Take Care of your Customers, Operators and Techs!

Rex M. Gallaher

The customer is the end reason that the plant exists. However, the people who interact with the customer are employees. Management's focus must be on those interfaces. They cannot get to the customer otherwise. Therefore, I would direct management to focus on employee development, training, behavior, skills, etc. In the plant, it is the operators who make the product. That is the factory's reason for existence.

A supplier/customer relationship should exist between the operators and maintenance technicians. When the equipment is down, the most important employee in the plant may be the technician fixing it. At that point, all of the organization must focus on facilitating him or her. All of the processes must be designed to support this person.

Value-added maintenance is related to quantity and quality of plant production. Speaking in terms of those results is continuously putting the value of maintenance in front of management. Be proactive and set the goals as being continuous improvement rather than maintaining the status quo. Train management to be followers, leaders and businessmen (and businesswomen). They are operating a business.

While at the U.S. Postal Service, I set up a bi-weekly PowerPoint e-mail directed to all maintenance management for them to forward to other functions and the crafts. These e-mails informed about maintenance, equipment performance, new procedures, heads-ups, what other functions are doing, industry trends, etc. Its goals were to market maintenance, franchise maintenance management, educate other functions and provide a forum for others to express themselves. In another internal organ aimed at the crafts, we identified best practices and who developed them. We gave hats and other items to employees. We showcased winners and gave national recognition to plants, managers, employees and stockrooms.

As a side, who owns the roll-around tool boxes and the tools in your plant? Could you award five years of service by giving the employee the roll-around? How about the tools for 10 years?

Do you:

  • Use existing skilled employees for OJT?
  • Insure all possible documentation is obtained and is available to employees?
  • Train employees in basic skills?
  • Develop real trouble-shooters?
  • Make sure work orders are well-documented and available as reference?
  • Perform Post-Engagement Reviews (PER) with small teams?
  • Develop team maintenance?
  • Bring in retired experts for in-house seminars?
  • Share between plants?
  • Continuously improve predictive and condition-based maintenance programs?

Treat the preventive maintenance program as an experiment. When did you last bypass a scheduled PM task or route? What was the equipment condition when you finally got to the route? Could you go another cycle and no issues arise? If so, what would you say about the frequencies and associated PM tasks? Were there any problems during the delay time to get to the PM? Could you make this a craftsperson project?

Does your organization have a disciplined approach toward using overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) as a maintenance analysis metric? Can you correlate the effort and costs of PM or consumables replacement, or rebuild with production performance? Condition-based maintenance includes purposeful run to breakdown. Can you apply that to your equipment, especially those failures which take no longer than a coffee break to correct?

Can you develop a Reliability-Centered Maintenance plan for your existing equipment using the maintenance and OEE histories while evaluating the existing PM, PdM and failure data?

Do you provide technical and business journals such as Reliable Plant, Machinery Lubrication, IndustryWeek and Business Week in your breakrooms or cafeterias? What does your higher management read, and can you get the hand-me-downs for yourself and your people?

Have you ever sent a craft employee to a professional conference? Did he or she make a presentation to other employees upon return? Do you take an operations type to your local professional chapter meetings?

Enough already, do you have a headache?

Remember, humility is the mark of a leader.

Please respond to this blog post with your own questions, comments and random thought triggers on maintenance. Let's get the conversation rolling!

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