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Continuous Improvement Offers CMMS Maintenance Benefits

Written By: David Berger
Published On: February 24 2004

Introduction

Most senior managers are unimpressed by simply implementing a computer maintenance management system (CMMS) or generating numerous reports. Instead, management is focused on results, which implies continuous improvement. A CMMS package provides an excellent tool for collecting, analyzing, and reporting unlimited amounts of data. However, the difficulty is distilling the information into a form that can be used to make better decisions, and to continuously improve processes. Take, for instance, the process by which work is requested. Is maintenance operations satisfied by the average response time? Is there a disproportionate percent of rush orders, especially from a few individuals? Do you get multiple requests for the same problem? The CMMS can be used to gather data to determine if there's a process problem. Secondly, it can provide some clues as to what needs to be done to solve each problem.

Critical success factors

Focusing on process improvement through the use of your CMMS requires the following:

  • op management provides clear support;

  • well-defined objectives and performance targets to ensure alignment with the maintenance operations and engineering strategies;

  • line workers and managers are directly involved in the improvement process;

  • highly trained and motivated "change agents" are developed;

  • use of incentives tied to achieving improvement milestones;

  • regular communication; and

  • use of objective third-party consultants that have solid hands-on experience , if there are serious cultural barriers to overcome.

To maximize your CMMS, it's important to be wary of the following "tell-tale" signs of failure:

  • middle management-led initiatives;

  • "flavour of the month"-type programs;

  • application of too many irrelevant measures or none at all;

  • lack of a framework or logical methodology;

  • process change predicated without appropriate line involvement;

  • process improvement lacks needed cultural change; and

  • existence of internal "navel-gazing."

Process improvement drivers

The CMMS will highlight many improvement opportunities. Prioritizing improvements and finding time to implement the more significant ones will prove to be difficult. Also, cultural issues can be nasty roadblocks on the path of progress.
Culture refers to an organization's values. It also relates to a company's rules and the way things are generally done. The aforementioned is based on the paradigms or mental models of company leadership. To drive significant process change, you need to create a paradigm shift (for example, altering the mental models of company leadership). This isn't an easy feat because it may require a major change in attitude. To successfully overcome many related barriers, the continuous improvement program must focus on simple and measurable drivers. The three most effective drivers are time, quality and cost.

Tracking time

How much time do you spend each day doing unproductive activities, such as waiting for someone to answer the phone, setting up an appointment or returning a defective item? In maintenance, reduction of cycle-time (the total time taken for completing a process) is an important means of improving productivity. The CMMS is an excellent tool for measuring various components of cycle-time. This includes allocation for needed response, service, and downtime, etc.

By using a CMMS to identify non-value-added activities, process cycle-time can be shortened as part of a continuous improvement program. Allotted wait-time is usually the area of greatest opportunity for eliminating non-value-added activities. In turn, this reduces cycle-time. Maintenance and management spend a good deal of time waiting daily for parts, approval and operations to release equipment, etc. Similarly, operations and management can waste time waiting for maintenance to respond to a work request or fix problems. As a result of changing the process, you can sometimes reduce or even eliminate wait-time. Suppose, for example, maintenance staff complain they spend a lot of time assessing a problem, going to the stockroom and waiting for parts that usually aren't there. Then, more time is wasted checking back every few days to see if the parts are in. Once the parts are finally picked up, there's no guarantee the equipment will be available from operations for maintenance to do the work.

Using the work-order status field on the CMMS, you can assess just how much time is wasted for each stage described above. To reduce overall cycle-time, you must attack the root cause (e.g., poor job planning) and change the process accordingly. First of all, an experienced maintenance supervisor or planner should assess the job and order the parts. Secondly, the planner should only issue the work-order when all of the parts are in and kitted. Equipment must also be available from operations. Also, moving resources closer to the action can reduce cycle-time. For example, the CMMS may show that one area of operations has occupied a full-time mechanic consistently over the past year or more. If so, perhaps there might be potential to reduce cycle-time by locating a mechanic workstation, CMMS terminal and some limited store of consumable inventory within the operations department. A cost/benefit analysis would be required.
You can also drive down cycle-time by using the CMMS to compare actual versus planned times for completing a work-order, especially for repetitive tasks. For example, this applies to preventive maintenance (PM) routines.
Reports can be generated to highlight any serious anomalies. In turn, analysis of the root cause can lead to corrective measures, such as training for more junior maintenance staff and replacement of deteriorating equipment, etc.

Quality control

For some companies, the biggest opportunity for improving processes is to "do it right the first time." A CMMS can be used to highlight recurring problems through analysis of the root cause. This leads to significant improvement. For example, recurring equipment downtime might be traced to improper lubrication. A process can then be put in place to conduct a simple PM routine to lubricate the machine during daily set-up. Analyzing the root cause of CMMS data can also highlight areas that demand further training for the operator or maintenance staff. Sometimes quality problems suggest the need for using more experienced maintenance personnel or even contracted specialists. The CMMS could also be used to check supplier history to uncover any problems with the quality of spare parts. The same holds true for the process of receiving, storing and issuing inventory items.

Cost reduction

The third key driver of a continuous improvement program is cost reduction through productivity gains. The CMMS can report on areas of high cost and drill down to the supporting cost detail, especially if activity-based costing is employed. New processes can then be put into place to reduce areas of high cost.
For example, suppose the amount spent on hand tools each year is believed to be excessive. One solution might be to move from company-owned tools, which are issued centrally to worker-owned tools purchased with a fixed company allowance.
Other examples of lowering costs and generating improvements are reducing inventory levels by better controlling obsolete parts and equipment; using the shift supervisor to open the stockroom when needed instead of a full-time person on the nightshift; and training equipment operators to do their own simple PM routines, set-ups, changeovers, and minor adjustments. Once these processes have been implemented, the CMMS can be used to monitor whether or not expected benefits are achieved.


David Berger
is with Western Management Consultants and is the founding president of the Plant Engineering and Maintenance Association of Canada.

For more information call (416) 362-6863, ext. 237;
email: david@wmc.on.ca or visit www.wmc.on.ca.

 
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