We were very much in the lower tier when compared to our peers concerning equipment up-time and maintenance costs. Our maintenance strategy was more of emergency repair than anything else, and if we did try and schedule maintenance, it tended to end up on the weekends, since all the skilled trades were involved in emergency repair rather than scheduled maintenance during normal working hours.
We addressed this problem by implementing an integrated Enterprise Asset Management system. This was one implementation that went very smoothly. Of course there were some small areas that caused problems. One of these areas was piping. There is a significant difference between five 20 foot lengths of pipe and one piece of pipe 100 feet long. The system was originally set up so that the inventory balance showed 100 feet of pipe. We eventually had to identify the pipe lengths individually (we managed the pipes as if they were batched managed materials, and length was a property of the pipe).
We started simply. Just scheduling preventative maintenance and more importantly doing the maintenance on schedule. By knowing what equipment was not being used, if preventative maintenance had not been done, and which trades were not currently assigned to a task, we were able to send the trades people to perform preventative maintenance on the equipment before it broke. This reduced the likelihood of it breaking down when it was next used. Once this cycle was established, less equipment was breaking down, which meant less emergency repairs, which meant that there were more trades people available to do more work during normal operating hours. Eventually all normal maintenance was done in the normal working day. We also enabled (trained) the operators to do some basic everyday maintenance tasks, along with some simple measurement processes. This also freed up the skilled trades time to work during their prime shifts.
There was one side affect that I did not expect. The trades’ people, over the years, had come to expect a significant portion of their income to come from overtime work. As we were able to transfer the maintenance work from the week ends into the normal working day, the company saw a significant reduction in overtime salary. This of course meant that the trades’ people saw a drop in their pay packets.
All these programs that enable the perfect plant have an impact both positively & negatively on your staff. Do not forget the human element, and consider the impact on your most important asset, your people. Unfortunately, in this case, there was nothing much we could do to mitigate the impact of the system implementation. The only thing that we could do was to try to give what little overtime there was to the worst cases. If we had thought through the full impact of the implementation, we could have informed the trades’ people long before the impact was felt and they would have been able to plan their finances accordingly.
Having learnt this lesson, for further projects, we made sure that everyone was informed. We give the same information lecture personally to all shifts, in all locations, including the 3rd shift that was available at 2:00 AM.