit that you can correct by applying the Lean tools you are probably already using on your production lines. 

I will cover how you can eliminate waste by introducing Lean practices to your key maintenance and reliability activities in future posts.


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