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    Sanitation and Maintenance; Different Sides of the Same Coin

    Equipment sanitation and maintenance may appear to be very different functions, but when we think about their roles in the production picture, it is apparent that they should be managed in much the same way;

    1) They both require equipment downtime to accomplish the bulk of the work

    2) The tasks should be planned and scheduled well in advance at a pre-determined frequency

    3)Both are required to produce a safe, consistent, and high quality product

    4) The work should be documented to ensure compliance, traceability, and accountability

    5) The work requires skills and training that are different from those needed to produce the product

    So, we would argue that sanitation work and preventive maintenance tasks should be documented in a computer system with a defined set of tasks and frequency. Many people are using their CMMS systems to generate sanitation work orders as well as PM work orders for maintenance. This practice allows for “automatic” generation and scheduling of the tasks. and also for documenting completion of the work.

    Assuming that it is important to maximize equipment uptime, it is essential that managers of the two functions plan and schedule their work jointly. This will ensure that the work crews don’t interfere with each other and that the work sequences are appropriate. (example: ensuring that lubrication occurs after cleaning, not before).

    Another need is to work together to identify the possibility of equipment damage by the sanitation process and to minimize that possibility by altering cleaning methods, protecting the equipment, or changing the design to eliminate failures.

    Sanitation and maintenance managers and planners should be the “down-time team” in your plant to ensure that the equipment is ready and capable of producing when the time comes to push the start button.

    When The Economy Improves; Are You Ready For A Retirement Exodus?

    Nearly all of the food manufacturing plants I have visited in the last year or more recognize that they have an aging workforce. They also have a list that identifies employees that they expect to retire in the near future. These are generally, of course, very skilled and very knowledgeable people. The exact kind you don’t want to lose and are hard to replace. What the vast majority of these plants don’t have is a plan to replace these people and the skills they will take with them.

    When our economy improves (and it will) there is likely to be a large number of retirements. This will be because people will gain confidence as their 401K’s recover, and the general mood of optimism that accompanies a recovery will make them more positive about their ability to have a comfortable retirement.

    The loss of skilled people in both management and on the plant floor is likely to be rather sudden as those who have been cautiously waiting decide that it’s time to go. Are you prepared for this change? Most of you, if being truthful, will have to say no.

    I would encourage you to do three things sooner rather than later:

    1) Begin skills training for your junior operators and mechanics now using your senior people as resources

    2) Consider partnering with a local technical school or junior college as a potential source of labor for the technical skills you need (electrical and PLC especially)

    3) Work towards establishing Autonomous Maintenance skills and the associated documentation so that your operators will become more knowledgeable about the equipment they run

    The competition for skilled labor is high today, and it is going to get worse as the boomers decide it’s time to relax. The time to prepare is today, not when it happens.

    Equipment Criticality- Why It Is Important

    Criticality Analysis is probably one of the least understood tools available to help manage maintenance efforts.

    Many people have suggested to me something like “since any of the equipment components of my line will shut the line down, they all must be critical!”. Sorry, not so!

    Criticality is a function of several different attributes and among those are the MTBF (mean time betwen failure), MTTR (mean time to repair), impact to operations, severity of typical failures, and others that are all different for every line component.

    So, given that some equipment is more critical to the operation than others, how does this help us manage our activities?

    Let’s assume that we have more PM’s to perform in a given week than we can get done (I know this never happens to you, but let’s just pretend), how do we prioritize them? Equipment criticality is the key. We will work on the PM’s for the most critical equipment first and defer those on less critical equipment until next week.

    How do we decide which equipment gets the absolute best PM and PdM efforts we can muster ? Once again, we will work on the most critical equipment as the priority.

    How do we prioritize repair work when we have more to do than we can get done? I think you know the answer by now!

    So, I would argue that a well managed reliability function is one that has a firm grasp on the criticality of the assets, and uses that ranking to prioritize the effort expended.

    Is Your Maintenance Effort Becoming More Proactive?

    The desire to move to a more proactive maintenance function, and away from a reactive one, is nearly universal. But how do you know if it’s really happening?

    Our experience is that the most objective measure to track is man-hours spent on proactive work as a percentage of the total man-hours worked by the group. 

    What is proactive work? It is all of the work that has been scheduled in advance of being performed. What we would like to see is a maintenance group preparing a weekly schedule by Wednesday or Thursday of one week detailing all of the planned work activities for the following work week (often defined as Sunday thru Saturday). Any work that is performed that is on the schedule counts as proactive work. These can be preventive, predictive, or one time work orders that are worked on (not necessarily completed) within the scheduled week. 

    The KPI (measurement) is calculated by adding all of the hours charged to the proactive work orders (might be different than planned hours) divided by the total number of hours worked by the technicians. Trending this number will give a quick visual answer to our question and help you demonstrate that the maintenance function is improving and contributing to the success of the organization.

    Don’t Allow Service Levels To Suffer During Cost Cutting.

    Food manufacturing companies that intend to remain competitive understand that the most important factor is their ability to service customers. A lot of emphasis in recent years has been on cost cutting and doing more with less. Keep your efforts focused on this while at the same time building effectiveness.

    We often see service levels diminish as a result of cuts. What happens when cuts are made is that remaining people are often asked to do more tasks; some of which they are not well trained for or skilled at. This causes a lot of unintended work to show up later. For example, if an order entry person makes errors, this may force production to go back and ask for clarity about the order. This can be very time consuming and the number of errors can snowball. If the order entry person had been trained for the additional tasks, it may have eliminated the original errors.

    “There never seems to be enough time to do it right at first, but there always seems to be time to redo the work later.”

    It is common for a manager to get a mandate form above to reduce payroll, or some other cost cutting directive, without first analyzing the overall training or skills gaps. There can be an urgency to reduce the cost without the urgency to bring others up to speed. This causes an “on the job training” cycle that is problematic. The remaining people are happy to have survived the cut, but in a short time they will feel overburdened and underappreciated. This can cause overall production to falter.

    Manufacturers that lag in service will see negative consequences. As their customers migrate to suppliers that are in tune with what is truly of value, many will be left wondering where the greatest breakdowns occurred.

    Be careful to not get caught up in a “cut our way to prosperity” mentality without first carefully considering the training necessary to get others up to speed.

    Hurry Up and Wait

    I would be surprised if folks in operations have NOT heard the old story about filling a 5 pound bag of potatoes with 10 pounds of potatoes always results in mashed potatoes.

    And I would bet that most operations people understand that releasing more work into production than what is coming out will, invariably, lead to more work in process inventory (WIP) and longer lead-times not to mention the mess and chaos creates for the organization.

    You knew this, right? Either through formal education, your intuition or your experience, you realize that there is a direct relationship between production lead-time, work in process and throughput (i.e. output). Perhaps you already knew that queuing theory explains this behavior.  Little’s Law states that in a stable operation, the amount of work in process (WIP) is equal to the average Throughput of the resource multiplied by the lead-time or if you like math:

    WIP = Throughput x Lead-time

    While this relationship is well-known and intuitively obvious, it’s still amazing that in the dawn of 21st century, how many organizations seem to ignore this little inconvenient truth. If I had a nickel for every time I observed an organization releasing more work into the system than its output, I would have long retired.

    The typical excuse I hear is that we are just trying to keep our people busy. A very innocent and worthy goal, right? And yes, the premature release of work is extremely effective in keeping people busy.

    But keeping ‘busy’ and being ‘productive’ are two different things. Releasing work at a rate faster than what’s coming out of the system will indeed keep people busy. They will be busy looking for missing material, busy looking for required tools, busy rescheduling orders,  busy expediting materials, busy explaining to other customers while orders relate, busy explaining to finance why costs are so high, busy explaining the sales why lead-times are so long, busy explaining why service-level stinks. I’m sure you get the point since you most likely have been this routine at least a few times in your career.

    So why do we continue to do something that we know is stupid?  Obviously it must be satisfying some human emotional need, since it cannot be justified by any rational basis. And we already suspect the likely answer - the opposite of busy is perceived as doing nothing and doing nothing is viewed as waste.  And, in these days, who wants to be viewed as waste?

    We need to understand that there is a fundamental conflict at play.  On one hand, in order to be productive we should not release work early, while on the other hand, in order to be perceived as being valuable we should release work early.

    This is where the art and skill of the operations professional must come into play.  Your challenge is to provide the leadership to assure that work will be released only when it’s time to be released and at same time, provide assurances to your staff that pacing release to output is not in anyway going to negatively impact their careers. In other words, sometimes it’s okay to be idle. Take this time for cross training, conduct some 5S tasks, perform some preventative maintenance etc. You can still get some value out of the idle time.

    As an operational professional, you must have a clear understanding of why this vicious cycle has to be broken – this is why you get paid the big bucks to run the operation!

    Equipment Bill Of Materials=Improved Maintenance Effectiveness

    A Bill Of Materials (BOM) is a listing of component parts for a piece of equipment. In the CMMS system it is kept as part of the equipment file. An accurate BOM has two main uses in the maintenance function:

    • It is used by maintenance planners to aid in identifying parts required and in knowing if those parts are stocked in the storeroom or if they must be ordered on a one-time basis. This helps save the planner’s time and improves the work order process.
    • Maintenance technicians can use this information “in the heat of battle” to reduce the time it takes to identify and get parts, thus improving response time.

    Building the BOM’s usually starts with the information contained in the equipment manual. Once the components are identified, a decision can be made about whether to make them stocked items in stores. At this point “generic” parts (like bearings, belts, and other commodity items) can be separated from those that must be ordered from the OEM.

    A plant must have an understanding or philosophy about what will be contained in the BOM’s for them to be compiled in  consistent manner. Some facilities list only the stores stocked items in the BOM. Others list those plus items that would generally be replaced in a 2 to 4 year time frame. Others list all components (including bolts and other common items) so that mistakes about replacing components will not be made.

    Whatever your philosophy is, it is important to include stores stock numbers for components that are stocked. This will dramatically reduce the time it takes for techs to acquire the things they need to make repairs. Training them in the search methodology is also key to success.

    Keeping BOM’s current requires database maintenance, but pays dividends in improving the effectiveness of the maintenance team.

    Reliability Demands Schedule Coordination Between Maintenance and Sanitation

    When working inside manufacturing plants, we often find evidence that maintenance and sanitation groups perform their work in isolation. Some of this evidence includes:

    • Lubrication points that are extremely clean
    • Equipment guards off at start-up time
    • Maintenance techs complaining that “sanitation chased us off the job”
    • Equipment partially disassembled, but not cleaned
    • Equipment disassembled and cleaned but not reassembled
    • And on and on

    There is always a correct sequence of events from shut-down to start-up of the equipment. Those events often include both maintenance and sanitation tasks. It is important for these tasks to be performed in the right sequence so that;

    1. The equipment really does get cleaned
    2. The needed maintenance tasks are performed
    3. Lubrication is performed after sanitation so that lubricants stay where they are needed, and
    4. The equipment is operational at the time scheduled for production

    What needs to occur is a dialogue between sanitation, maintenance, and production groups that results in an established, written schedule for the time when the equipment is down. This schedule should be communicated to everyone involved in the event. Posting it in a conspicuous place on the production floor is always a good idea.

    Equipment reliability requires communication and discipline from everyone involved to produce a quality and safe product.

    Interim Leadership: An Idea Whose Time Has Come?

    We encounter many manufacturing organizations that have vacancies in key positions for months while searching for the right person to permanently fill the job. Whether the vacancy is in operations, maintenance, quality control, or others, having a leadership position vacant often results in a performance downturn.

    We see a trend towards filling these openings on a temporary basis with a highly experienced replacement while the candidate search is underway. There are many reasons for this trend;

    • The length of the search is unknown and could last for a year or more. Having a vacuum in a leadership position places an additional burden on people in the organization which is already lean. Hiring an experienced person immediately ensures that decisions and action will continue and not default to a “do nothing” mode.
    • As companies have downsized, their ability to fill jobs internally has decreased. In addition, the level of experience in organizations has declined. This has resulted in a dearth of expertise in some key areas. An experienced outsider is often more likely to understand and be able to implement best practices during an interim term. 
    • Having an experienced person in the role opens up the possibility of hiring a less seasoned person who can be trained by the interim leader.
    • The temporary leader often participates in the hiring process for the permanent person. This provides an additional viewpoint that can improve the chances of getting a good fit.

    With the recent trend in downsizing, there are often senior people available who would like having a job that they know is temporary. Many of these experienced hands can bring skills and knowledge developed during a long career to bear to make a successful and seamless transition.

    Maintenance Council: Do We Need One?

    In almost all of the multi-plant systems we encounter, there are always “good” performing plants and “poor” performing plants and everything in between. One way this lack of consistency manifests itself is in the area of “best practices”. 

    Typically, every plant will have practices or processes established that can be considered as best practices for the product being produced. Even the poor performers often have some areas where they are ahead of the rest of the system.

    So the question becomes; “How can we communicate and adopt these best practices across all the plants, and improve the performance of the entire system?”

    We recently worked with a division of a large food manufacturer that had ten plants across North America that wanted to improve the quality and consistency of the maintenance and reliability function. The answer for them was to create a Divisional Maintenance Council whose charge was to identify and share best practices across the system.

    The councils’ core members are the Maintenance Manager from each plant and is facilitated by the Divisional Staff Reliability Engineer. The council meets monthly with two of the meetings each year being face-to-face, and the other ten being tele-conferences or web conferences depending on the agenda. The Maintenance Managers also invite others in the organization who can benefit from the meetings to attend. These invitees are typically; maintenance planners, operations and maintenance supervisors, production managers and engineers. 

    The meetings also often have guest presenters from outside the organization to promote identification and discussion about best practices.

    We all know that not improving or “standing still” is the same as going backwards given the current pace of business. Establishing a Maintenance Council is one way to insure the entire organization is discussing ways to get better and sharing learnings.