Achieve efficiency with alignment: All departments working together

By Steve Gahbauer   

Facilities Maintenance Industry MRO Manufacturing assets machinery maintenance manufacturing reliability

Realize improved performance of assets while reducing costs is the objective.

Reducing operating and maintenance costs. PHOTO: FOTOLIA

Effective maintenance plays a crucial role in manufacturing. To manage costs, plants attempt to get the most out of people and assets. But competing priorities challenge maintenance pros as they strive to keep machines and systems running, while at the same time keeping costs down.

One way to achieve efficiency is to align the plant’s different departments, all working together to meet common goals. And cooperation begins with all employees understanding their roles, says Jay Winkelmans, director of JCW Consulting Ltd. in Fort McMurray, Alta.

He addressed this subject in a workshop presented at the 2017 MainTrain maintenance conference in Saskatoon. Winkelmans is a retired senior military officer who also has several years of management experience primarily in the oil and construction sectors. He specializes in department alignment and process improvement.

What is alignment and why is it important? Winkelmans describes it as an agreement between leadership, engineering, operations, maintenance, supply chain and supporting services on the strategy, tactics and schedule. This improves equipment reliability, reduces downtime, production loss and maintenance costs, as well as materials expenses, and it improves safety.


Costly breakdowns

Consider the cost of break-in jobs (added to the schedule without proper lead time for planning and scheduling). Breakdown maintenance can cost three to four times more than planned maintenance. Add lost production and the cost could be as high as 20 times. It’s an expensive way to operate, yet it’s all too common throughout industry. Reducing break-in maintenance presents a significant competitive opportunity.

Understanding the full cost and impact of break-in maintenance brings us to the importance of planning. Winkelmans points out that each dollar wasted in maintenance could translate into at least 10 wasted dollars for production and operations, measured in lost production, reduced equipment life and lost revenue; hence the need for risk-based work selection.

Why? Work based on risk, rather than fixing it when it breaks avoids big losses. It comes down to producing more at less cost, increasing the amount of maintenance work completed without increasing personnel, and reducing the warehouse stock levels without having stock-outs.

Another significant benefit is less equipment downtime, thereby increasing production. Work selection based on risk is a management process that maximizes efficiency and effectiveness of the response, facilitates better communication, improves safety, reduces cost, and improves the ability to make good business decisions.

Scheduling and planning are also important. Grouping jobs in time, based on the unit objectives and asset criticality/risk shows when work needs to be done and who is assigned. Planning is a sequencing of tasks within a job. It defines what needs to be done, and where. Operation and planning ensures the right people, the right materials and the right sources are in place at the right time to meet needs. This system includes work selection and approval, planning and scheduling, and execution and closure.

Proper planning and scheduling provide procedures to arrange, execute, monitor and control maintenance resources; minimize delays obtaining resources, materials and tools after the work begins; ensure communication between maintenance and operations; maximize available labour hours; mitigate emergencies; minimize the potential for work completion delay; and assign criteria for performance and its measurement.

Planning, scheduling and coordination increases profits and reduces capital spending in various ways.

One is by reducing unnecessary equipment or production downtime, thereby increasing capacity and improving production flow, which lowers the cost to produce and increases net returns.

Another is by identifying wasted and unnecessary activities; and a third is by identifying improvements in parts or materials that extend the economic life of plant equipment.

Scheduling benefits

Some indirect benefits include increased safety and environment compliance; increased job satisfaction through value-added and focused efforts in completion of tasks, as well as increased learning; less redundant and repetitive work; less stress as a result of increased planned work and less reactive emergency work; and greatly improved teamwork. Within a plant there are always competing priorities and often more work than resources available. Equipment will eventually fail. Scheduling offers the opportunity to complete work before it fails and ensures the work done is proactive rather than reactive.

The apparent cost of machinery or equipment is minuscule compared to the total cost of its impact across the company. That’s profits lost to handling the problems asset failure has created.

Typical sources of cost overrun include poor estimating techniques and/or inconsistent standards; unclear work deliverables; unscheduled interruptions; no post analysis or cost reporting, as well as lack of contingency planning (no risk management strategies); and lack of effective scheduling processes and/or tools.

Planning without action is futile! Action without planning is fatal. By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.

This article was adapted by Steve Gahbauer from a workshop held during the 2017 MainTrain conference presented by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada (PEMAC). Gahbauer is an engineer, a Toronto-based business writer and a regular contributing editor. E-mail

This article appeared in the July-August 2018 print issue of PLANT Magazine.


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