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Lean Six Sigma For Maintenance Services

Feb 25, 2008
Implementing "Lean" concepts in maintenance processes is not easy because in most companies, maintenance activities are conducted by relatively less-skilled personnel who may not have the ability to understand the complexities of "Lean" concepts and methodologies.

Additionally, maintenance personnel are often so fully engrossed in their daily activities that it is quite difficult for them to find time for understanding "Lean" concepts let alone finding time to carry out the "Lean" implementations.

Facing the Challenge

So how do companies deal with the challenge of implementing "Lean" in maintenance processes? Well, the answer lies in the use of computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) systems that help in streamlining maintenance activities. CMMS systems help because they allow maintenance managers to reduce the average time spent on general maintenance activities, assess the average time lapsed between two consecutive maintenance tasks for all critical components, and identify the main causes of breakdowns.

All this automatically reduces the workload of maintenance personnel, giving them enough time to learn "Lean" concepts and methodologies and carry out the implementations.

How to Carry Out the Implementations

To improve the effectiveness and efficiency of maintenance services, it is necessary to make full use of the existing CMMS system during the Lean implementation phase. Lean implementations for maintenance services lead to better results when carried out under the CMMS framework because then it becomes easier both for the implementation team and the maintenance department to understand the technicalities involved.

Using a CMMS framework helps also because it allows access to critical information, some of which are described below.

-The average downtime of all equipment, critical to the main maintenance process selected for "Lean" improvements

-The root cause responsible for each downtime event

-An up-to-date list of all the present and proposed maintenance works and activities
-An up-to-date list of pending maintenance tasks

-The current ratio of total scheduled tasks to total maintenance work orders

CMMS is certainly necessary, but small businesses that may not have the financial muscle to deploy such systems, can opt for a manual system, similar to CMMS. A manual maintenance management system will certainly act as an obstacle for a large organization, but for smaller organizations, it is always better to have one, especially when "Lean" concepts are being implemented.

Apart from using CMMS, organizations should also provide the requisite training and support to the implementation team as well as the maintenance personnel. Lean concepts and methodologies are quite confusing, and if proper training and guidance is not provided, it will become quite difficult for the implementers to do justice to their implementation goals and objectives.

In the worst-case scenario, the whole "Lean" implementation project might get shelved due to the inability of the implementation team to complete the implementations within the planned costs and time. Training is thus as vital as CMMS while implementing "Lean" in maintenance processes.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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