Lean Maintenance: 5S Your Maintenance Department

Lean principles and practices are synonymous with manufacturing today.  Despite the widespread adoption of Lean tools in manufacturing, it is surprising that they are rarely utilized by maintenance.  This is even more surprising when we (production) tend to ask the maintenance department for help implementing Lean in our production areas.  In a time when unnecessary costs and waste are being minimized and value maximized, the simple truth is that maintenance can benefit from the same Lean tools and principles.  

One of the fundamental Lean tools that can be adopted by maintenance is the 5S tool. The 5S’s are used to organize productions areas in order to operate and changeover our equipment in the most efficient way. The 5S’s are used to identify the hand tools, tooling, fixtures, etc in such a way that our operators can locate, use and return them quickly, easily, and efficiently. We remove all unused, unneeded, and obsolete items from the area then we arrange the remaining items in a neat, orderly fashion.  This organization also breeds a standard operating and care procedure; there is a higher likelihood that tools will be returned, cleaned and cared for in an efficiently run 5S environment.

3 Keys to Sustaining TPM / Total Process Reliability

One of the biggest challenges of a change initiative such as Total Productive Maintenance/Total Process Reliability (TPM/TPR) is being able to sustain the gains and improvements. Many companies have tried to implement TPM/TPR multiple times and failed; they achieve some quick wins and short-term improvements, but struggle to really change the culture.  We at Marshall Institute have found that there are several keys to sustaining gains and overall change that lead to long term implementations.  I'll cover 3 of those key elements today.

World-Class Maintenance: Key Activities

In 2010 I flew 232,000 miles and circumvented the world several times to support clients achieve their reliability goals.  So far in 2011 I’ve worked in North Dakota, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Louisiana, Korea, Malaysia, and Scotland.   My point is not to promote my busy travel schedule but to shed light on some commonalities of mainte

nance, no matter the country or industry. 

I admit there are nuances that make certain operating environments different and sometimes unique, however I have listed some key maintenance activities that are required for any operation to become world-class. This by no means is an exhuastive list, just some key activities.

Total Process Reliability: Going Beyond TPM

What is Total Process Reliability—“TPR” ?

Total Process Reliability (TPR) is an organizational approach to improving operational reliability of major assets; in-turn improving overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), increasing production capacity, reducing costs and growing the effectiveness of the relationship between maintenance and operations. TPR combines the proven tools and techniques of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) with an effective organizational change model to establish a vigorous and structured improvement process leading to operational excellence. 

True TPR is philosophy adopted and practiced across the organization; it is NOT just a maintenance initiative.

Total Productive Maintenance Implementation: The Importance of Communication

A crucial element to effective adoption and implementation of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is clear and honest communication. To support your TPM implementation effort consider one-on-one meetings with your maintenance crew to communicate the importance of TPM elements: operator care, planned maintenance...etc.  

By sitting one-on-one with your crew you can answer questions directly and discuss the importance of the initiative. Just as important as expressing the virtues of TPM is getting a feel for the level of maintenance support and having the opportunity to answer any questions that the crew may have. It will pay huge dividends to face issues upfront and convert possible skeptics into TPM supporters.



Justify Maintenance Storeroom Attendants


...by measuring current costs

Many companies do not have the proper staffing in their storeroom to provide world-class services to their maintenance department.  These services include but are not limited to; kitting parts for planned work, ordering the right parts in the most economic quantity, reserving parts for future work and delivering parts to maintenance.  The number one reason listed by these understaffed organization's for being understaffed is a lack of money.  

World-class companies overcome this obstacle by identifying the cost savings associated with each of these services.  So, what happens when a storeroom isn't staffed properly and run efficiently? Maintenance craftspeople may start to gather their own parts, reducing their wrench-time; stocking-out of parts when they are needed, resulting in extended production downtime and the ensuing extraordinary efforts and cost of getting parts delivered are only a few to name, the list is extensive.

Management Insight: How to Quantify Lost Production

I work with organizations around the world. With every group of managers, I ask one simple question: What percentage of your time do you actually spend supervising or managing your staff? The results are staggering: less than 10 percent.

When I ask managers to explain the reasons, I receive varying explanations. Mostly, supervisors and managers say they need to watch their workers to make sure they do what they are actually supposed to do. I looked up the definitions of supervise and manage, and in neither case did I see a mention of babysitting.

When I worked as a plant manager, I used to cross the title off my business cards and replace it with vice president of child-care services. Why? Because some days, that title best defined my duties. I lost track of the truly important responsibilities: managing the business, coaching, mentoring, and ultimately, improving the department's performance and the organization's bottom line.

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.

Effective Communication: Writing Emails

Communication is such a big part of life and email is now a common format for daily communication. Although email is not a common topic of discussion in maintenance and reliability, effective communication is an important aspect of our jobs. I would like to share a few rules of effective email writing that you can start using today.  

Due to the impersonal aspect of email communication we lose the benefit of eye-contact, body language, tone and rely solely on our words. This means that we are all fallible to misunderstanding and general miscommunication.

Here are a few great tips to remember as you construct your next email:

The Maintenance Skill-Gap: Act Now!

The conversation about the aging U.S. workforce and skills shortage has been discussed with increased volume over the last two decades. The forecast statements of the 80's and 90's are now a reality.  Our baby boomer generation is retiring and we need to effectively manage their departure from the labor force with adequate skill replacement. 

There are many elements to this transition that I won't cover; however, I would like to direct your attention to an article by Bob Williamson in the January issue of Maintenance Technology magazine. In part 1 of his 2 part series, “Growing Your Own”, Bob provides a framework for growing and developing skilled technicians. He also outlines a 7-step process for assessing the skills and abilities of current employees and new hires. This is a timely and useful article. Read the full article

A Case for Reliability

Even today too many industry leaders do not see the clear case for investing in maintenance and reliability.  Within the reliability community, the message IS clear; cost-cutting and reducing resources as a means to improve performance can be fatal. No one has ever cost cut themselves to World Class.

An older study, yet still relevant today, conducted by Solomon Associates in 1994 in the refining industry concluded the following*… 

  • Improved reliability is unrelated to maintenance spending
  • Highest cost performers are very reactive and repair focused
  • The best performers required fewer expenditures for higher mechanical reliability
  • The best performers view recurring failures as unacceptable

It is fairly easy to understand: high reliability equates to lower operating costs.  To achieve higher reliability performance requires improvement on the following key elements of an effective asset maintenance management system:

´    Work Order Control

´    Materials Management

´    Work Planning and Scheduling

´    Effective Leadership

´    Preventive Maintenance

´    Predictive Maintenance

´    Proactive Maintenance

´    Reliability Engineering

´    Failure Analysis

5 Steps to Maximize Training ROI

In this post I have summarized an article that was recently published in Plant Engineering magazine about how to maximize maintenance and reliability training ROI. This 5 step process provides a framework to improve your approach to identifying training needs, selecting training providers and maximizing your ROI,

Making a strong case for training during fiscally frugal times is a challenge; finding the budget and time can be even harder. With downsizing common and turnover regular, many managers and supervisors are faced with filling roles, skill gaps or training needs. In a time when every dollar matters, you must ensure maximum return on investment. You have the responsibility to provide direction and develop your people.

Follow these five steps to ensure your employees get the right training and, in turn, the best results:

1. Align training with organizational goals and strategy

Maintenance Troubleshooting (Quick Tip)


The first key element to solid troubleshooting is "Understanding the System".   If you do not understand the system, read the manuals, articles, web information, and/or Youtube videos to get up to speed.

Of course the best time to invest in the research is before the equipment is down!