Optimizing maintenance is a never-ending effort, and world-class excellence is hard-won. As someone who has spent more than two decades overseeing factories and plants for some of the world’s largest CPG brands – including Unilever, P&G and Coca-Cola – I am acutely aware of the challenges … and opportunities.
With the new year comes new goals, initiatives, and success metrics for your maintenance operations. Here are three areas to focus on in 2019 that will actually have a meaningful impact on your team’s effectiveness. (Watch the on-demand recording of my recent webinar with Smart Industry magazine for more on the topic of maintenance efficiency.)
1. Make collaboration between your operators and maintenance technicians a priority
There is no substitute for a line/equipment operator who displays true “ownership” of her equipment; she knows what good condition looks like, sounds like, feels like and smells like. When something isn’t right, she will be the first to know it. That said, maintenance teams know inside-out how to set the equipment up to work its best. Yet more often than not, we think of operators and maintenance technicians as siloed functions independent of each other.
In 2019, make it a priority to get both teams working together more effectively. Operators are on the floor observing their equipment every day, yet technicians are the most important element in reducing the amount of time required for maintenance planning and execution.
By working together using a continuous plan/do/check/act approach, you’ll experience a meaningful increase in overall efficiency. I’ve seen huge changes in operational effectiveness when you combine these two “superpowers.” You can start by defining small tasks on which both operators and maintenance technicians can begin working together, and get them to discover their combined tribal knowledge powers.
2. Use technology to capture, centralize and scale maintenance knowledge
There is a lot of knowledge – formally documented, informally documented and institutionally in people’s heads – that, when harnessed and applied in the right way, can make huge improvements in your maintenance operations. The reality for manufacturers, though, is that a ton of knowledge, ideas, expertise and experience among their teams is not accessible in an easy, structured way. As a result, problems persist and poor decisions are made because there is a failure to make the relevant information available to those who actually need it, at the moment they need it the most.
In 2019, invest in digital tools and technology that can help your teams collaborate more effectively on the spot, and ensure the right information and resources are available at the right time, in the right format (videos, photos, audio, pdfs, etc.), on the right mobile device, to the right person.
Try implementing “Just in Time” training through a digital tool. Statistically, people who learn something, but don’t put it in practice immediately, forget most of what they learned. Having digital procedures will enable your team to get trained and the procedure implemented at the same time.
And don’t let the notion that it’s difficult to “re-train” workers dissuade you. Remember that they, too, live in an increasingly digital world. If you hand them digital tools that look and feel similar to the apps and interfaces they use everyday in their personal lives, the barrier to entry has all but disappeared.
3. Digitize maintenance processes to decrease NPT (non-productive time)
As plant and factory managers, we generally are able to see big blocks of uptime and downtime, but struggle with breaking these blocks into smaller “data sets” that lead to specific phenomena that impact efficiency. If we were able to “see” more detailed data on the intersection among operators, machines, maintenance, and quality, then we would be able to focus on eliminating specific losses that are smaller but add up to huge improvements. Much of this is because work information and data are not digitized, and/or live in systems that don’t talk to each other.
2019 is the year to commit to eliminating your paper-based maintenance environments. By going digital, you will actually know and see what activities are being done and how they are being executed in real-time, with full traceability and expedited resolution to problems.
You’ll be able to start analyzing your procedures, sequences, and the effectiveness of each activity, and generate focused improvements to the who, what, when, where, and why of the maintenance work being performed. Challenge yourself to enable your team to find “NEW” problems, which will create a culture of creative problem solving and relentless loss elimination.