Standardize on lean maintenance for maintainable improvement
Applying a lean program successfully in any maintenance operation requires a toolset. This set is labelled 5S and is filled with principles designed to turn a wide variety of tasks performed by different people in different ways into standard work output. Before 1997, many at Parker Canada’s cylinder facility thought implementing that toolset would be a waste of time, but when Parker Canada Division implemented it as a way of life, the culture it created proved its wisdom.
Using 5S principles, this facility analyzed its processes and implemented standard procedures. That’s when everything started to fall into place.
“People thought we were crazy,” says Dennis Mighton, Parker Canada Division Lean Manager. “It meant a lot of hard work reviewing how assembly of product was performed, and narrowing down to what was the best and quickest way to perform the operation. Once this was completed the standard work could be created.”
So what was the gain?
“Predictability,” says Dennis. “There are always people who see it right away, and those who see it and understand it as it is implemented.”
Many facilities will experience unpredictable issues. Lean allows you to create a predictable system or work flow. Visual indicators are key to this system. The creation of a standard work platform means that all operators of the same machine perform the same task the same way –check oil, check temperature, mark it as complete after checking and move on to the next task. That could be setting up for the next part, or the next operation on that part. Creating things like the Standard Work checklist helps to eliminate work stoppages caused by operators forgetting to add coolant, or to load sub components; they know what the next step is, because it is on the checklist. Parker Canada has done a very good job of including these visual indicators in their plants. They have even moved into the office environment. These indicators allow workers to assess the work flow, and know whether they are on time to schedule and respond accordingly.
Operators performs Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) based on standard work. This makes it easier to schedule preventative maintenance around production time, resulting in less unexpected down time. You know how many hours a machine has run, and with visual indicators, you are aware of issues sooner. With such predictability you know your production and how often a part should be completed. If that varies you know you have a problem, and the anomalies stand out, making it easier to troubleshoot from a maintenance perspective.
Lean has definitely been a culture change, but it has been accepted and embraced. Today each Parker Canada manufacturing location has a lean team focused on continuous improvement and these are shared throughout the division. The employees on the floor feel empowered to look for opportunities to streamline and standardize processes – and then to make a difference.
Stephen Richardson is a pneumatic product manager for Parker Canada Division. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.