Optimize PM programs: Add lean to improve your plant’s efficiency

By Steve Gahbauer   

Industry MRO Manufacturing Lean manufacturing plant

Eliminating eight wastes leads to world-class performance.

Target waste in maintenance processes to decrease downtime. PHOTO: FOTOLIA

There are many ways to reduce maintenance costs and preventive maintenance (PM) is among the most effective. It’s an accepted practice in most plants, but the efficiency of the PM routine as a strategy is often overlooked.

Achieving world-class levels requires more than just doing the right maintenance. It must be done efficiently.

Optimizing PM is the first step to improving any maintenance strategy and by doing so, achieve notable cost savings, said James Kovacevic, the principal consultant of HP Reliability Inc. of Bell River, Ont., distributors of vibration instruments and products for lubrication engineers.

He presented a technical paper on this subject at the MainTrain maintenance conference (convened by the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada), noting that combining optimization with lean techniques enhances efficiency.


Waste is a common problem that adds unnecessary, and often huge costs to the maintenance process.

To reduce – or better yet, eliminate – waste, be aware of eight types: defects; overproduction; waiting times; not utilizing talent; transportation; motion waste; inventory excess; and excess processing. What follows is an unrelenting focus on eliminating waste and minimizing planned downtime.

Useful tools

There are several lean tools available. One is the single minute exchange of dies (SMED). This system dramatically reduces the time it takes to complete equipment changeovers. It involves converting as many changeover steps as possible to “external” execution (performed while the equipment is running) and to simplify and streamline the remaining steps. Other techniques include visual factory, value stream mapping, continuous flow, total productive maintenance and 5S.

Improving efficiency extends past the initial optimization phase to the PM routine. At the conclusion, perform a quick analysis to identify any lingering wastes and what can be done to reduce or eliminate them. Also focus on the critical assets or bottlenecks.

Full optimization requires extensive time and resources, but not every piece of equipment needs to achieve this level of optimization. Once the results and benefits are observed, move on to the next optimization project.

After a couple of projects are completed, plant and maintenance managers will be more likely to support full optimizations that lead to additional maintenance cost savings.


How is data and information conveyed in a lean manufacturing environment? Visuals such as signs and charts make information easily accessible. Current status is immediately apparent.

Value-stream mapping:Analyzes the current and designs a future state for the events that take a product or service from its beginning to the customer.

Continuous flow:A method of manufacturing that moves a single unit in each step of a process, rather than treating units as batches for each step.

Total productive maintenance: Integrates equipment maintenance into the manufacturing process to stabilize equipment while increasing availability, performance and quality.

5S: A workplace organization method that includes sort, set in order, shine, standardize and sustain.
5S+1 adds safety.

Steve Gahbauer is an engineer, a Toronto-based business writer and a regular contributing editor. E-mail

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 print issue of PLANT Magazine.


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