The power of reliability excellence

In striving to achieve improvements, many organizations turn to lean manufacturing, six sigma and total productive maintenance (TPM). They're valid initiatives and proper implementation depends on having stable, repeatable operations. Realize that such operational stability is delivered through a combination of organizational and equipment reliability.

By R. Keith Mobley, CMRP, MBB

Sustainable business improvements come through organizational ownership of standardized work processes coupled with the discipline to execute them. In striving to achieve improvements, many organizations turn to lean manufacturing, six sigma and total productive maintenance (TPM). They’re valid initiatives and proper implementation depends on having stable, repeatable operations. Realize that such operational stability is delivered through a combination of organizational and equipment reliability.

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Core methods: Address each facet of reliability excellence to achieve reliability, low cost and profitability. If one element is sub-par, it jeopardizes the stability of anything that follows. Reliability requires systematic identification and elimination of waste from processes while increasing responsiveness to change. The 10 interrelated, perhaps concurrent, core methods that an organization can use to implement a lean production system are, in sequential order:

  • Six sigma
  • Hoshin kanri
  • Kaizen
  • Five S (5-S)
  • Cellular manufacturing
  • Just-in-time (JIT) production
  • Kanban
  • Seven wastes (7-W)
  • Single minute exchange of dies (SMED)
  • Total productive maintenance (TPM)

The differences: The primary difference between reliability excellence, lean, six sigma, TPM and other improvement processes is the implementation logic and methods. Most applications of these processes are limited to a narrow focus on horizontal, tactical silos intended to address a single limiting factor within the plant or corporation. As a result, applying these processes might generate improvements in the focus area, but because it isn’t applied widely enough, it too often increases cost of goods sold and reduces product throughput.

Six sigma is almost exclusively implemented as a quality assurance tool or to gain ISO certification. In neither case do the implementations consider organizational change management, or the effect this type of implementation will have on other critical issues, such as cost of goods sold, life-cycle cost, asset reliability and even environmental, health and safety.

Few, if any, companies fully implement the entire lean manufacturing process. Instead, selected components, such as five-S or seven wastes, are implemented as quick-fix tools in one or more areas of production. While these are good and needed methodologies, they won’t provide the benefit that most plants need for survival.

Again, the critical limitations of a narrow-focus application of select parts of the lean manufacturing process are change management and universal application of lean as a cohesive process.

Integrate processes such as lean, six sigma, and total productive maintenance into a single holistic process implemented vertically and horizontally throughout the plant or plants. For example, 5-S and 7-W lean methodologies are applied in each functional area of the plant, not just the production function. The foundation of change must be a thorough understanding of the limiting factors that restrict performance. Reliability excellence includes an assessment process that accurately identifies, quantifies and prioritizes the factors that must be corrected to achieve and sustain desired performance levels.

Organizational change management (hoshin kanri) is the primary driver of the process.

Without changing the work culture and the way that each employee performs duties and makes business decisions, the tools provided by these processes will have little, if any, sustainable benefit. Management commitment and effective leadership are nurtured and developed through the business reengineering training and development process that starts at the beginning of the transformation and continues throughout implementation.

Total employee involvement is encouraged throughout transformation. Evaluation of existing work processes, development of new, more effective processes and the training for and implementation of these processes is done through cross-functional focus teams comprised of stakeholders within the organization. The entire reliability excellence transformation is by the workforce, for the workforce.

While the objectives and methods of lean are valid and desirable, the methods employed don’t address two critical success factors. First, the sole focus is on the production organization and excludes that asset reliability, as well as an effective maintenance function, are critical to lean. Second, lean assumes that the processes used in day-to-day business (planning, management, operations, procurement and maintenance) are reliable. Reliability excellence draws heavily on lean and six sigma methodologies, but also includes the missing pieces needed to achieve a sustainable level of improvement and build the foundation for continuous improvement that solidifies the company’s chance for long-term survival.

E-mail Contributing Editor R. Keith Mobley, CMRP, MBB, principal consultant at Life Cycle Engineering, at kmobley@lce.com.

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