Lean Maintenance

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.

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.