15 Maintenance Processes To Help You Lay The Right Foundation For Continuous Improvement 6435b791a0b07

15 maintenance processes to help you lay the right foundation for continuous improvement

April 12, 2023
These foundational processes are core to steering your maintenance team toward doing the right work.

Continuous Improvement has become a catch all of sorts in that we take what we are currently doing to try to improve upon it. There is a minor flaw in this thought process: Are we doing the right work, or are we doing work that does not net great results in the end?

If we are doing the wrong work, we can still improve upon it. However, our goal should be to set up the proper foundations or the “right work” before we worry about improving upon anything, and develop and implement a truly life changing maintenance system.

Effective vs. efficient

To understand how to, we first must define a few things. The first of these things are the words effective and efficient.

Effective or Effectiveness. Effectiveness is doing the right things or the right work. When we understand the right work to do, this begins to allow us to set our sails to head to the destination that we want for our team and our life. The goal in the end is to have a quality of life that gets us excited about going into our plants and gets us up out of bed in the morning. So, what is the right work? Well, that is the purpose of this article, to outline the work that is done by best-in-class facilities in their maintenance systems.

Efficient or Efficiency. Efficiency is acting or producing with a minimum of waste, expense, or unnecessary effort. With that, efficiency does not mean that acting or producing is right or wrong – it just is. For example, if I were to act by getting rid of my waste oil drum when full by dumping it down the drain, I might just push it over, getting oil all over the place, but eventually, some of it will get down the drain. If I wanted to make that process more efficient, I could get a large funnel and a forklift with a barrel tipper and dump the drum into the funnel, minimizing waste and maximizing the amount of oil that goes down the drain, thus making it more efficient.

The question is, was this the right thing to do? Well, most certainly not, but I did make the process more efficient. With this understanding behind us, let us understand that our first focus should be on doing the right work, and once those processes are established, we can then focus on making them more efficient.

Organizations, plants, systems, and processes: Systems thinking

The next thing to understand is what each of these are and how they are defined.

Organizations. An organization is an administrative and functional structure that is a collection of people, who are involved in pursuing defined objectives. It can be understood as a social system that comprises all formal human relationships. The organization encompasses division of work among employees and alignment of tasks toward the ultimate goals of the company. From a systems perspective, it is a collection of plants.

Plants or Facilities. A plant or facility is a collection of systems, or in other words, a collection of departments. When we think of a plant, it is made up of departments, like safety, quality, HR, administrative, maintenance, operations, logistics, etc. Each of them is an independent system in and of itself, but they align and work together interdependently to achieve the common objectives of the plant and organization.

Systems or Departments. A system is a group of resources that work collectively in order to produce desired output from given inputs. It receives input and produces the output. The components of the systems are interconnected and work together to achieve a common objective. A system, simply put, is a collection of processes that work to achieve a common goal. For example, a common goal within the maintenance department is zero breakdowns. In order to achieve zero breakdowns, foundational processes have to be initiated and improved to attain this common goal.

Processes. A process is a planned series of actions within a system that advances material, procedures, or work from one stage of completion to the next. A system generally has several processes in it. A process is like a mini-system in that there are inputs and functions. The main difference is that a system produces a complete product, service, or attainment of a common goal, while a process produces or supports part of the product, service, or attainment of the common goal.

An example of a process is maintenance planning and scheduling. Maintenance planning by itself does not complete the work, but it is a process that helps along the way. For example: the maintenance planner assigns work orders through the CMMS and sets a completion date. The final product is then used by other members of the maintenance team (i.e., scheduler) to find the time to execute the work and technicians, in the execution of the work. Notice that planning did not totally complete the work that needed to be done. It is a process or part of the work.

The right work: The 15 foundational maintenance processes

Now that we have covered these topics, a key question still remains: what is the right work? To complete the maintenance system, a series of 15 foundational processes must exist. This is not to say that there are not more, only that these 15 are foundational. They are as follows:

Process 1 – 5S for the shop. This is exactly what it says: 5S for your shop. This sets the tone for the oncoming change within the shop. You can tell a lot by the culture within a maintenance shop by looking at the condition of the shop.

Process 2 – Criticality analysis. Criticality Analysis is the ranking of plant assets to set up the equipment maintenance strategy, drive the priority and to what extent maintenance will be executed.

Process 3 – Equipment maintenance strategy. No matter what type of equipment you use, eventually you will get wear and tear. The most effective maintenance strategy for equipment is always to be in control. A proactive strategy is a strategy that gives you control over the assets.

Process 4 – Operator driven reliability (ODR) support. The responsibility of the ODR Support group is to work with the ODR (operations) team to train and develop the operators in all things ODR.

Process 5 – Lubrication management. The lubrication management concept takes a holistic approach to lubrication. In this approach, lubricants are considered not as consumables to be purchased at the lowest price, but as an asset to be managed and nurtured.

Process 6 – Failure analysis. Failure analysis is when an investigation takes place to determine the cause of failure, usually with the aim of taking corrective action to fix the problem and mitigate against further failures.

Process 7 – Maintenance standards and procedures. This process is a process intended to capture tribal knowledge, create troubleshooting guides, and standardize work, especially for those new to the company.

Process 8 – Planning and scheduling. Maintenance planning should define the what, why and how. This means specifying what work needs to be done with what materials, tools, and equipment; why a particular action was chosen (why a valve is being replaced instead of a seat); and how the work should be completed. Maintenance scheduling refers to the timing of planned work when the work should be done and who should perform it. It offers details of "when" and "who."

Process 9 – Outage planning and scheduling. Outage planning is a combination of maintenance planning & scheduling and project management that is applied to larger outages such as scheduled rebuilds and overhauls that typically require a larger amount of scheduled downtime for work to be completed, such as days or weeks.

Process 10 – Maintenance information systems. Maintenance information systems are the management of updates to things including the CMMS, production systems, and the SCADA system.

Process 11 – Maintenance budgeting. This is the goal of getting to a zero-based budget.

Process 12 – Maintenance, repairs, and operations. This is your storeroom. It is the primary responsibility of the storeroom to make sure that all required parts are in stock when needed and with highest quality and lowest price possible. It is the frontline of defense for any maintenance department and should be kept defect-free.

Process 13 – Predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance is the use of five identified technologies: ultrasound, infrared, vibration, oil analysis, and motor circuit analysis.

Process 14 – Precision maintenance. Precision maintenance are the tasks that take place typically at commissioning or recommissioning to extend the life of an asset. These include laser alignment, balancing, torquing, bearing installation, and defined measures, to name a few.

Process 15 – PM optimization. PM optimization is a process that uses the principles of Reliability Centered Maintenance (RCM) to rationalize existing maintenance programs, failure history, and eliminate defects. It starts with the existing maintenance program for desired equipment, and existing failure history on equipment both formal and informal (tribal knowledge).

Along with these 15 processes a bit of prework or preparation must be done. First is the development of the departmental plan. Then owners need to be assigned to each process. The budget and things that affect it must be understood as well. Also, if you do not have your CMMS set up to use and basic PMs in the system, these things must be completed first.

In the end, setting up these foundational processes and then continuously improving upon them can lead to great gains through reduced downtime and drive a culture of excellence that gives people a better quality of life.

About the Author

Joe Anderson

Joe Anderson is a partner and chief operating officer for ReliabilityX. Joe helps companies reach their full potential through improvement gains and lowering costs, giving them a competitive advantage on their journey to excellence. As an active columnist in Plant Services magazine, Joe shares his over 25 years of experience in maintenance, reliability and management excellence in various industries with the world through his writing. He is a CMRP, CRL, CARO, MLT2, MLA1, LSSGB, IAM-55k, CRL Black Belt and was recognized as one of the top 50 leaders in the country by the United States Congress, being awarded the National Leadership Award. He has also brought humor to the world through his experiences, and it can be seen in the character creation of Captain Unreliability.

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