The Benefits of Lean Maintenance Programs

The term lean maintenance describes a methodology that focuses on eliminating waste and continually identifying opportunities for improvement. Over time, a lean approach to maintenance extends the useful life of assets, maximizes profitability, improves resource allocation, and enables more efficient maintenance planning and maintenance scheduling.  

Lean principles originated with the Toyota Motor Corporation. Instilling the value of ideas like kaizen (continuous improvement) helped Toyota outpace its competitors and set a global standard for efficient production processes. Today, lean manufacturers follow Toyota’s lead to reduce unplanned downtime, overproduction, idle time, extra surplus, and other types of waste.  

Applied to maintenance processes, the principles of lean manufacturing can help to eliminate waste, including:

  • Financial waste: This type of waste includes the hard costs of an inefficient maintenance strategy. The money you spend on labor and the revenue you lose during unplanned downtime qualify as financial waste. 
  • Environmental waste: This describes the waste created when materials aren’t used or disposed of efficiently. Examples of environmental waste include overstocked parts, excess scrap, and the emissions from fuel used for unnecessary travel.
  • Wasted potential: When your team isn’t performing to its full potential, you’ll struggle to manage morale and hit your targets. Your team is wasting time and squandering their potential when they’re stuck trying to make sense of unclear standard operating procedures, searching for misplaced tools, or repeatedly servicing the same assets.

Four benefits of lean maintenance operations

By streamlining workflows and boosting uptime, lean maintenance practices offer numerous benefits to organizations. 

Cost reduction

Lean maintenance processes can drive down both direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include the funds spent on resources like labor and spare parts. Indirect costs include the production capacity and the revenue-generating opportunities you miss during downtime. By identifying unnecessary or repetitive maintenance tasks, lean strategies can cut out rework to decrease maintenance costs overall. 

Improved product quality

Lean businesses strive to eliminate any process or component that doesn’t contribute to a quality product and a satisfied customer. Preventive maintenance guided by lean principles can improve product quality by minimizing defects and downtime. With standard procedures for maintenance at each stage of the asset lifecycle and production process, your maintenance team can eliminate the sources of variability that lead to errors, breakdowns, and equipment failure

A safer, more productive team

With a lean mentality and the right tools at their disposal, your maintenance team will find it easier to quickly and safely perform maintenance work. The lean mentality stresses the importance of an organized, easily navigable workplace. This can reduce injury and accident risks by ensuring critical areas are free from clutter. More efficient processes will minimize the amount of time technicians and operators spend potentially dangerous situations. An emphasis on just-in-time delivery will also help to ensure your team has access to the tools they need when they need them. 

A culture of continuous improvement

Eliminating waste ensures that your equipment and your team are operating at peak capacity. This will ultimately establish a workplace culture characterized by engagement and commitment to lean principles like continuous improvement. With less time spent on non-value-adding work, your maintenance team will have more time to focus on what really matters. You’ll gain access to valuable performance insights that can help facilitate process improvements as your lean maintenance program evolves. 

Total productive maintenance (TPM)

Lean processes and principles can support a program for total productive maintenance (also known as total preventive maintenance). TPM involves taking an organized approach to preventive maintenance with the goal of eliminating defects, breakdowns, accidents, and waste. 

TPM programs depend on eight pillars, most of which focus on proactively improving the reliability of critical assets: 

  1. Autonomous maintenance: Operators are empowered to complete routine tasks that may have otherwise taken up an engineer or technician’s time. 
  2. Planned maintenance: Maintenance tasks and planned and scheduled ahead of time to reduce unplanned stoppages and mitigate disruptions to production. 
  3. Quality maintenance: Tools for detecting and preventing errors are built directly into systems and root cause analysis helps to trace trouble to its source. 
  4. Focused improvement: Across the organization, employees are committed to making small, incremental changes on a continuous basis. 
  5. Early equipment management: The other principles of total productive maintenance help inform processes for designing and implementing new equipment, helping to smooth both processes and simplify maintenance.
  6. Training and education: High-quality training for all personnel helps to close knowledge gaps and ensure the long-term success of the program.
  7. Safety, health, and environment: Attention to all potential health and safety risks establishes an injury- and accident-free workplace. 
  8. TPM in administrative and office functions: The philosophy behind TPM has benefits far beyond the shop floor. Applying them in other areas helps reduce costs and waste all across the organization.  

Introducing a lean maintenance strategy 

Implementing lean maintenance takes time and effort, but it starts with a simple three-step process: 

  1. Evaluate the current state of your maintenance strategy
  2. Identify waste and opportunities to eliminate it
  3. Introduce your maintenance program and make improvements over time

Evaluate your maintenance strategies

Going lean starts with getting a better sense of how your maintenance team performs today. Dig into subjects like these: 

  • When and how are inspections and repairs typically performed? 
  • How does your team respond to emergencies? 
  • Which pieces of equipment are most critical and what are their common failure modes? 
  • What are the maintenance team’s goals and how does it track performance against them? 

This process will help you begin identifying the strengths of your approach to maintenance as well as room for improvement.

Identify and eliminate waste

Next, it’s time to determine where your organization is wasting time and other resources during its maintenance activities. Talk to your maintenance team to learn where they’re running into challenges and spending more time on tasks than expected. Once you’ve identified tasks that regularly cost too much or take too long, conduct a root cause analysis to get to the bottom of the trouble. Your efforts might reveal inefficiencies in planning or excessive ordering of unnecessary spare parts. Finally, introduce maintenance metrics and KPIs for tracking your team’s performance and standard processes for reporting on them. 

You might aim to reduce idle time, excessive raw material usage, unnecessary travel, or employee turnover. Alternatively, you might look to improve response rates or improve efficiency by standardizing maintenance processes across sites. 

Introduce your new maintenance program

Then, it’s time to put your plan into action. With a strong vision and measurable goals to guide you, introduce your new processes and strategies. Take care to monitor your team’s performance closely. Identifying opportunities for improvement and iterating on them will ensure your program evolves alongside your business. 

Get started with lean maintenance management today

Implementing a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) can help smooth the transition to leaner maintenance processes and enable a proactive approach to asset management. Download our guide to all things CMMS today to learn how a platform like Limble can help you simplify work order management, introduce automation to your maintenance workflows, and more to go lean.

The Essential Guide to CMMS

Download this helpful guide to everything a CMMS has to offer.

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