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Designing for maintenance.

The other day I noticed that a headlight had burnt out in my Mazda pickup. While I am not the most mechanically inclined person around, I was pretty confident I could change a light bulb without any difficulties. I was wrong. Armed with a couple of screwdrivers and a repair manual, I took my new headlight to the garage expecting to return in 10 or 15 minutes with the job done; after all, I have watched pit crews practically rebuild an engine in seconds. Thirty minutes and twelve fasteners later, my grill was laying on the floor of the garage and I still had four screws to remove before I could extract the burnt out bulb. I was astonished. How could a company design headlights that required the removal of the grill and 16 fasteners? It appears that the masters of Setup Reduction and Design for Assembly have overlooked a fundamental concept: Design for Maintenance.

Factory Maintenance

The frustration I experienced with the headlight got me thinking about maintenance procedures in a factory environment. Why should a machine be down all day just to replace a fuse of a filter? Why can't the same techniques used in Design for Assembly and Setup Reduction be applied to maintenance operations? The specific tasks I am thinking of to reduce frustration, maintenance time and errors are:

* Eliminate the need for tools;

* Reduce the number of fasteners used;

* Store replacement parts (fuses, filters, bulbs, etc.) at the point of use;

* Post clear maintenance procedures at the point of use;

* Eliminate unnecessary and non-value added steps (like removing a grill to get to the headlight);

* Locate maintained components (fuses, filters, switches, etc.) external to the machine so they can be easily reached; and

* Make the maintenance items error proof.

Total productive maintenance

These steps should be applied to goods produced as well as the machines that produce them. There are many benefits to streamlining and simplifying maintenance. First, a key assumption of Total Productive Maintenance is that there will be maintenance workers available to perform scheduled maintenance. By reducing the time spent on each maintenance task we can free up our people to be proactive and preventive instead of reactive and reparative.

Second, when unplanned maintenance occurs, the impact to the production schedule is lessened. If a machine fails during a production run, everything needed to repair it should be stored at the point of use. The failed component should be easily accessible and, ideally, simple enough to repair or replace so the operators can do it themselves.

Third, it will be much easier to train a maintenance workforce if the maintenance procedures are simplified. Another way to look at this is that it will be less painful to see a 30-year maintenance veteran retire with the arcane and esoteric knowledge they have accrued over the past three decades. Troubleshooting and repair do not have to be mystical if components are easily accessible to be visually inspected and replaced when necessary. A picture of each component in good condition, displayed at its location on the machine, serves as a checklist of parts to inspect as well as a reference for worn or fouled components.

Finally, production capacity will increase as a result of decreased downtime for maintenance. Regardless of whether maintenance is proactive or reactive, the downtime of the machine will be less for each task performed.

After changing my headlight, I compared what I had done with the efforts of an Indy 500 pit crew. They have all their parts and tools stored at the point of use, everyone knows their assignment and they do not do any unnecessary work. It is amazing how the crew can fill gas, change all four tires and clean the windshield in much less than a minute. A World Class Manufacturer should operate in the same way: streamline the work, define responsibilities, focus the resources and spend less time in the pits.

Chris J. Olsen is a senion consultant in the Seattle office of Andersen Consulting. He has a BSIE from the University of Washington. He is a member of IIE and practices in manufacturing productivity and CIM engagements.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Institute of Industrial Engineers, Inc. (IIE)
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Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Olsen, Chris J.
Publication:Industrial Management
Date:Mar 1, 1992
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