How Kitting Can Enhance Reliability

Al Emeneker, Life Cycle Engineering

In the world of manufacturing, we are looking for better, more efficient ways to improve our production uptime and quality, reduce the cost per unit, improve human capital utilization and create a higher quality of work life for our personnel. Kitting for maintenance crafts to perform their tasks is one of the easier and more effective ways to allow quality completion of the job with minimal productivity impact, especially when accompanied by a well-planned and functionally scheduled job. 

Understanding the value of kitting in relation to the value of the time lost requires asking and honestly answering some questions:

  • Does the job have to be done now or can it wait to be planned and scheduled at a time that minimizes production loss? Will we be able to schedule it at a time that will reduce the amount of product lost through the equipment downtime for the repair?
  • What materials should be kitted for the job(s)? 
  • Is there a value added to the front end work of kitting, controlling and delivering the kit for the job(s)? When will the materials folks know when to send the parts and to where?
  • Will the job be planned well enough to identify and procure the materials necessary for a timely and quality repair?
  • Will there be enough time to allow for the correct materials to be kitted and delivered, allowing the crafts persons to do the quality repair they want and need to do?

As you can see, there are plenty of potential reasons/excuses for not kitting. All are invalid when kitting is accomplished with a bit of communication, cooperation and coordination. A well-managed materials inventory of the appropriate parts is an absolute necessity. That well-managed inventory will contribute to effective job planning and verification that those materials are the appropriate ones. The better the lead time of job scheduling, the better the planning of the job can be, along with the accurate materials.

What should be kitted? Do all planned work orders require a kit of the materials required? Should preventive maintenance work orders be kitted? Should lubrication route work orders be kitted? Is there a specific regimen for kitting work orders?

Planned work orders for outage, shutdown and turnaround work should, if at all possible, be kitted. This will allow the crafts persons to accomplish their tasking with the quality they desire, in the time frame budgeted by the appropriate management, allowing an on-time completion of the downtime scheduled. Planned work orders for backlog relief should be kitted, again to minimize the production downtime and allow the crafts persons the time to accomplish a quality, within-specification repair to support overall reliability. Preventive maintenance work orders that require repetitive replacement of items such as filters, lubricants, seals, and other expendable items identified for time-based replacement should also be kitted.

Work orders that require technical troubleshooting that may encompass downtime should be kitted to the degree known. The troubleshooting requirement work orders must be accompanied in the job package by a comprehensive bill of materials that applies to that specific asset or entity, providing the crafts persons with up-to-date information about parts and materials availability in the storeroom. Not all work orders will clearly state the specific needs, therefore the need for troubleshooting by competent crafts persons.

Work orders that are less complicated or that require items from expendable inventories in the maintenance shop or operating area may not require kitting, though if the work is recurring or programmed maintenance, it may be an easy task to schedule and kit the needed items on a routine basis. It is often easy for the experienced crafts person to be aware of the requirements of the job they are assigned to from the weekly schedule and gather materials from the applicable storage location on the way to the job.

Accurate bills of materials for specific assets or entities allow the planner and crafts persons to proactively obtain the necessary materials for the job. A well-managed storeroom will have the asset or entity location of inventory items identified in that store’s stock number for each inventory item, along with the existing requirements anticipated through planned work. Should the unforeseen happen and there is a breakdown, the information for the necessary communication to the appropriate planner can be conveyed immediately. Parts reserved for planned work can be made available to the higher priority work, allowing a controlled replenishment of inventory and functional rescheduling of the lesser priority work.

Kit delivery is also important. Where and when should the kits for routine work orders be delivered? Where and when should the kits for outage, shutdown and turnaround work be delivered? When should those material items be charged to and issued against that specific asset or entity work order?

It is most effective to have kits for routine work, scheduled backlog relief work and scheduled preventive maintenance and programmed maintenance delivered the day before the date the work order is scheduled to the applicable drop zone or shop or equipment location. This gives the crafts person time to review the job with the supervisor (if applicable) and to verify that all the needed materials are present and correct. This final verification of materials is a very necessary task. It can be a very expensive disruption to take a system out of production without having the correct materials to accomplish the quality repair in the scheduled time frame. The result is a waste of operators’ and crafts people’s time, production loss, sales and inventory loss and escalated tempers.

The maintenance planner should ascertain the correct materials for the specific job. Communication with other knowledgeable people, such as qualified operators and experienced crafts people, will ensure the proper materials are identified for the job. The planner should verify the specific items required for the work order and review the kit for the job before the kit is issued. Then, when the kit is issued and delivered, the crafts person scheduled for the job should conduct the final verification. Should a discrepancy be found, there is time to avoid removing the system from service. The work can be rescheduled when all the necessary materials are present, alleviating unnecessary downtime and production loss.

Kits may take the form of “crash carts” that are functional for planned and scheduled work of all sorts. The crash cart (or “rebuild cart”) is a container of all the materials that may be necessary to repair, rebuild or overhaul a specific asset. The crafts person takes what is necessary, then, after the job is complete and turned over to operations for production, inventories and commits the items used against the work order for the asset or entity repair, and returns the crash cart to the storeroom for replenishment for the next time it is needed. A kit may just be one bolt or a circuit card. However, it could also be a complete rotating assembly that is a repairable stores item to be issued as a replacement for the like rotating assembly in the field and the used, worn-out rotating assembly returned for rebuild in a planned and scheduled fashion.

Kitting for planned and scheduled work makes everyone’s life better. It enhances the reliability of the equipment through the quality repair effort, increases uptime and productivity of the equipment, creates less stress for the operator and allows smoother operation of the equipment. There is a good bit of effort required on the front end of setting up a kitting program, but once the program is set and monitored properly, life is good.

About the Author

Al Emeneker, a subject matter expert at Life Cycle Engineering, has more than 30 years experience in the maintenance repair and maintenance reliability fields with companies including Union Camp Paper Company, Fluor, the U.S. Air Force and South Carolina Electric and Gas. You can reach Al at aemeneker@LCE.com.

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About the Author

Al Emeneker, a subject matter expert at Life Cycle Engineering, has more than 30 years experience in the maintenance repair and maintenance reliability fields with companies including Union Camp...