From Boardroom Confession to Shop Floor Resolution

Welcome back to Boardroom Confession Fridays. Each week, we’re unpacking the biggest financial and operational performance issues being discussed behind closed doors and sharing tips for bringing those conversations to the shop floor where front-line employees can be fully engaged in the solution. Follow along and get inspired to turn talk into action, and action into results.  

Confession 5: Resolving equipment problems quickly is too often the top maintenance goal. But it shouldn’t be. 

Operations leaders sometimes like to boast about how good their maintenance teams are when it comes to responding to problems and getting equipment back up and running quickly. This mindset overlooks the fact that the real goal should be maintaining the equipment in such a way that the problems never come up and the unexpected downtime never occurs. Organisations that embrace true maintenance excellence focus on shifting from a reactive maintenance approach to a preventive and, ultimately, a predictive and autonomous maintenance program. 

Start by connecting maintenance performance to overarching business objectives.

Downtime can eat up between 5-20% of annual productive capacity for the typical manufacturing organisation. This makes well-maintained machines critical to maximizing equipment availability and enabling organisations to tap into full capacity, which in turn are the keys to satisfying demand, operating efficiently, and controlling costs. 
Developing a more proactive mindset where the end goal is preventing downtime, not just repairing the down equipment, is the first step. Companies can then establish the maintenance KPIs and management system discipline to achieve the more proactive goal, positioning their organisations to firmly link maintenance activities to operational excellence and continuous performance improvement. 

Understand what the data is telling you.

Most companies can gain significant insight into their most pressing maintenance improvement areas by looking at their existing equipment downtime data. Lines and machines that have the most downtime likely warrant some additional investigation and root cause analysis. This can help maintenance teams better understand what is contributing to the issues, move beyond firefighting mode, and inform the action plans and metrics needed to keep equipment up and running. 

Manufactures with low overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) often find that designing and installing a total productive maintenance (TPM) program with a focus on autonomous and planned maintenance will significantly increase this metric. But OEE is not the only number companies stand to improve when they address maintenance issues. For example, we helped a paint manufacturer implement TPM as part of a larger lean initiative. The results included a reduction in lead time from 42 to 25 days, a 47% reduction in total inventory, a 15% reduction in expedited shipments, and an improvement in first pass yield from 67% to 80% alongside the OEE improvement of 27%. In another example, we helped a global maker of blow- and injection-molded plastics adopt TPM and subsequently realise double-digit improvements in productivity, inventory, and reduced lines stoppages in addition to improved machine availability, efficiency, and OEE.

Build maintenance leadership and enhance maintenance culture. 

Like any type of continuous improvement effort, maintenance excellence depends on engaged employees, a problem-solving culture, daily management processes, and standard work. A maintenance management system (MMS) can also be an important part of the solution for many organisations. Developing these capabilities takes time and training. Creating a custom maintenance excellence roadmap can help manufacturers take the right steps and stay on track. 

Keep poor maintenance from derailing performance. 

When manufacturers face performance issues, maintenance practices very often are a contributing factor. So, whether you’re specifically discussing OEE in the boardroom or not, any performance issue that comes up should lead to taking a closer look at how the organisation is approaching maintenance and how the maintenance approach could be helping or hurting productivity and profitability. With a more proactive approach to maintenance that optimizes assets, companies can put themselves in a better position to realise all their financial and operational goals. And this can ultimately mean fewer boardroom confessions and more boardroom celebrations going forward.  

If you haven't had a chance to catch our earlier pieces in the Boardroom Confession series, take a moment to delve into our previous conversations: