World-class OEE Drives BMW Plant

BMW: The Ultimate Reliability Machine

Paul V. Arnold, Noria Corporation

The global chairman of the board is a big proponent of effective plant maintenance.

Plant production, engineering and logistics workers say with a straight face, "I don't remember us having any downtime in 2006" and "the equipment isn't a stumbling block for us."

Targets for overall equipment effectiveness exceed 90 percent (world class is considered 85 percent). Plant leaders say the marks are achievable or already have been surpassed.

Uptime nears 100 percent in some mission-critical areas.

Maintenance attention is equally focused on the past, the present and the future (up to seven years down the line).

Reactive work in some areas comprises less than 5 percent of the overall task load.

Impossible? A pipe dream? A distant goal? Nope. That is the current state of reliability at BMW Manufacturing Company's plant in Spartanburg, S.C.


The BMW Manufacturing plant in Spartanburg, S.C., spans 4.73 million square feet and employs 4,500 workers.


"For a 14-year-old facility, it is really in super condition," says Duncan Seaman, a department manager for Facilities/Energy at this site, located right off of Interstate 85, a few miles from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport.

BMW Manufacturing is a component of the Munich, Germany-based BMW Group and the corporation's only auto production plant located in North America. Constructed in 1993 and opened for full manufacturing in 1994, it is today the world's sole source for the X5 sports activity vehicle, Z4 roadster, Z4 coupe, M roadster and M coupe. More than 2,000 of these high-end, technologically advanced, customization-heavy vehicles are built here on a weekly basis.

BMW is all about performance - on the road and inside the plant.

"We take a more stringent approach to things, including reliability," says Seaman.

Phil Volino, an assistant manager focused on maintenance in the Assembly Shop, ratchets up that thought.

"In whatever we do and whatever we track, we aim for 100 percent," he says.

Herman Adams, a maintenance planning specialist in the Body Shop, adds, "People who buy a BMW are paying for the engineering and quality, not for breakdowns on the plant floor."

To achieve maintenance and reliability excellence, it's all about being the driver.

On the macro level: "We look at ways that can ensure the equipment is going to be able to do what we want it to do," says Seaman.

And, on the micro level: "We plan all of our maintenance and schedule it. It does not schedule us," says Adams.


The site manufactures BMW's X5 sports activity vehicle (SAV), Z4 roadster, M roadster, Z4 coupe and M coupe.

Plant reliability has a unique flavor at BMW Manufacturing. It's like chicken-fried steak with a side of spaetzle.

"The German influence is evident in our strong emphasis on planning. Our German colleagues excel at it," says communications manager Bunny Richardson. "If you spent a day here, you'd by amazed by the number of times the word 'planning' is used or how many people have planning in their job title or job description. Planning is definitely one of the keys to ensuring reliability."

The German overtone also comes from, among others, Dr. Norbert Reithofer, chairman of the board at BMW Group.



In late 2005 and early 2006, the plant changed its assembly layout from a two-line system to a one-line system. All SAV, roadster and coupe models are now produced on the same line.

Reithofer, who was elevated to chairman on September 1, 2006, was the president of the Spartanburg plant from 1997 to 2000. In the 1980s, he was a maintenance planner and the director of maintenance planning at BMW's plant in Munich.

"Dr. Reithofer, perhaps because of his roots, was passionate about maintenance when he was here, and he believes in its importance today," says Volino. "That shows that we are definitely supported by the extreme top for what we are trying to do.

"We have been blessed. We've always had people at the board level in Germany who were very in tune with the floor. I think BMW understands that what goes on out there is important."

Adds Adams: "Everyone in the higher management levels understands that the profit center isn't an office somewhere. It is the line and how it is performing."

The South Carolina/American influence is equally prevalent.

"This is BMW Manufacturing. It is not 'across the pond' at all," says Briggs Hamilton, section manager for environmental services.

Because of that, managers and technicians (known around the site as equipment service associates, or ESAs) are empowered to shape the structure and function of maintenance to fit the plant's needs.


Sherry McCraw led the plant's successful conversion to a flexible, one-line assembly line.

The setup is very unique. The 4.7 million-square-foot plant is divided into four units: the Body Shop, Assembly, the Paint Shop and Facilities/Energy. Each unit takes a slightly different spin on maintenance.

For instance, the Body Shop takes an integrated approach. There is no "maintenance department," per se. While there are associates who focus strictly on maintenance, they work together as a team with production and quality associates, and report to the shop supervisor.

The 106 Body Shop ESAs work 10-hour base shifts plus receive two hours of mandatory overtime. If the line is running in top form after Hour 10, they punch out early. ESAs are not specialists. They are multi-craft technicians who perform preventive, predictive and corrective tasks. Since the vast majority of the line consists of automation equipment (there are 477 robots), the base shift involves heavy doses of predictive maintenance (infrared thermography and motor current monitoring lead the way), scheduled corrective work and project planning. Preventive maintenance (PM) on robots occurs after the shift or at any other scheduled point when the equipment isn't running (that's why planning is so important).

Assembly, meanwhile, operates in a more traditional manner. The 65 multi-craft ESAs report to assembly/installations engineering manager B.J. Watkins, who serves as the manager of maintenance. Shifts are similar to the Body Shop, but PM activities comprise the lion's share of the in-shift work.

"Since we have very few robots (nine), 75 percent of our PMs can be done while the line is running," says Volino.

Corrective work is mostly scheduled for flex time and off shifts.

Outsourcing plays a key staffing role in the maintenance of all four plant units. It provides flexibility and allows the groups to focus on their core competencies.

"We all have made the decision to contract out a certain percentage of our maintenance," says Adams. "If there is a volume fluctuation, we always keep our core group of maintenance personnel. Outsourcing gives us the flexibility to expand and contract. If we have to balance a little bit, we just eliminate some contracts. We aren't eliminating our own people."

Facilities/Energy, with a staff of 22, including 18 ESAs, relies on contractors. They perform 30 percent of that unit's workload.

"We run very lean," says Seaman. "We have looked at our core competencies and what we need to be doing. We really need to move toward equipment management - making equipment run as efficiently as possible. There are commodity skill opportunities that can be easily purchased from our external partners - changing air filters, for example. That isn't a technical skill to which we should be devoting our staff's time."

While there is independence by unit, there is also a collective presence. No overall plant maintenance manager position exists. Instead, managerial representatives from each unit form the eight-person Plant Maintenance Steering Committee, an oversight entity that guides the site's M&R efforts.


Dara Leadford (left), Briggs Hamilton and Cleve Beaufort discuss the progress of engineering projects related to facilities and energy.

BMW Manufacturing believes this non-traditional approach has played a major role in its ascent into world-class-and-beyond plant performance.

"Maintenance and reliability doesn't reside in one department or with one individual," says Adams. "Everybody owns maintenance, reliability, uptime and overall equipment effectiveness. It's a team game."

It is evident that the team is winning this game. Check out overall equipment effectiveness, uptime and the other numbers on the scoreboard.

"OEE and uptime are the biggest metrics from a plant or department level. Everyone looks at those," says Adams. "OEE and uptime directly relate to the amount of cars we can make for our customers."

The plant calculates OEE as Equipment Availability times Equipment Efficiency times Quality Rate (EA x EE x QR).

Volino says EA refers to technical uptime. It is planned runtime minus equipment downtime divided by planned runtime.

EE refers to process performance in units. It is units produced times cycle time divided by planned runtime.

Notes Volino: "It is standard to use the maximum speed as a base in this calculation. In our case, we can't use that because we base our speed on a unit goal and then man the plant for that. We install our equipment with a speed range and adjust to market conditions."

QR is the quality rate in regard to equipment. If a piece of equipment causes a car to go to rework, then this counts against OEE. It is total units minus defect units divided by total units.

"We have two layers of OEE," says Volino. "Department-level OEE measures the whole line against a target. Equipment-level OEE measures each piece against a target."

With that as a backdrop, Volino states that Assembly has a departmental OEE goal of around 93 percent, including EA and EE sub-goals of 98.5 and 98 percent, respectively. "Everyone targets close to that figure," he says. "For the productivity and quality components of OEE, we want 100 percent."

Facilities/Energy has an OEE target of 90 percent, but averaged 93 percent for 2006.

Charting uptime, the shops surpass 90 percent as a department and for critical pieces of equipment. Assembly's overall mark regularly exceeds 95 percent and has been as high as 99.4 percent. In the warehouses, physical logistics section manager Bill Ramsey quotes uptime scores of 99.99 and 99.8 percent on critical equipment such as cranes, transfer cars and systems. "I don't remember us having any downtime in 2006," he says.

Other stellar marks include:

  • a tiny percentage of reactive, unplanned work. "We are not even 5 percent reactive," says Volino.

  • 88 percent plan adherence. "All of our work is planned and scheduled," says Cleve Beaufort, a plant engineering section manager in Facilities/Energy. "Great effort goes into that. So, we track how well we actually adhere to the plan. That goal is set at 90 percent."

All of this leads Sherry McCraw, the manager of assembly planning and engineering, to remark, "We don't have many equipment problems. The equipment isn't a stumbling block for us."

The numbers are amazing - the end result of numerous tools, activities and initiatives. These include:

Root cause focus: The plant and its maintenance organizations are fanatical about identifying the source of problems and preventing the chance of reoccurrence.

In the Body Shop, if a line breakdown takes 15 or more minutes to resolve (in Assembly, the standard is 10 minutes), maintenance leaders and ESAs perform a full-blown "five-whys" root cause analysis to determine if it found and corrected the true root of the problem.

"We use every acronym that you can think of as far as problem-solving tools," says Adams. "We keep going after it until the problem is gone. However, RCA is not something that's a quick action. It takes manpower to do it, whether it's your hourly people on the floor or the planning group. So, you must find that happy medium of 'when is it kind of ridiculous for me to do this five-why activity?' There's really no need to do a full RCA on some things. In some areas, we have very new equipment. When there is a hiccup, it will take the guys longer because they are still learning the ins and outs of it."

Findings and solutions are implemented on all similar pieces of equipment in the plant. The groups also make sure to share this information with senior departmental managers.

"They get to see what maintenance is doing and why it's important," says Adams. "They see what we are continually doing to ensure that their processes are going to stay up and running. We want to provide a constant spotlight on equipment performance and maintenance."

The plant, as a whole, also investigates and eliminates the root cause of problems through Lean Six Sigma projects. Currently, four master black belts, 18 black belts and more than 20 green belts play key roles on five- to seven-person attack teams.

"Lean Six Sigma is data driven. That's the difference between it and the other problem-solving measures," says Lean Six Sigma black belt Dara Leadford. "Looking at the data and analyzing it will lead you to the correct solution to a particular problem."

Standardization and partnering: BMW is a big proponent of equipment standardization, both at the plant and global level.

For example, the site recently embarked on a project to convert its programmable logic controllers to Siemens products. The plant and the company are now on one PLC platform. For a spread-out organization like BMW, standardization makes corporate and cross-plant partnering possible.

"Most of the equipment is the same for all of our plants," says Volino. "I can call South Africa or Munich and get answers to questions that I have. That makes us stronger, and increases OEE and uptime."

Equipment and maintenance standards (and maintenance best practices) are housed on a global basis at the company's Center of Competencies in Munich.

"Everything learned goes to the center so it can be accessed and used by other sites," says Adams. "The insights and lessons learned help us do things right the first time and build reliability into equipment and processes."

Considerable partnering/idea-sharing also occurs between the plant and its many capital and MRO (maintenance, repair and operations) suppliers.

Design for maintainability: In late 2005 and early 2006, the plant changed its assembly layout from a two-line system to a one-line system. All SAV, roadster and coupe models are now produced on the same line. After the tear-down portion of the conversion, the plant was able to take a "clean slate" approach to many things, including maintenance. New equipment was set up and installed in a manner that increased accessibility and maintainability.

"We used to have our control cabinets on the ground level," says McCraw. "They were always blocked by production items or a drink machine, and it would take time to move everything out of the way. So, we moved the cabinets upstairs. Now, the maintenance people have easy accessibility. They can also work privately without having people behind them driving forklifts."

Condition monitoring: The one-line conversion also provided an opportunity to install sensors on many highly critical equipment components.

"We used to have a system that monitored the entire factory and broke it down into zones, but now we can see the exact problem location down to the individual carrier," says McCraw. "If we see degradation or a potential issue, we take action and address the issue before an incident occurs."

The sensors and PLCs interface with the plant's computerized maintenance management software and SAP system and convey current status information. Based on that data, and comparisons to levels and standard deviations, SAP can determine the need for a countermeasure. Depending on various factors, it may produce a work order or notification in the CMMS, or send out a page, phone call and/or e-mail.

Condition monitoring equipment is implemented on a cost-efficiency basis. For instance, Assembly has explored vibration-sensing hardware that would automate vibration analysis on its dynamometers.

"From a cost standpoint right now, it's not feasible," says Volino. "It's like 50 times the cost of a vibration technician."

Total Productive Maintenance: TPM has helped raise uptime and OEE by creating a team approach to performing maintenance and improving reliability.

TPM activities vary by unit and production area. In the Body Shop, equipment in some areas is shut down for 15 minutes each shift so production workers can perform cleaning and adjustment activities. In other Body Shop areas, the shutdown occurs more (15 minutes every two hours) or less frequently (a one-hour block once a week). In Assembly, some production workers are assigned full-time TPM duties. The glazing cell and fluid fill cell each has two people per shift devoted to these tasks.

Production workers do have TPM limits. For instance, lubrication is strictly a maintenance task. "We try to make sure that the hands that go into the equipment can't negatively impact it," says Adams.

That differs a bit from Facilities/Energy, where basic and advanced TPM activities are doled out to the unit's contractors.

In any of its forms, TPM has worked to raise reliability through increased communication, ownership and responsiveness.

Constant change: The plant functions on seven-year intervals. Every seven years, new car lines are introduced. With each new car line comes new equipment to produce the vehicle. This provides some OEE benefits.

"The oldest piece of equipment one of the guys in my department works on is 7 years old," says Adams. "It is cutting-edge technology. That's good, but on the flip side, we are constantly on the learning and training curve for that equipment."

That change and churn does allow maintenance to consistently re-evaluate its PM processes and activities. If a machine undergoes PM events eight times per year and exhibits no problems, the annual PM frequency might, perhaps, be cut in half.

"We don't want to do too much," says Beaufort. "We don't want to do too little. We want to make sure that we are doing the right thing."

PM frequencies are quickly changing from time-based to condition- or cycle-based.

"That empowers you to use your manpower better because you aren't necessarily burdened with a heavy PM load when you might not necessarily need to do that work," says Adams. "You are running your preventive maintenance based on how hard your equipment is running."

Long-term planning: All BMW plants develop an Excel-based document that examines the maintenance needs of critical systems over a seven-year timeframe.

"We identify major and minor activities that need to be performed to ensure the long-term sustainability of our assets," says Seaman. "That has been instrumental to highlighting maintenance issues for which we need resources."

For example, the plant must regularly overhaul its gas turbines because of the workhorse manner in which they are used.

"It helps us look at the useful life of equipment and when it needs to be brought back to like-new condition," says Seaman.

The BMW auto brand holds premier-level status because of its performance, style and reliability. The Spartanburg plant is deserving of similar accolades because of its progress in those same three areas.

"It's a different plant today than it was even five years ago," says Adams. "Five years ago, we didn't have nearly the utilization of our CMMS system. We are doing that today with SAP. Did we track PMs five years ago? No. We did them for the sake of doing PMs. There was no one monitoring PM effectiveness. The mean time between repair and the response to calls were not as good. There wasn't the level of predictive maintenance going on. We have made huge strides."

But, everyone agrees, the job isn't done.

"If you aren't changing, you are doing something wrong or you are falling way behind," says Ramsey. "Everything, including an inability to change, impacts customer satisfaction and customer demand. If the customer is not happy, we aren't happy."

McCraw sums it up nicely.

"The bar has been raised," she says. "Our customers raised it. Now, we have to go out and perform at that higher level."

It's true. "The ultimate driving machine" comes from the ultimate reliability machine.

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