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    Sustainability and Maintenance

    In the last few years, Sustainability has become a key issue in the food industry. It has grown as more and more people have understood that it is also a very profitable way to run a business. I have been asked several times how the maintenance function can contribute to sustainability.

    The biggest contribution is that when we maximize equipment uptime and effectiveness, we reduce waste for the entire product supply chain. When we suffer from equipment stoppages, we almost always generate waste of some sort. It might be raw materials used to manufacture the product, or packaging materials, and/or energy.

    The farther into the manufacturing process where the waste occurs, the more it costs. If we have minor stoppages in the packaging equipment, we lose not only packaging materials, but finished product and all the materials, labor, and energy that has gone into them.

    In the area of energy, we in maintenance can contribute by making sure that the replacement component parts that we use are energy efficient. Motors are a good example. The energy efficiency of motors can vary greatly, and we should be sure that we spend a little more to save the energy that we can.

    An effective maintenance organization enhances the sustainability of the overall manufacturing effort by making sure that our equipment is both reliable and efficient.

    Asset Lists-An Important First Step

    We have recently encountered a couple of clients that have capable CMMS systems, but do not have an accurate equipment list in them. This was caused by the rush to implement the system, and compounded by a lack of accurate information. One of the clients also had major new equipment recently installed and had not spent the effort required to update the equipment structure in the system.

    An accurate equipment list (structure) is a fundamental building block for using the CMMS and capturing equipment history. Someone in the organization needs to “own” this database information and keep it current. My first choice would be the maintenance planner, but your organization structure may dictate that it be someone else.

    The equipment structure is used as the “home” to write work orders against. That is how history is built. Failure to have an accurate list means that users will charge work requests and work orders to major areas or systems, wrong equipment, and general catchall locations that will obscure the equipment history and, in most cases, make a search impossible.

    Take the time to make sure that your asset database is accurate and that users know how to search properly when generating work requests and orders. It’s the only way you will capture your all-important equipment history.

    Manual of Practice- Is It Worth the Effort?

    A Manual of Practice (MOP) is a document that details the strategies and tactics for getting work accomplished in a business. It is the collection of Standard Operating Procedures that provides details about the flow of work and who is involved. It should contain discussion about underlying philosophies and assumptions, strategies and tactics, flow charts, and roles and responsibilities of personnel involved.

    We recently developed an MOP for the Maintenance Function in a Division of a major food manufacturer. Their purpose in doing this was to align their plants around a common vision of what “good” means. Personnel from all the plants met to review and discuss the draft document that we prepared.

    The result was two days of discussion and sharing of practices. The learning that went on was tremendous because of the atmosphere of excitement in the group about what the best practices are and how to get there. By the way, we also finalized their MOP.

    We asked the group at the end if it had been worth the effort and expense. There was universal agreement that this was something they should have done a long time ago!

    Why Putting Ten Pounds of Potatoes in a Five Pound Bag still Happens

    If you have been involved in operations for any length of time, you undoubtedly have heard the old story that trying to fill a 5-pound bag of potatoes with 10 pounds of potatoes always results in mashed potatoes!

    For over 40 years, APICS and other Operations Management educators have covered this old chestnut for years, with the full explanation of the obvious cause and effect.

    The underlying mechanics at play are well known. Little’s Law says it best: “In a stable operation, the average lead-time of the operation is equal to the amount of work in process divided by the average capacity of the operation”. Simple, eloquent and true!

    Yet, even today, I keep encountering clients that behave as if they never heard of this truism before or go into complete denial when a super opportunity is at hand.

    Many years ago, I would have attributed this behavior as lack of operational knowledge, easily corrected by an educational workshop or the reading of a particular textbook. I now realize that I was the naïve one. As I study this phenomenon in more detail, it is evident that in the day-to-day world of selling and producing items, the communication process gets convoluted. The right hand of the company (sales) and the left hand of the company (operations) are not as well coordinated as needed. What starts out as a good intention too often ends up as a huge mess, with both sales and operations pointing fingers.

    The bad news is that this viscous cycle is still too commonplace-causing unintended damage to the organization and just more important, to their customer base, as some customers end up having their orders either being delivered late or incomplete.

    The good news is that there are ways to eliminate, once and for all, this viscous cycle. There is a bit of a catch, however. The complete solution involves much more than a simple workshop, or a having a facilitated kumbaya session with sales and operations. This may open up diplomatic relations between sales and operations, but is not sufficient to move to the sustainable solution.

    Over the last 25 years traditional Sales & Operations Planning  (S&OP) has been a common prescription to this malady. While this is a good first step, typically the S&OP process has some limitations when dealing with environments where traditional quantitative forecasting techniques are not applicable. Companies that provide custom solutions or offer many options will need to be tied much closer to the sales process.

    It is a fact of life that the vast majority of companies are sales constrained i.e. they can make more product than what they actually sell. This can result in pressure to close the sales gap, driving the sales team to do whatever it takes to get a sale, including heavy discounting, promoting a product that is not financially desirable or committing to ship on dates that are not realistic back in the factory.

    What is required is to create a comprehensive framework where operations will always be in a position of supporting the needs of sales within some agreed parameters. To accomplish this requires some adjustment on both traditional operational practices but just as import is a re-thinking to product accounting practices to isolate true ‘out of pocket’ costs from fully absorbed costs.  More specifically, in those companies that are involved in complex products (vs. sales of standard items) the sale and operations process requires much more than a traditional sales forecast. The process must start much further into the sales funnel, with a great emphasis on knowledge of the customer’s sale process.

    As with any approach, the devil is in the details, but before we delve into the minutia, the overall framework must be understood. First, traditional Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) may be sufficient for companies that sell standard products, (e.g. items that can be described in a sales catalog or as SKU’s at a distributer).

    Complex organizations require significantly more synchronization of the requisite complex sales strategy. Anything less will inadvertently lead to putting 10 pounds into a 5-pound bag. It’s your choice!

    Enabling Conversations

    One of the challenges in keeping up with trends for operational excellence is getting straight talk from people within your own organization. Tomorrow’s problems will most likely not be solved with today’s thinking. Consequently, it may behoove top management to seek opinions from those that will share daring alternatives to the status quo.

    George Day, a professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, refers to the process of learning from others participation in variable scenarios as “scenario learning”. According to Day, “[Scenario] Learning implies an intense discussion that challenges the tacit assumptions and mental models of each member of the management team. This provokes tension that leads to reflection, which is essential to collective learning. Learning also implies an on-going process in which the results of actions taken leads to further reflection and insight.”

    As many food manufacturers and grocers dive deeper in to private label products, there exists a transition away from brand excellence. Although brand is still very important, the industry is seeing its tried and true brands being threatened by the manufacturing and distribution excellence of retailers such as Cosco, Target, Wall-Mart, SuperValue, Safeway and Kroger. This is having an influence on traditional ideology for brand, and moreover, business building.

    What does this mean for your operations?

    Paradoxically, building a stable platform in which to refine and improve your manufacturing processes may require a large degree of seeming instability. The best run organizations manage this paradox by building teams that regularly battle among themselves. “Dissension and discussion is sometimes the best and only way to get from point A to point B”, says Richard Bernett, an instructor with Metro State University and Director of Operations for a food packaging equipment company. “If people can feel safe while they offer an alternative point of view”, Bernett continues, “then you’ll hear ideas you may have never considered and you’ll create an accelerated problem solving environment. On the other hand, if the culture tacitly squelches dialog, then it is not going to happen.”

    Steps to take:

    1) Rewrite the rules of engagement. “Open Door” policy sounds good on paper, but in practice is a lousy way to foster useful discussions. You’ll have to go out of your open door and in to the door of others if you want to be a leader in this realm.

    2) Add “Brainstorming” to your meeting agendas. Most people don’t really know what this means let alone how to make it structured and useful. Practice with someone who has experience with brainstorming (marketing people are usually well versed in this methodology).

    3) Learn to ask and not tell.  The death knell of good discussions is a blabbermouth. If you have a lot of authority in your organization, you are still the one that gets to ultimately decide. You may find that your decisions will be more informed and impacting if you ask you way to the conclusions that you make.

    Intense discussion is the kernel of lasting innovation and operational excellence. Use all of your resources to find the best ideas.

    Identifying Autonomous Maintenance Tasks

    We recently had the opportunity to participate in the commissioning of a new production line for a major food manufacturer. One of our tasks was to identify the Preventive Maintenance (PM) tasks that would be the starting point for all routine activities at start-up.

    We and the client recognized that creating PM tasks and frequencies was virtually the same process as identifying Autonomous Maintenance (AM) tasks. So we decided to work on the two simultaneously as the most cost effective way to accomplish both. The main difference between PM tasks and AM tasks is subtle, but AM tasks are usually considered to be smaller but more frequent activities to care for the equipment. Many cleaning, adjusting, center-lining,  change-over, and lubricating tasks fall into this category.

    At the time we identified the tasks we did not concern ourselves with who should perform them. After we had a complete duties list for each piece of equipment, the team then reviewed each task and made a decision about whether an operator or a maintenance technician was the right person to perform the job.

    Once this decision was made, tasks to be performed by maintenance techs were entered as PM’s into their CMMS system.

    AM tasks were documented electronically for display on the HMI of the appropriate equipment. These weekly, daily, and shift duties are available to each operator at the touch of a button. The only paperwork involved is a sign-off sheet that each operator completes during his/her shift verifying completion of the appropriate tasks.

    The outcome was a high-quality starting point to begin the continuous process of improving asset care for a new line.

    Mike the Mechanic: Your Go To Guy?

    I have been in several food plants in the last several years that utilize the “line mechanic” approach to maintenance. What this typically means is that a mechanic is assigned exclusively to a production line and told to “make it run”.

    When I discuss this with plant managers the arguments in favor of this approach go something like this: “We assign a line to a single mechanic because he (or she) can respond to issues immediately and they can develop a sense of “ownership” for the line”.

    I recently asked a Plant Manager if this concept works and the response I got was: “I am sure it works because our line #3 is the best running line in the plant thanks to Mike the Mechanic”.

    I asked if the other lines in the plant were assigned a line mechanic and was told they were. I then asked why Mike was being more successful than the other mechanics. I’ll paraphrase his response; “The other guys just aren’t as committed and involved as Mike”.

    And that’s the point. Any time you take this approach to maximizing uptime, you are relying on the individual initiative of each and every mechanic. And they don’t all have the drive of Mike. In fact, I believe the 80/20 rule applies here. About 20% of mechanics will rise to the occasion. The other 80% will wallow in mediocrity. And so will your production lines.

    I’ve talked to a number of Mike the Mechanics in the last 10 years. Every one (yes, every one) has a notebook where they record things they need to do and track the last time they did them, and when they need to do them next. They also have part numbers written down and they keep a locked cabinet with spare parts in it. When they use one of their spares they have their Planner get them another one. They also keep their repairable spare items on the bench and ready to go.

    The top 20%, in other words, have a preventive maintenance plan, they run a parts stockroom, and they keep repairable parts in working order. This is precisely what a good maintenance organization does.

    The other 80% of mechanics respond to emergency calls, fix things that are broken, and spend the rest of their time waiting for the next call.

    If you can establish a good PM plan, and run a good stockroom, you can create a lot more “Mike the Mechanics”. Don’t leave it to individual initiative to develop successful practices. Establish a good maintenance Planning and Scheduling system and move from 20% of your mechanics knowing what to do and when to do it to 80% being involved and successful.

    Measuring Operations Success: Line Efficiency?

    In our experience, most production plants measure some form of theoretical efficiency to measure success of a product line. Many, if not most, of the plants that claim to be measuring OEE (overall equipment effectiveness), are, in fact, measuring some form of efficiency. This is generally because measuring OEE requires far more rigor and precision about where and how things are measured. Another common finding is that plants who have measured theoretical efficiency in the past don’t want to switch to OEE because they would have to explain the apparent (but not true) drop in performance to upper management, so they measure OEE in a way that makes them look better, on reports to management, than they are.

    The main problem that I see with measuring theoretical efficiency is that there is normally some assumed losses built into the number. I was in one plant recently that had a shift where they ran a line efficiency of 101%. A cause to celebrate, right? When I dug a little deeper, I discovered that running an efficiency of 100% means that they have 1.6 hours of downtime during an 8 hour shift. They think that 20% downtime is normal!

    The issue here is that when you assume some downtime is normal (whatever the number), you make it acceptable to have significant production stoppages that don’t get examined and eliminated. Minor stoppages (high frequency with short duration) are particularly vexing because most operators accept them as normal operating events, and most production supervisors are not aware of how frequent they are because they can’t spend enough time focused on one production line to identify a minor event as an ongoing obstacle.

    We would encourage you to accurately measure your downtime and work to eliminate the causes. There is untapped potential throughput to be had without capital spending, at a very low cost, and with an astounding ROI.

    Will A New CMMS Solve Your Problems?

    Are you considering buying a new CMMS (Computerized Maintenance Management System) to help you “get organized”?

    I have some bad news for you. If you are not already “organized”, a new system will just help you do all the wrong things a lot faster. It can’t help you, in and of itself, do things better.

    A CMMS is simply a tool to help collect data in an organized fashion. There is nothing that it can do that you couldn’t do manually given enough man-power. If you are not “organized” it means that your business practices and processes are not appropriate to meet your needs.

    I would suggest to you that the first step in buying a new system is that you must clearly define your desired business practices so that you can identify what you want from a CMMS. Then you can establish your system requirements. Failure to do this in the proper order could result in buying a system that is either:

    1) Too powerful for your needs (which means you spent too much and probably have a system that is overly complex to use), or

    2) Is not powerful enough to accomplish your requirements

    Another need is an understanding about how many transactions you will be handling and how much data will be residing in the system. For this you will need to know things like; how many pieces of equipment you have on site, how many work orders you are going to process daily, and how many people are going to interface with the system and how.

    Finally, you will have to have some understanding about what kind and how many management reports you want the system to generate for you. This is important because the whole point of having a CMMS is to enable your team to manage it’s business better. This means getting information (not data) out of the system.

    Before you buy a CMMS, take the time to define your business practices and processes, and separate your needs from your wants. It could save a lot of money and wasted effort in the long run.

    Minor Stoppages-A Significant OEE Reducer?

    Minor stoppages are one of the most insidious reducers of OEE on the production floor. The main reason for this is that the people who know the most about them, operators, often consider them as “normal” operating conditions. Thus they are not discussed as problems when line performance is reviewed.

    Identifying these small events can be done using manual “tick charts” or some method of tracking cause and duration. Because these events usually occur very frequently (multiple times per shift), significant data will accumulate in a matter of a couple of weeks. This data generally will follow the standard 80/20 rule. So about 80% of the lost production time can be recovered by fixing about 20% of the causes.

    The good news is that many of the causes are often relatively easy and inexpensive to fix. Once identified they can be a nearly instant source of new-found production capacity. Fixing them also tends to improve morale on the operating floor and shows people that minor improvements can make a big difference.

    We would encourage you to get your operators on one line in your plant to gather the data needed. Show them how to do it and explain the goals to them. Chart and publish the results. Then work on the identified causes. An operator and a maintenance technician assigned to solve each problem makes a great improvement team and requires little or no extra management effort. Establishing a work order in the CMMS for each cause creates a tracking mechanism for return to spending ratio (ROI) and creates a budget for each improvement team.

    Get started now! This is an inexpensive and high return initiative that improves both throughput and morale.