Production v Maintenance

PEME - Stef Smith

PEME’s Asset Care specialist, Stef Smith, was recently asked for his opinion on why balancing the needs of keeping production lines running with the requirements to maintain the equipment can be a recipe for conflict.

Stef advises “the maintenance department needs access to idle assets to conduct preventive and corrective tasks but the production team need the assets to make product and ship orders. Production never have enough product and maintenance never have enough time – so conflict is indeed constant and as certain as a tax bill.”

Stef believes typical contributory causes of disputes are:

  • Maintenance issues:

    • Maintenance own the Asset Care Strategy with limited production input
    • Often risk averse – would rather switch something off, in case a breakdown occurs
    • Often do unnecessary intrusive maintenance just to be seen to be doing something
    • Understand maintenance theory, but disregard production pressure and impact of non-deliverance
    • Have not identified the appropriate level-of-repair for likely failures and ensured critical spares are available in a timely manner resulting in extended down-time to address remedial notifications
  • Production issues:

    • Would prefer to take the risk and run-to-failure rather than stop a ‘running machine’ if the pressure on productivity is high. Often get away with it, which is a great argument for the next time
    • Do not understand maintenance theory or failure characteristics and so quick to argue that preventive maintenance can be skipped if nothing was found wrong on previous occasions – view routine preventive maintenance as a ‘tick-box’ exercise
    • Often do not trust maintenance to hand-back a reliable machine back (“it was fine till they worked on it”)
    • Have limited visibility of breakdowns avoided as a result of the planned maintenance regime

So what are the solutions proposed by Stef:

  • Asset Care Strategy – ensure there is one and it is jointly owned by Production and Maintenance
  • Education – Production need to understand basic maintenance theory – failure modes, degradation characteristics, applicable preventive maintenance tasks and frequencies
  • Cultural change – Maintenance must be ‘part’ of the production team. Maintenance engineers must make decisions based on the understanding that they work for a company that makes product, not for a company that just fixes machines
  • Move with the times – Use Condition Monitoring (non-intrusive techniques that find degradation whilst the asset is running)
  • Understand criticality – sometimes risking a breakdown to deliver product is the correct decision, but not always
  • Implement Operator Asset Care – at a level where maintenance and production work together to identify, report and rectify developing failures, thus avoiding a breakdown
  • Introduce formalised line walks – looking / listening for developing failures whilst the assets are running
  • Reduce Mean Time to Repair (MTTR) – by adopting an appropriate level-of-repair and having the correct critical spares stockholding
  • Share success – every fault found and corrected has avoided a potential breakdown and productivity loss – this cost avoidance is usually not visible to production