Auto supplier neglects maintenance and suffers consequences. The new TPM program and interim leadership reduce equipment breakdowns & downtime.

Equipment breakdowns in any factory can cause unanticipated work stoppages. In addition to lost productivity, such stoppages can contribute to missed shipment dates and unbudgeted overtime charges.

For this supplier of automotive parts, OEM customer orders had to go out on time or the company would suffer a significant financial penalty. The overtime and other work necessary to meet customers’ strict delivery deadlines were taking a major bite out of profits.

Equipment breakdowns were occurring daily, on a seemingly random basis. Other issues caused by poor maintenance practises included part misalignments and constant machine adjustments, as well as numerous electrical problems with relays, switches and PLCs. Maintenance personnel’s work had become almost entirely reactionary.

“We didn’t have a permanent maintenance manager for several years, and our maintenance processes were not as robust as they should have been. We were in full-on fire-fighting mode,” recalls the plant manager. 

TBM consultants first conducted an in-depth assessment of the site’s issues. To get maintenance processes back on track, they suggested a multi-pronged Total Productive Maintenance program (TPM).

Challenge: Two years without a full-time maintenance manager had contributed to equipment breakdowns, significant downtime and lost productivity. The maintenance department was mostly operating in “fire-fighting” mode.

Following TBM’s initial assessment and report, site leaders acknowledged these skill gaps and immediately redeployed some maintenance workers to different shifts. Then, to fill the remaining roles, they hired some outside contractors.

Next, we helped plant managers create a scheduling system for maintenance and tooling work orders. The primary objective of the system is to make sure people are always working on the most important tasks. At the top of the priority list are fixing any safety or quality issues, and equipment failures causing work stoppages. These are followed by preventative maintenance and routine work.

This approach is supported by visual planning and status boards, which we helped set up in the maintenance department conference room. The plant management team now uses these boards to review maintenance status every morning.

The daily reviews make it easier for manufacturing, engineering, quality, and other functional leaders to collaborate and collectively agree on priorities. After implementing the scheduling system and review process in place, site leaders found that the most critical work orders were being completed before they even made it to the board for the daily morning management review.

Solution: TBM assessed the plant’s maintenance practises and worked with employees to implement a robust preventative maintenance programme. Our leadership solutions team found a temporary maintenance manager and supported the search for a permanent replacement.

Much has been said about power of advanced analytics and “big data” to provide unique insights into business performance. The fact is for most manufacturers there are plenty of opportunities to drive meaningful performance gains using existing data and simple analytical tools.

In this case, when TBM consultants analysed the plant’s existing equipment downtime data, it was easy to see that the conveyor systems were the largest single contributor to downtime. After we reported our findings, company managers eventually decided to partner with a local service provider to assess all 120 of the plant’s conveyor systems and create a repair and maintenance plan. The contractor immediately addressed the most critical issues and maintenance department mechanics worked the less critical items into their schedules.

In addition to the conveyor systems, the company dedicated significant resources to catching up on overdue preventive maintenance tasks (PMs) in every area of the plant.

In addition to repairing the conveyors and performing PMs, the maintenance department began an oil sampling programme. They started by focusing on press and conveyor gearboxes, especially those that were difficult to access.

Results: TBM helped the company reduce conveyor system incidences by 48%, downtime by 24%, close over 400 overdue work orders, start an oil sampling programme, and implement other elements of an effective and sustainable total productive maintenance programme.

To sustain the new processes and practises, the company now uses an accountability chart to allow the maintenance manager to track the hours that each tradesperson is working. They could see how long each person was working on different tasks, like equipment breakdowns, corrective actions, PMs, and other projects.

The company ultimately hired a full-time maintenance department manager who is still working closely with TBM. We are currently helping to set up a more effective maintenance programme at another one of the company’s plants.

The management lesson learnt in this case is that when manufacturers delay or neglect maintenance they do so at their own peril. Maintenance practises cannot be ignored for very long before equipment begins to fail, causing unexpected downtime and undermining a factory’s ability to profitably fulfil customer orders. The incorporation of preventative maintenance and a TPM programme was essential for reducing equipment downtime and ensuring customer satisfaction by delivering quality parts on time.