Lean manufacturing and maintenance

Lean manufacturing: What is it, and what does maintenance have to do with it?

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We’ve talked about all kinds of maintenance strategies here on the Fiix blog (most recently, total productive maintenance). There are a number of ways a maintenance manager can choose to run their team’s activities. But how does maintenance fit under the larger umbrella of manufacturing as a whole? We’ll start to explore that today by looking at lean manufacturing as an example.

Let’s start with defining the concept: According to LeanProduction, the goal of lean manufacturing is to relentlessly remove any aspect of the manufacturing process that does not add value to the customer. According to this strategy, anything standing in the way of a lean manufacturing process is referred to as “waste”.

Eight causes of production waste

  1. Overproduction
    This happens when something is made before it’s actually needed, which can lead to excess inventory.
  2. Waiting
    This refers to the time added by a work-in-process waiting for the next stage of production.
  3. Transport
    The unnecessary movement of anything in the production process, from raw materials to works in process to finished goods.
  4. Motion
    This is considered as any unnecessary movement between locations that is done by the people involved in the production process.
  5. Overprocessing
    This refers to processing more than what is needed to produce what the customer needs.
  6. Inventory
    Here, this means any product quantities that go beyond supporting immediate production needs.
  7. Defects
    Defects occur when there is production that is scrap or needs to be reworked.
  8. Wasted human potential
    This is a slightly more abstract form of waste, and simply refers to any unused human potential, which is the responsibility of management.

Linking lean manufacturing and maintenance

As you can see, manufacturing waste can come from virtually anywhere. So it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a staggering number of lean manufacturing concepts and tools out there for facilities to explore. In fact, one introductory page on lean tools offered by LeanProduction lists 25 different tools that relate to the strategy, including:

  • 5S
  • Continuous improvement
  • Kanban (Pull System)
  • Root cause analysis

If any of these look familiar, it’s because most of them are part of a total productive maintenance strategy (total productive maintenance itself is even listed as a tool for lean manufacturing). Stopping to consider this for a moment, it makes a lot of sense. The goal of total productive maintenance, after all, is to remove deficiencies that cause defects or downtime by getting everyone in a facility to participate in maintenance. If a maintenance team wasn’t employing a TPM strategy, it stands to reason that they wouldn’t be doing all that they could to eliminate waste, as the lean framework mandates.

In sum, what does maintenance have to do with lean manufacturing? A lot, if you want to embrace the manufacturing strategy fully. Truly embracing a TPM mindset will help teams to eliminate excess inventory, reduce downtime, and ensure time isn’t wasted on avoidable maintenance emergencies, all ensuring that you reduce production waste as much as possible.

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