Each week I publish an email that offers stories about the precast industry or personal anecdotes that relate to my passion for continual improvement. This week's subject line was: Precast, John Deere & The Family Farm. It recounted my very positive impressions of both Deere and a nationally recognized farm for the importance they place on data collection and analysis to sustain continued productivity growth.
So, perhaps its fitting that I just came across an article in Planet Lean entitled Lean Maintenance in Agriculture. As you might guess, there are some good lessons for the precast community in observing how leading farms are applying lean manufacturing principals to maintenance practices.
It's no secret that unplanned maintenance wreaks havoc on productivity for precast manufacturers and farmers alike. The authors point out how people tend to be reactive to maintenance needs instead of proactive, which is why maintenance is often so disruptive. And it's usually the little things that create the big problems: inadequate lubrication; overuse without maintenance; waiting for parts to arrive. You get the picture.
The authors offer 4 lean practices for farmers that apply equally well to precast:
1) Map resources and processes
Identify your critical processes and take inventory of the resources you have to ensure continuous production. Use this as the base case to be maintained. Consider the impact of unscheduled maintenance on this; now you understand the context of the issue.
2) Implement autonomous and planned maintenance routines
Incorporate these into daily routines for the equipment operator. Now maintenance is continuous and, importantly, this tends to create a sense of ownership in the equipment operator.
3) Optimize spare parts, tools and purchasing practices
This refers to knowing how many spare parts and tools you need to easily remain in a maintenance routine, then optimizing your purchasing practices to retain enough inventory in the most cost-efficient manner possible.
4) Train the operational team and monitor routines with the production team
Organize maintenance staff as an operational team which understands its responsibility for for being proactive about maintaining the health of the plant versus fixing problems after they occur. Ensure production teams engage seamlessly with the operational team routines.
The article concludes with a very good point about human psychology. By making the maintenance staff the team responsible for the operational health of the business, you are empowering them to succeed rather than asking them to just fix issues (often created by others). This is very motivating.
We recognize the importance of proactive maintenance too. We've created a process and dashboard in the Idencia data tracking system that are dedicated to tracking the operational health of equipment. The reports are available to any user in the plant.
If you would like to learn more about lean practices, I hope you will read our web report for precast manufacturers, 17 Ways Lean Manufacturing Increases Profits and Wins Bids.
Better yet, let us tell you how we can help optimize equipment maintenance, automate QC reporting, locate products in your yard with GPS mapping and much more!
Idencia's mission is to help construction product manufacturers achieve full potential. We're pleased to serve over 90 precast plants in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia... but that is just the beginning. Our aim is to help every precaster achieve full potential by saving time, improving productivity... and maintaining equipment.