Unlocking world-class maintenance

In this Big Picture Interview, Drylock's maintenance manager offers keys to PM success and nixing superhero syndrome.

Jason Anderson is maintenance manager at Drylock Technologies, an Eau Claire, WI-based manufacturer of diapers and other hygiene products for children and adults. In May, at a Fluke and eMaint Roadshow event in Chicago, he shared his experiences in helping guide Drylock from a largely reactive, unscheduled maintenance culture to a proactive one where maintenance work is planned, scheduled, kitted, and documented – without losing the support of team members who appreciate the adrenaline rush of emergency repair work.

PS: Your facility went from scheduling almost no maintenance work to having the pieces in place (literally and figuratively) to schedule a full shift. How did you get there?

JA: I started out by scheduling two work orders per tech per shift. That doesn’t sound like much, and many people would look at it and say, “That’s it? Why so little?” But the biggest reason was going from nothing to something  If I gave them 10 hours of work or 12 hours of work for their shift, going from 0 to 12, they’re going to say, “That’s too much.” And so we started out just doing that.

I scheduled two work orders per shift and I just started emailing them out. I wasn’t using the work-order system for the scheduling yet because our system at the time  didn’t do that very well.  Emailing them the schedule allowed them to  know what to work on, and they got it done every time. Over time I slowly added. At first I only added with night shift, because day shift had so many more people – you had all of the  engineering and product development people, so you had more stuff happening; they were already busier.  

Then I added the weekend work to their schedules, and then over time I added the day shift, and I started building (our) scheduling up, so instead of doing two work orders a shift, I bumped it to four. I slowly started bumping it up more and more to where we are today. We’re far from perfect, but today we have the capability of scheduling a full shift of work when we have it ready.

We’re in a fast growth stage right now, so we’re growing faster than our labor can support repairs at times, but we have more prepared work now than we ever have before, and that has allowed us to be a lot more efficient with how much work we’re managing through the system in any given time and more importantly minimize impacts to production.

You’re never going to find a marathon runner that just started running marathons. You have to build up to it. Culture change is really a lot of the same thing. You have to find a way to make it comfortable for people to adapt to the change.

(With preventive maintenance), I’ve also set a goal with my team where we’ve tried to break it all up into tasks that aren’t longer than an hour. There are times when you can’t do that, but wherever you can, what I’ve learned is the attention to detail and the focus that the technicians put in a job in that first hour is usually much higher than in hour two, three, or four. So by breaking it up into sections, it ensures you’re more likely to finish the PM and have more attention to the details in it. We’ve seen some nice dividends from that change.

PS: What was the reaction of the maintenance team to this shift in strategy and attitudes?

JA: We had some mixed feelings. There were some people who didn’t feel it was going to work. The production manager and I agreed to set up a locked preventive maintenance schedule so we assign a block of time every week on each machine. We locked that time every week so on one machine we have a four-hour block of maintenance time every Monday from 1–5. So there’s no question in production’s mind and no question in maintenance’s mind, Monday from 1–5, there’s a PM on this machine.  Another piece we worked out with production is keeping operators  with the machine when it is down for the PM so they’re incorporated into preventive maintenance. When the machine stops, they all have work assigned to them as well as the maintenance techs.

You’ve still got the knights-in-shining-armor-riding-in-to-save-the-day scenario present; there is some natural excitement for some people in that situation. It’s a big job; you dig into it; and when you’re all done you stand back and you got the machine back running and everyone feels really good that they accomplished this really big repair. I’ve worked with some folks that missed that hero mentality, and to them the new style doesn’t feel like we are accomplishing as much, until they see the numbers, which show significant gains.

More recently we’ve had some repairs that were urgently needed, and we identified them early enough to plan it and put a team on it. We have a limited amount of time to do the job, so the challenge shifted to, "How do you do this job that’s normally six or seven hours unplanned in four hours and still maintain the full quality and integrity of the repair without taking any shortcuts?” I think that has filled the gaps on some of those guys that like that hero feeling. Because now you’re saying, all right, we’ve got a critical PM, this is like a NASCAR pit scenario. You’ve only got this much time; it’s critical it’s done right. Tools and parts are kitted on a cart. You guys are set to go, and production’s going to page you 15 minutes ahead so you know exactly when they’re shutting down. You can take that same type of anxiety and shape it into completing the job in a planned downtime event instead of an unplanned downtime event sometimes twice as long.

At times early on we were firefighting so nonstop that (the technicians) had an impression that the machines were actually busier than they were. We’ve shown them what our outputs and scrap rates were and how they’ve changed. Our outputs now are higher and our scrap rates are now lower. So even though it doesn’t feel like we’re as busy or working as hard, the machines are actually putting out more product at lower scrap.

One thing I’ve learned going through the process is it’s not linear. It’s very up and down. If you ask my team this week, they would tell you the gains we’ve made are a lot different than what they would have told you even two weeks ago.  It’s important to step back and look at your indicators. Your short-term ones are telling you one story, and your long-term ones are telling you another story. Ultimately between the two stories, are you making the gains that you want, and if you’re not, what influencers are preventing you from it?

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