Plant Reliability – Operations Vs Maintenance

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‘Seconds Out, Round 1’

The majority of us will have been guilty for this at some stage in our careers. I can myself admit I have been the Operations Manager sat across the table from the Maintenance Manager, telling the director that we haven’t met production targets due to breakdown after breakdown. Unreliable plant = Poor Maintenance. An easy way to keep the wolves from the door so to speak!

My experience has since taught me it needn’t be a battle of the teams and pointing the finger at who is to blame – hindsight is a great thing. So let’s look at where we were going wrong and how we could find a win-win solution.

1. Production Targets

To start with production had targets to meet. As a safety net, these targets had ‘fat’ built into them to satisfy the nerves of the Supply Chain team as previous performance meant we didn’t often hit the target.

2. Excess Inventory

We were making too much! Despite claiming our production to be LEAN, we would result in making excess inventory because we lacked confidence in the reliability of our plant.

3. Too Much Preventative Maintenance

Knee-jerk reactions to breakdowns and a lack of understanding meant we were doing far too much intrusive Preventative Maintenance  (and guess what – this results in more failures)…

4. Maximising Outputs

When the plant was available we pushed it as hard as we could to maximise output before it broke down again – often causing the failures to happen.

Sounds like something of a Doom Loop to me!

The Solution

So how did we get out of this? Well by taking a deep breath and a step back to start with.

1. Working Together

Firstly, we needed to realise Operations and Maintenance have to work together as a partnership to get the most out of your facility. As discussed in a previous post, measuring Overall Equipment Effectiveness will drive this. It is a site performance metric that can be understood by all and most importantly can be used as a tool to drive continuous improvement and so by introducing this commonality we get away from “them and us” perspective.

2. RCM Approach

We also adopted a Reliability Centered Maintenance approach to the way we worked. This meant Operators taking more responsibility for their equipment and Maintainers understanding the process and functions required of the plant.

The result – A more reliable plant, reduced intrusive maintenance, reduced inventory and even flow. Not a pipe dream, a healthy and efficient place to work!


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