Getting a company with 130 independent locations up and running on a CMMS/EAM system sounds daunting. However, recent implementations by Universal Forest Products across its large, distributed organization prove it can be done. The keys: dedicated leadership, effective training, and standard processes.
Maintenance has been around as long as humans have existed. From the routine sharpening of man’s earliest spears and tools to the repair work needed for modern technologies, our tools and machines have needed upkeep and repair. “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is an adage that has been repeated for decades. But is that a viable approach in today’s plants? For the most part, the answer is no, especially when it comes to asset-intensive industries and smart factories. To illustrate that point, let’s consider three different maintenance strategies, when they’re effective and when they’re not – and how data can help improve them.
Maybe I’m a spoiled consumer. If so, blame Amazon. Amazon – and many other companies – have increased our expectations about speed and convenience, which most of us need to navigate our hurried and harried lives. Amazon has made ordering and returning merchandise as easy as it has ever been. Because of that, a company recently lost my business for good. And the reasons for that offer lessons for all organizations, B2B and B2C alike.
I am not a Wall Street wizard who regularly follows public companies looking for the best investments. If you are like me, we wonder where to invest our money? The conventional wisdom seems to be that you should invest in products and services that you find yourself using. If you like it, and you see others liking it, then it is probably a good investment. I followed this advice a couple of weeks ago, when I found myself drawn to a coffee chain that I had not particularly noticed before. After a few months of including this stop on my route to work a couple of days a week, I observed that it was more crowded inside, and there were longer lines at the drive-thru. Some mornings I had to bypass it because the wait would cause me to be late to work. Then it dawned on me – I’m not the only one who has developed an affinity for this place, so the business must be doing something right. I bought some stock. It is up $2.43 in the 2 weeks since I purchased it. While admittedly not a rapid ascension to the top, it is at least up in value.
According to industry analysts, there are many facets of asset maintenance that can be articulated and quantified as characteristic of best-in-class companies. There are also many consulting companies who can help you achieve improvements in your business. However you can make progress yourself by applying just three elements – persistence, focus, and data. While this premise sounds simple, its execution is not; otherwise there would be no unplanned downtime in manufacturing operations. Imagine being a maintenance expert, working only 9 to 5, with no midnight calls that the equipment has shut down operations. While that scenario may not be realistic any time soon, there is no doubt that it can become more so with these three principles.
Remember that progress seldom is easy, though is certainly worthwhile. Persistence is the hardest of the three disciplines, yet the most important one. Focus allows you to avoid distractions that can allay your initiative. Good tools are essential in supporting your persistence, once you push your initiative uphill.
Your persistence and focus in executing depends on obtaining, analyzing, and acting on good data. Data, and its analysis with clear visualizations, is vital to supporting any initiative you undertake. Without it, you do not know where you are, where you are going, or where any improvements are being made. Without that information, your desire to persist will wane, and with it, your initiative. You will then be resigned to a tale of “well, we tried that once but…”
We all have so many initiatives that we wish we could tackle, but none will happen with just thoughts and wishes. You can only achieve success one step at a time. So consider your most important initiatives and apply these three disciplines to impact your current results. I suggest starting with an initiative that has a high impact, and a high chance of success, so that you can see positive results quickly and feel encouraged to tackle the next one. If one asset in your facility quickly comes to mind as one you would like to throw out of the window because it causes you so much trouble, then consider focusing on improvements to it. Just that one asset. Remember that a high-impact initiative does not have to be a broad one; it only has to positively affect your work environment in one small way. Once you see success there, you will be energized and more confident in tackling the next one.
Mark Twain said that “the secret to getting ahead is getting started.” Decide to tackle one asset. Decide to organize and control one small area of the storeroom. Own it. See results. Sell your success to your colleagues and management. And watch it grow. And then brag to me about your success, because I would truly enjoy hearing about it.