Scheduled maintenance compliance
Above downtime target
Downtime cost, in toys/hour
Scheduled maintenance compliance
The problem: One bad day and one very big downtime bill
August 26, 2020, was one of the worst days in the history of North Pole Industries. It was also one of its best.
The company had to make more than 22 million toys in under four months. With so many different products on order—phones, baseballs, Lego sets, etc.—there was little margin for error.
“Breakdowns happen, that’s just a fact of life in manufacturing,” says Yule Elfson, NPI’s Manager of Operations.
“But we can’t afford less than 98% availability during the busy season. That’s why we value scheduled maintenance so much. We know it’s coming. We can plan for it. It keeps equipment running.”
The day started normally. But just before lunch, the unthinkable happened—three lines broke down, one after the other. Production ground to a halt.
“I think it would be fair to call it a complete disaster,” says Noelle Claus, NPI’s Director of Maintenance.
“We’re still waiting on the final numbers, but having a full third of our lines down for five-plus hours put us behind by about 200,000 toys.”
It’s the kind of day that would crush most people’s spirits. But Claus managed to find a silver lining.
“It made us take a long, hard look at how we were doing things. That pushed us to change our strategy and, ultimately, I think it’s been worth it for the benefits we’ve seen.”
Manager of Operations Yule Elfson describes what it felt like when three lines went down at the same time
The cause: A symptom of a bigger problem
The three breakdowns were a culmination of a troubling trend for the maintenance team. Scheduled maintenance completion rates had been dropping for months, explains Claus. As they fell, she could also see the number of equipment failures go up and production costs rise.
“Doing reactive maintenance can be addictive,” says Claus.
“You fix a machine and people would literally cheer for you. It’s like being a superhero. It feels good in the moment, but it means our preventive maintenance is slipping, which was leading to more downtime.”
A view of the North Pole Industries toy production facility
Claus was at a loss for how to solve this problem. North Pole Industries had been using Fiix for over two years, switching from 90% reactive to 70% preventive in that time. This helped the company cut labor expenses in half and purchase a new fleet of delivery trucks.
But after years of progress, the numbers started to decline.
“The problem is, we always need to be improving,” says Nicholas Cadeau, Vice President of Manufacturing for NPI. “Without that improvement, price increases in the supply chain eat heavily into our profit margins.”
The solution: Gamifying PMs with AI
Claus sat down with several stakeholders, from maintenance technicians to senior executives, to develop a strategy that safeguarded the business against asset failure and rising costs.
“I wanted everyone to be involved,” says Claus. “I wanted all perspectives to be heard, I wanted alignment, and I wanted the people executing the strategy to have a sense of ownership.”
She came away with an ambitious project: Turn preventive maintenance into a competition with the goal of increasing scheduled compliance and throughput.
Claus started by setting up a scheduled maintenance goal for each team of technicians. The four teams had a quarterly target of 80% compliance. If they hit that goal, they would get a bonus. The team with the highest compliance rate every month would get an extra bonus.
Claus set up the entire maintenance operation around the gamified goal. She created a Fiix dashboard that tracked each team’s progress, including completed, assigned, and overdue PMs. She then posted big screens around the facility that showed a live feed of the dashboard.
“Visibility was key for us,” says Claus. “The goal had to be front and center for everyone. It had to be everywhere so everyone knew what their focus should be.”
An example of how North Pole Industry’s PM dashboard is set up
The final step was to make sure there was no cheating.
“We wanted to make sure the PMs weren’t just being done, but were also being done right,” says Elfson, “but we didn’t want to micromanage or create an environment of fear or mistrust.”
Claus struck this balance by using Fiix’s work order insights report. The report flagged work orders that looked abnormal or led to failure. For instance, the report would pick out a work order that took less time to complete than similar work orders. It would then be examined to make sure it was done properly.
The report also helped Claus make the competition fair. For example, there were several work orders that took too long to complete, which meant they were non-compliant. Work order insights identified these work orders as abnormal. Claus investigated and saw that the instructions on these work orders were unclear, which made the job take longer. She fixed the issue on the spot.
The results: Proof that you can help people and profit at the same time
Claus saw the results of the project almost immediately.
“The average scheduled maintenance compliance was already up from 67% to 78% after the first month,” says Claus.
“We saw this translate into other areas of the business. There were three fewer downtime events of more than an hour and throughput went up by 7%.”
Claus points at other metrics that indicate more success is on the way, including more clean start-ups and fewer defects during production.
The benefits were even clearer after three months. The price-per-unit has been reduced by 28% which is enough to save the company more than $1.3 million over a full year, even with increased bonus payouts, according to Cadeau.
But one of the best things to come out of gamifying maintenance at North Pole Industries is a more confident, cohesive maintenance team, says Claus.
“People used to stop technicians in the hall to give them work,” says Claus. “Now they’re stopping them to say thank you for the impact they’re having. That sort of recognition was way overdue and has raised the morale of the team more than I can measure.”
Director of Maintenance Noelle Claus explains how gamifying maintenance increased knowledge sharing among the maintenance team
What’s next?: Better maintenance data with the Fiix app exchange
The whole team at North Pole Industries is already looking to the next maintenance initiative.
The company recently purchased 16 new delivery trucks. Claus plans to improve maintenance on the vehicles to increase their lifecycle and efficiency. She has met with Fiix to talk about integrating the CMMS with fleet monitoring software that measures how each truck is being used and when it needs maintenance.
“We want to move away from mile-based maintenance on our fleet and toward a more condition-based approach,” says Claus.
“It’s something we’ve been wanting to do since we switched from reindeer to autonomous delivery vehicles. We can cut down on maintenance resources we don’t need to spend while shrinking our carbon footprint.”
Claus is planning to start the integration process in early 2021 with all vehicles onboarded by the end of May.
“Fiix has been the best partner we could have asked for and I think this next chapter in the partnership is going to be even better.”
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