Like lean manufacturing, lean principles are the foundation for success in modern maintenance. In a resource-intensive environment, anything that improves efficiency and productivity is essential. Lean maintenance has become more prominent as manufacturers experience sustainability challenges, economic instability and global competition.
What is lean maintenance and how does it benefit your bottom line? Lean maintenance is the reduction and elimination of waste at every stage of your maintenance program so you can go further faster, while spending less. Lean maintenance equals performance. But how do you achieve lean principles in your maintenance program?
This blog outlines the basics for building and measuring a lean maintenance program, including:
- The types of waste in maintenance
- A formula for creating a lean maintenance strategy
- Bottom-line business benefits for an automated maintenance program
The Three Types of Maintenance Waste
Environmental waste occurs when raw materials are used or disposed of inefficiently because of inefficient maintenance activities. Examples include an increase in scrap or rework after equipment maintenance; fuel overuse by improperly maintained vehicles or unnecessary transportation to and from a worksite; and overstocking parts for maintenance due to an outdated inventory purchasing schedule. The impact of this waste is multi-fold and includes harmful, unsustainable byproducts like more pollution and trash, higher carbon emissions, low-quality products and increased safety hazards.
Some strategies for reducing environmental waste in maintenance are:
- Frequent inventory cycle counts and less inventory purchasing to confirm that your storeroom isn’t overstocked
- Grouping scheduled maintenance together in one time-period to cut down on travel
- A mandatory check from a second technician after repairs or replacements before production to reduce scrap or rework
Financial waste refers to the extra costs from inefficient maintenance. It also includes lost production from unnecessary downtime. Examples include high labor and parts costs from preventive maintenance (PM) tasks that are done too frequently; defective products from an asset that was assembled or rebuilt incorrectly; and delayed maintenance because technicians had to wait for a part to complete repairs. The impact of financial waste is experienced throughout the company as higher labor and parts costs, more capital expenditures, lost revenue and missed opportunities for business growth.
Some strategies for reducing financial waste are:
- Identifying tasks in your preventive maintenance schedule that can be eliminated or done less frequently
- Reducing downtime by finding maintenance work that can be completed while an asset is running
- Building a failure reporting, analysis and corrective action system to address and help prevent failure on critical equipment
- Creating parts kits for critical equipment to speed up repairs and avoid “stockout” and setting a regular meeting with production staff to align maintenance with operations
Human capital waste
Human capital waste includes administrative work and unnecessary tasks that take staff away from specialized tasks only they can do. When human capital is wasted, fatigue, poor morale and turnover increase, leading to additional waste and lost organizational knowledge.
Examples include spending hours writing, reviewing and sorting work orders each day; Fixing the same component multiple times; Inspecting non-critical equipment with low or nonexistent failure rates; Supporting production instead of specialized maintenance tasks; and searching for parts and supplies in the stockroom. High employee turnover and lost company knowledge are two of the impacts of human capital waste. The impact also manifests as higher backlogs, decreased employee engagement, and less accurate data.
Strategies for becoming leaner include:
- Frequent maintenance team meetings to discuss challenges and brainstorm solutions
- Automate activities you do frequently, like creating work orders or reports
- Eliminate or reduce scheduled maintenance for equipment with a low follow-up rate
- Train machine operators to do routine maintenance tasks
Building a lean maintenance strategy
To counter waste, follow a three-step formula:
1) Understanding what you’re currently doing and the process you’re using;
2) Finding areas of waste and eliminating them; and
3) Pursuing a long-term vision that allows you to do steps one and two repeatedly.
Step 1: Mapping your maintenance process
This step is about knowing how your team currently operates so you can identify the work you’re doing too much or not enough. This stage involves documenting your maintenance processes, including:
- Key information about equipment, like criticality and failure modes
- What inspections and repairs are done, and how often
- Parts purchasing and storeroom management
- What an emergency looks like and how your team reacts
- How follow-up or corrective maintenance is created, assigned and tracked
- Goal setting, metrics creation, reporting and data collection
- Health, safety and compliance activities
Next, review business needs such as:
- Production levels by season
- High and low sales periods
- Reactionary needs to previous emergencies
- Organization goals and resources
Step 2: Identify opportunities for improvement you can act on now
The next step is to discover where you’re spending too much time, money or energy. Here are a few ways you can spot waste in your processes:
- Review specific processes with members of your maintenance team. Ask them what part of the process takes the most time or where they face challenges when completing work. Use this insight to make activities easier and remove roadblocks.
- Identify tasks that consistently take more time or money than planned and conduct a “root cause analysis” to determine why.
- Audit your planned maintenance work to make it more efficient. Question the need for all regular maintenance and the frequency, timing and resources for each task.
- Develop KPIs and metrics around the growth and success of your team. This data will allow you to find wasted potential.
Step 3: Build a long-term vision
Creating a lean maintenance program starts with a lean maintenance mindset. You have to ask the right questions, challenge the way you do things, and be willing to change. Begin by building maintenance activities around business and production goals and lessen or minimize work that doesn’t connect to these goals. Next, begin using a proactive maintenance response rather than a reactive response. A lean maintenance strategy hinges on data and taking the time to collect it. Five extra minutes completing extra fields on a work order add up. Allocate time in your schedule to account for reporting critical data. And inform your maintenance team about the importance of these extra steps.
Here are some best-practice metrics to start with to address each type of maintenance waste: