In any manufacturing organization, who spends the most time and knows the equipment better than anyone else? Is it Maintenance? Engineering? Area leaders? If you ask me, I would say the operators that run that particular piece of equipment. They are around the equipment 24/7, 365 days a year. Operators know how the equipment runs so they know when something isn’t quite right. They will know if there is a different noise, smell, or maybe an unusual vibration. They may not know exactly what is causing it or how to fix it, but they do know that it isn’t normal for that equipment. And if it isn’t normal for the equipment, chances are good that it is affecting one or more of the following: safety, quality, delivery, or cost.
If you have someone that knows the equipment this well, why not utilize their full capabilities? Should we have our maintenance people doing general daily inspections? Should they be the ones checking and adding lubrication? Of course maintenance people have an important role to play, but I would encourage them to train the operators – the folks that know their equipment better than anyone else – to do the general daily inspections. Train the operators to do the lubrication of the equipment as well. Operators should be reporting to maintenance that there is a different smell, sound, a new pile of black dust that isn’t normally there, or that they have to add more lube than the SOP calls for.
By training operators and giving them more responsibility for taking care of their equipment, you will accomplish a couple of things. Operations will take more pride and ownership in their equipment. They won’t have to fight the equipment all shift while meeting their production rates. They can inspect and identify potential problems so maintenance knows where to focus their attention for increased performance. As operators learn more about how to maintain the equipment, their increased knowledge will help them develop a stronger working rapport with maintenance people.
You will also free up your maintenance people to focus on the more important tasks. With more time to focus on the problem areas, they will be able to ensure equipment is fixed right the first time and avoid applying “Band-Aid” fixes. We all know how a “Band-Aid” or temporary fix works: every time it’s put in place it is rarely revisited to properly fix it until the next time that it fails. Like my mentor would say, “How far do you think that fix will take you? …….. All the way to the crash site.”
You can’t go wrong by having operations as part of your daily maintenance plan. Why would you not have the person that knows the equipment best involved with the daily care of it? Involve your operators, keep your equipment out of the crash site, and give your maintenance people more time to focus on what is really important.
Brad is an Asset Management Services Technician with Life Cycle Engineering (LCE). His career focus has been on lean manufacturing as a means to improve plant efficiency and grow profits. During his career in manufacturing Brad has had the opportunity to lead, mentor and coach employees in lean manufacturing and total productive maintenance principles. You can reach Brad at bfulghum@LCE.com.