Leaner asset management saves, money

December 9, 2009
by Steve Gahbauer

A central principle of lean manufacturing is the elimination of waste and maintenance is a great place to start. Maintenance pros are in daily contact with a plant’s assets and see which resources are wasted either by misuse or disuse.

Joel Levitt of Springfield Resources in Lafayette Hill, Pa. has spent a lifetime dealing with maintenance problems and solutions. The trainer and maintenance management consultant has written a number of books about them and he observes maintenance people get the most satisfaction from solving problems, which is what the war against waste is all about.

Maintenance is solving problems and eliminating waste.

He says great maintenance projects follow four rules: choose the shortest cycle for payback; make tools and materials easily available; invest the least amount of money; and pick jobs that can be done within a reasonable amount of time.

Lean maintenance can be as simple as improving the type of brushes used to reduce the time it takes to paint equipment, to reduce the amount of paint needed, and to reduce the quality of the job. Or it can be as complicated as evaluating two different pumps in the same application based on: initial cost, reliability, energy consumption, repair costs, availability and cost of spare parts; downtime; and downstream impacts on production.

There are ample opportunities in any maintenance operation to cut costs and make improvements. The percentage of budget dollar savings can be as much as 40% for equipment improvements, 25% for improving and correctly applying preventive maintenance with more extensive use of predictive and condition-based maintenance technology, and 7% for improvements in the store room. To realize these achievable cost savings focus on the following resources:

•Labour, such as production operators, maintenance mechanics and contractors.
•Parts and materials, including raw materials, reducing scrap, and quality problems.
•Energy including fuel, utility costs and water.
•Machine time.
•Capital, such as the extended life of asset, less expensive asset, fewer pieces of equipment.
•Management effort.

Every part of the maintenance operation offers opportunities for lean. For example, bring test equipment to the workplace for creative work. Trim fat and unneeded information from the CMMS and the work order system. In machine redesign concentrate on maintainability and drop unneeded functionality. In planning and scheduling ensure the mechanic can perform the fix and that all required tools and parts are on the truck. Reflect on how much purchasing orders really cost. People must have a good knowledge of what’s in the store, where to find it and what the parts are for. Most of all, make sure jobs are properly supervised, adequately recorded and that what you do guarantees it won’t have to be done again.