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    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.

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