Building a High-Performance
Maintenance Team


Maintenance is one of the most significant business areas in an industrial company – directly impacting every stage of the production process. Intensive capital industries invest heavily in high-quality equipment and machinery, which must last for long periods and be efficiently managed and preserved.

With efficient equipment maintenance, the continuous flow of the production process is guaranteed, thereby obtaining excellent operational results in both cost reduction and productivity increase. Hence, industrial companies look forward to implementing the most effective maintenance procedures and setting up a high-performance team dedicated to them.

Nevertheless, maintenance has been facing a paradigm shift over the last few decades as activities move digitally, and it becomes more about predicting eventual future defects, and less about solving the challenges as they arise. To be able to forecast maintenance needs and prevent problems upstream, companies need to follow an integration strategy based on the constant alignment between maintenance and production teams, and procedures.

Through the adoption of forecast models, along with the creation of a maintenance team that follows the correct practices and works side-by-side with the production and other business areas, efficiency gains will become visible.

What is a high-performance maintenance team?

Building and managing an efficient maintenance team is a crucial step to continuously optimizing operations, however, the ideal role of such a team has not been clarified yet.

Firstly, it should be noted that every maintenance team works for a common goal – to guarantee optimal equipment reliability and performance, working every day for its continuous improvement and alignment with production needs.

Other more specific responsibilities are related to guaranteeing safety in the workplace, ensuring high operational standards, keeping costs under control, and meeting stakeholder expectations.

In terms of structure, a maintenance team is managed by a team leader who must work towards transforming the team into a high-performing one. This concerns the capacity of performing at a high level every day, despite the difficulties arising, and being able to solve current challenges, while already predicting future ones.

This is one of the most demanding challenges maintenance teams are facing, namely, finding the right balance between working in solving damages – corrective maintenance – and in preventing them – preventive maintenance. An efficient strategy should be for teams to evolve in the direction of reducing the necessity of performing corrective maintenance and prioritizing preventive maintenance.

To do so, companies must invest in training programs for maintenance team leaders that develop in them the necessary skills and knowledge. This encompasses not only the capacity of maintaining processes every day, but a mindset shift into one of continuous improvement, where every challenge is regarded as an opportunity to optimize, and the vision is towards zero downtime. These practices must then be passed on by the team leader to his or her team, which progressively includes them in their daily routines.

On top of this, the implementation of these new paradigm practices must be monitored and supported by daily team meetings. The maintenance team leader must define relevant KPIs to measure the team’s effectiveness and the progress of the implementation. Specific metrics may include the following:

  • Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): is the result of the multiplication of the availability (time in production vs. total time) with the performance (speed of production vs. max speed) and quality (parts with quality vs. total parts produced). This results in an overall efficiency KPI that measures the performance of a single piece of equipment, production line, or plant.
  • Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF): average time the equipment is running until a failure occurs.
  • Mean Time to Repair (MTTR): the time it takes to fix a problem and get the equipment operating again.
  • Mean Time Between Planned Maintenance (MTBPM): the time a machine is expected to run before a necessary stoppage for planned maintenance procedures.
  • Machine Downtime: total time that the equipment is not performing due to a breakdown.

Which model should we use to increase efficiency?

While the adoption of improvement routines for maintenance teams certainly boosts the efficiency of production, companies should benefit from going even further, employing an effective maintenance model.

Throughout history, maintenance models evolved, and priorities have not always been the same. Until the 1960s, when the equipment was simple and with a low level of electronic components, maintenance was about repairing what was broken, what was referred to as ‘corrective maintenance’.

Later, with the equipment becoming complex, emerged ‘preventive maintenance’, based on planning systems in order to meet safety and legal procedures. Recently, maintenance models are focused on meeting global standards of operational excellence, such as innovative techniques and digital processes, as well as environmental issues.

Considering that maintenance costs represent, on average, 15-40% of operating costs, and planned shutdowns result in a 5-10% loss in equipment efficiency, a model that looks to reducing these and other relevant indicators needs to be applied. Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) has been successfully implemented in several industries and has proven to be a framework that addresses the most pressing issues around equipment performance.

TPM is an approach based on a balance between planned and autonomous maintenance interventions, striving to achieve an optimal production environment devoid of defects, downtime, stoppages, and accidents while maximizing efficiency. It is based on an alignment between operational teams – production and maintenance – to assure maximum performance. However, it may be demanding, as both teams do not usually share the same objectives inside an organization.

The TPM vision believes that to create the desired teamwork culture, companies must establish a shared-responsibility system and adjust the plant work according to these three measures:

  • Basic maintenance is performed by the operators.
  • Abnormalities are detected and corrected by the operator.
  • The maintenance team is dedicated to higher-complexity equipment interventions.

The main steps to creating high-performance maintenance

Besides the smooth connection between production and maintenance teams, there are other crucial actions that should be taken into consideration when creating high-performance maintenance structures. Hence, according to the KAIZEN™ approach to maintenance, all the required steps can be summed up in these five tools:

1. Training the team in problem-solving techniques – Kobetsu KAIZEN™: This is a tool for structured problem-solving, focused on effectively reaching and eliminating the problem root causes to increase the performance of the equipment. It is supported by methodologies such as Pareto and Ishikawa and by comprehensive data analysis. The aim is to increase the OEE of bottleneck equipment by eliminating all types of failures – basic, frequent, and sporadic – reducing rework time, FTTQ, downtime, scrap, customer complaints, and accident rate, and, ultimately, improving productivity. By acquiring the skill to use the Kobetsu tool, teams will be autonomous in detecting, analyzing and permanently solving complex issues.

2. Implementing a preventive maintenance plan: As maintenance teams strive to focus more on preventive maintenance instead of corrective, it is necessary to develop a strategic preventive maintenance plan. This plan should envision equipment availability and reliability, reducing the need for corrective actions, and, consequently, improving relevant performance indicators. In terms of process, first, conditions must be prepared to then implement periodic maintenance, guaranteeing a spare part stock level that is cost-efficient with the necessary time reserved for production to continue these actions.

3. Engaging production teams with autonomous maintenance: For maintenance teams to have availability to work on complex problem-solving and planned maintenance activities, they need to be freed up from simple maintenance tasks, and this is where autonomous maintenance arises. This tool refers to the training of production operators to perform basic standardized maintenance activities such as cleaning, inspection, and lubrication to avoid forced deterioration. During this process, team leaders must verify that operators can identify failures at the time they occur, ensuring a rapid response and greater reliability of equipment. In contrast, maintenance teams are responsible for specialized tasks with higher added value such as technical improvements, advanced prevention activities, planned maintenance, predictive analysis, and structured failure analysis.

4. Training the teams on a daily basis: The fourth stage consists of developing and implementing a long-term training program for all plant operators in the format of a maintenance academy, to guarantee that the lessons learned are carried out by all team members. Operators should be trained on the standards and skills for processes stability, as well as on the relevant lean principles. Having this training structure in place also facilitates the onboarding of new team members.

5. Accelerating new equipment for on-boarding: Having overcome all the preceding challenges, it’s time to work on the process of onboarding new equipment in the plant. Teams must be involved in the design phase of the project to make sure that all requirements are met, and that the new equipment will be in harmony with the surrounding operations. In this phase, the standards for operation are designed and teams are trained. This early equipment management will allow for a fast ramp-up of the new equipment’s performance and will reduce its Life Cycle Cost.

How to track performance and implement a continuous improvement culture

In practice, a new process deployment only works if followed by constant performance tracking. So, when creating high-performance maintenance teams and processes, companies must follow a holistic improvement-driven approach. This starts with the adoption of KAIZEN™ methodologies in everyday routines.

The implementation of daily team meetings is the basis for process stability. Here, team leaders come together with their teams to analyze previously defined KPIs, which are based on real-time data, identify corrective actions, and discuss future improvement opportunities.

Making the problems visual and standardizing problem-solving procedures will minimize result variability and contribute strongly to the creation of a continuous improvement culture. For instance: factories can implement standard work for maintenance tools, visual boards for the TPM plan, or advanced kits to manage necessary materials.

Additionally, another action that contributes to performance tracking, is the performance of Gemba Walks – a workplace walkthrough that aims to observe processes in action, check if procedures are being followed, and thus identify possible efficiency gains. This routine brings leaders closer to the shopfloor which also improves their perception of the real problems that teams face within daily operations, allowing for better prioritization of improvements needed.

Hence, the right organization along with the monitorization of KPIs and a progressive alignment of employees with new lean practices enables the establishment of a continuous improvement culture, and consequently the implementation of a top performing TPM team.

To achieve high levels of efficiency, there must be a continuous follow-up and improvement of the planned maintenance system and the support of production teams focusing on autonomous maintenance.

#process manufacturing #maintenance

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