MRO Magazine

How to Streamline World Class Maintenance and other Equipment Improvement Activities

There are many equipment improvement programs available for maintenance departments with the purpose of improving equipment reliability. Many of these programs fail to produce the improvements they promise for a number of reasons.


Photo: © Pitchayaarch / Adobe Stock

Looking at why this happens and what can be done to harness the power these programs, let’s identify some challenges that are faced with these programs and how simplifying the World Class Maintenance (WCM) process elements can speed up the implementation.

In 2011, I wrote a MRO article identifying the steps of how to implement WCM world-class maintenance program. It has been 10 years, and since then, I have been involved in many WCM projects. Recently, in a conversation with several plant reliability managers, we realized the WCM program has not really progressed as far as we would have liked it to. So, we decided it was time to review all the elements of a WCM project.

First of all, let’s have a quick review and look at what WCM means. There is no one definition of WCM, achieving world-class maintenance is about the creation of a cohesive partnership between equipment operators, maintenance technicians and engineers, as well as anyone that has a stake in the ownership of equipment reliability. Improving maintenance effectiveness and efficiency is critical to the overall success of any manufacturer, and commitment from both operations and maintenance is paramount. Think of it as a parental relationship where production and maintenance are the parents of equipment and between them, they make the right decisions for the equipment’s operational health and well-being.

WCM is a proven continuous improvement methodology that helps prioritize resources to attack problems and losses with the aim to achieve a safe, sustainable manufacturing process with zero loss and zero defects.

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However, there are bumps in the road along the way that prevent maintenance departments from achieving their WCM goals.

Looking at some of the challenges that facilities face when implementing and improvement program, the following are the top four issues that companies need to acknowledge and address to successfully implement world-class maintenance for the long-term.

1. Lack of resources and time
Systems like WCM require many resources to implement and can be very labour-intensive, especially in the beginning phases. Additional work effort and continuous input from maintenance and production employees is needed to keep the project moving ahead. We need other people and resources for WCM training to provide guidance and support to maintain the sustainability of the improvement process. Over a period of time, as they get better at executing the WCM process, companies start to realize the benefits of the system and the resources required, however, it is still a big challenge to support the system long-term. There is sometimes a lack of commitment and it becomes difficult to sustain the implementation.

2. Lack of understanding
WCM, like any other new system, requires people who will be the experts in the implementation and its processes. They need to know WCM intimately and how to facilitate the implementation and provide the right guidance and knowledge in easy-to-execute steps that every person will understand. The lack of understanding of WCM and system knowledge can lead to complications through the implementation stages.

3. Leadership skills
Maintenance and production employees will be new to WCM projects, and at first glance it looks like a lot of extra work to them. It is important to convey to the team that the implementation of WCM will not affect them in a negative manner. Although WCM requires a lot of commitment, the long-term benefits will allow them to carry out their work responsibilities with less interruptions to equipment issues and breakdown. It is important the WCM leadership have a positive outlook and create excitement and motivation for the team to work together. This takes the right type of person to lead this enthusiasm, so choose leaders wisely.

4. Cultural shift
While WCM projects are being implemented, the plant may still be in the firefighting phase. Past maintenance practices will still be in play as technicians and operators continue to fix equipment when they fail. It is important to foster a cultural shift and mindset of the people who operate and maintain equipment. They need to be taught to think about and address the root causes of the failures rather than acting upon equipment problem symptoms. Many times, companies will enforce new strategies, like the WCM, without having a game plan to get out of the old paradigm. People need to be shown the way and need to understand the process. Ultimately, in order to get buy-in from the people involved in the project, they will want to know how it will improve their job.

In the past month, being involved with a WCM project team, we have been reviewing our progress with WCM projects that focus on a single piece of equipment or process. These projects identify the elements needed to properly maintain and sustain the equipment over a long period of time; basically over the complete lifecycle of that machine or process. These projects are generally carried out on critical equipment and processes or on equipment that have poor reliability. Critical equipment makes up approximately 5 per cent of the total number of equipment assets. These projects can be very labour-intensive and even complicated to follow, and therefore can take several months to complete.

Our project team has been reviewing the complete WCM process in order to make it simpler and faster to complete without affecting the integrity of the WCM system. We have reviewed every element in every step of the process and have simplified or eliminated non-value-added activities.

WCM is a proven continuous improvement methodology that helps prioritize resources to attack problems and losses with the aim to achieve a safe, sustainable manufacturing process with zero loss and zero defects.

Here are four actions we have taken to streamline the process:

1. Paper based systems
Projects can be very paper-based and require many manual forms to be filled out with equipment information, preventive maintenance activities, equipment drawings and spare parts information. Then the documents are maintained in large binders that need to be updated during the complete lifecycle of the machine.

The solution: although machine information still needs to be gathered, we developed data gathering forms in a digital format that can be easily uploaded, accessed and maintained in the CMMS. This has saved many hours, and, in some cases, days of not having to create manual equipment documents and binders.

2. AM/PM calendars and duty sheets
AM (autonomous / operator maintenance) duty sheets are the periodic inspections and checks that an operator needs to perform on their equipment. In WCM, these paper-based duty sheets and PMs (technician preventive maintenance) are normally tracked using AM and PM calendars. The calendars are posted on a display board near the equipment or process.
We found these manually updated calendars rarely used due to their complexity and time required to keep them updated.
The solution: once again we turned to the CMMS. In practice, all equipment maintenance should be recorded in the CMMS, which provides work history and tracking. Consequently, the need for manual calendars used to track equipment maintenance has been eliminated.

3. Project boards
During the implementation of a WCM project, it is common practice to document the complete project journey. A before and after picture, graphs and documents as well as milestones and improvements details are displayed on project boards. The idea is to display the elements of the project in a visual format so people can see the project progress. The boards are also a significant part of a WCM audit.

Though, these details storyboards are essential in early WCM projects, as they support the project process. However, as the team becomes more experienced performing WCM projects, the question is whether we need all this detail. Updating the many display boards requires a lot of time and may not be value-added.

The solution: simplify and reduce the number of display boards to only display specific meaningful information. This saves hours of updating the many documents and charts that are normally displayed. Our team found that it is possible to reduce the number of project boards to less than half.

4. Equipment contamination
Contaminants generally come from the manufacturing process or the surrounding environment. WCM requires a team to solve equipment contamination issues. This element of a WCM project is one of the most time-consuming activities.
The solution: the team identified two distinct categories; equipment contamination and component contamination.
Dividing contamination into the two categories allowed us to focus on the question, does all contamination affect equipment reliability? It was found that some equipment and area contamination would not cause adverse effects to the equipment wear components, and, therefore, were added to housekeeping duties. Contamination that would affect the lifecycle of the wear components were identified as high-priority items and need to be solved. Having identified these two categories and separating them has significantly reduced the time it takes to complete this element of the project.

In conclusion, regardless of what equipment improvement program you use, take a step back and evaluate the process. Can non-value-added activities be modified or completely removed from the improvement project? Can the process be made simpler and easier to use and maintain? Can information be integrated with some technology or software you already have, like the CMMS?

Everyone is busy in a manufacturing environment. Reducing the time it takes to complete the steps in a WCM project will save many labour hours and allow your facility to complete more WCM projects in a given time period. MRO
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Peter Phillips is the owner of Trailwalk Holdings Ltd., a Nova Scotia-based maintenance consulting and training company. Peter has over 40 years of industrial maintenance experience. He travels throughout North America working with maintenance departments and speaking at conferences. Reach him at 902-798-3601 or peter@trailwalk.ca.