Have you ever had a discussion with your significant other about non-value-added activities? For instance, why rake leaves when the wind eventually will blow them intothe neighbor’s yard? Why make the bed if you’re just going to sleep in it again tonight?
Non-value-added activities can be a problem for maintenance and engineering departments, and managers would be wise to take a closer look at technicians’ priorities and activities. Do technicians regularly perform preventive maintenance (PM) activities that add no value? Do they spend too much time doing PMs? How detailed are the tasks on the PM list? Are they generalized tasks open to interpretation, or are they detailed so that anyone on the team can execute a quality PM on that equipment?
In my experience, too few managers pay close attention to the planned maintenance activities in their facilities. When I ask managers about the situation, typically I hear, “That’s the way it’s always been” or “The OEM recommends this so many times a week, month, or year.”
I recently worked with a facility that finally had enough with unscheduled breakdowns on a large 350 kilowatt rotary air compressor. Every time this unit shut down, the facility faced significant interruptions and financial damage. The unscheduled breakdowns were increasing each year, and the maintenance team was spending exorbitant hours on the equipment. To remedy the situation, we conducted a workshop with a team of cross-functional representatives to review the department’s PMs in an effort to improve the compressor’s reliability and, ultimately, to reduce costs.
First, some background on the situation is necessary. The compressor’s downtime costs — all company contributions, including 401(k) and health insurance — were $5,000 per hour. The average hourly wage for a technician — again, with all company contributions — was $56.25 per hour. Downtime totals for the most recent three years were 102 hours in 2012, 118 hours in 2013 and 121 hours in 2014.
To address the growing problem, we took several important steps. First, we selected the equipment we wanted to address initially based on both dollars spent on repairs and maintenance hours. We then collected all current PMs, checklists, and the failure history of the equipment.
Next, the team conducted a workshop analysis. We reviewed the compressor’s operating environment, function and requirements. The team had conducted a formal failure-mode effects analysis (FMEA) on the equipment, but now a more thorough review was necessary.
The team studied current maintenance strategies and based their justifications on failure history and consequences. The team reviewed current PMs and matched them to the list of known failures, using the failure-history report from the CMMS. They also matched the PMs to the FMEA document to ensure that potential failures were captured on a PM.
Once completed, the team documented improvement recommendations, along with suggested modifications and skills assessments, which identify the department most appropriate to perform a particular task. Given all of the changes and modifications, approval was key to the success. Top management needed to understand the positive impact of the process, as well as its impact on stakeholders and operations.
The PM review yielded significant cost reductions and improvements to technician utilization while increasing the reliability of an unreliable asset. The department made changes and modifications in the CMMS, the new PMs began cycling through, and data began to flow.
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