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Using 5s in maintenance to avoid burning down the plant

I always remember the 1st time I helped implement 5s into a factory. 5s (Sort, Set, Shine, Standardise and Sustain) is one of the many 'tools' used by organisations when moving to taking lean thinking. The driving force was actually from the maintenance department at the time rather than operations, which still surprises some people. People still tend to see lean with a manufacturing lens rather than a whole business lens which is what you really need, lean is a way of running your business, any business. Lean is a philosophy, a way of thinking, so you need to apply that thinking to your whole organisation.  

The Maintenance Driver 

One of the challenges that our maintenance team had when they went to work on machines was that they needed to clean everything first to see what was happening. That meant it usually took longer than we had planned to do the maintenance, so the company lost more production time, and we lost the ability to complete all the maintenance. The reduced maintenance meant our equipment reliability was also reducing, leading to, yep, more downtime. This is a classic example of a vicious circle.

If we wanted to find an oil leak, it was clean the machine, if we wanted to find a hydraulic fluid leak it was clean the machine and so on. In fact, the maintenance team had started pre-maintenance clean appointments to make sure that the planned maintenance could get done on time. Unfortunately, this didn't work well for breakdowns, and there were a lot of those.

The cost was just going up and up for everyone and something had to give, it was time to implement some 5s.

As a team ranging from everyone from the operations director to the machine operator we set about cleaning machines, getting rid of things that had business being there, marking out input and output areas, non-conformance areas, painting what needed to be painted, hanging shadow boards for the tools that should be there (emphasis on should as most weren't to start with), we set up new instruction sheets, cleaning routines, operator maintenance routines and everything else that we needed. By the time we were finished, this 1st machine looked like a whole new beast. The very best thing out of this was that the surrounding teams who saw what we were doing started to do similar to their own machines before we could come and look at them, they didn't want to be tagged as having one that was the worst in the hall.

The Result 

The result of all of this was interesting, from a production standpoint they could instantly see what work was available for the machine and so knew if it would run out on the shift or if it was a bottleneck and slowing down the other machines and processes. The operators really got stuck in and kept their machines up to scratch which was great to see. From a maintenance point of view, we started to get back on track with the planned time for the maintenance work. We returned 10% of the planned maintenance time back to the production team just because of this exercise, that's a lot of free capacity in anyone's book!

More importantly however everyone started to see the leaks because we had cleaned the floors around and under the machine every drip to the floor could be seen. Operators keen to ensure that these were fixed started to chalk mark where the drips were just in case we couldn't see them, then they complained loudly that their machine was leaking and they were having to clean it up. Keep I mind, for every leak you have you need to refill with oil or hydraulic fluid or water all of which has a cost, so stopping the leaks reduces the maintenance cost and increases the reliability as well. To add to the 10% reduction in planned maintenance we also achieved 12% reduction in breakdowns, just from doing this work.

The 5s Safety Implication 

I hear a lot about safety being the 6s of the lean 5s approach, it's not. Safety is both built into what you do and an outcome of what you do when it comes to anything, but especially anything you do from a lean point of view.

One of the biggest things from this 5s implementation then was that it was also safer, for the operator and the maintenance staff. Spilt oil and hydraulic fluid are serious safety hazards, they are slip hazards, both substances can cause health problems for everyone and more over both are very flammable.

Keep in mind that every time you step in to do some maintenance you have risks, reducing the number of times you have to step in then helps reduce the risks. Keeping on top of these leaks and fixing things became a big part of our health and safety approach to the organisation to help reduce the risks within the business. When we rated them, what we found surprised everyone (well except the maintenance team) the hydraulic fluid leaks were by far the biggest risk to the organisation, if you want to know why? Watch the video below, which is what can happen when a hydraulic hose fails.

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Wednesday, 05 October 2022

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