In past issues, we have discussed how to plan work, assign work, execute work, follow-up on work and report the work completed in your maintenance department. Now that you have completed all these steps, you’re managing a World-Class maintenance department, right? Hold on a minute. It’s not quite that simple. What else can you be doing to make sure your maintenance department is not still wasting some of your company’s hard-earned money?

After years of working with maintenance departments, I have determined once the tools are all in place and maintenance people are using the system as it is intended, there are a number of additional layers management can use to improve maintenance operations. One of the places to start is to begin reviewing how mechanics “fix” problems assigned to them.

How many times have your mechanics identified that a board has “gone out” in a piece of equipment, so the board gets replaced and the machine is powered back up, only to discover the problem still exists? More often than not, the mechanic will continue to diagnose the problem and in the rush of repairing the equipment they may or may not discard the original board removed. Which begs the question, “What happens to all those used parts?”

Provide used-parts boxes
One easy solution is to have boxes for each mechanic in the maintenance department. The mechanic places the used parts removed during repairs into their assigned box. At the end of every shift or at some periodic time frame, the maintenance manager should review the parts in these boxes with the mechanic. The maintenan cemanager can use the mechanic’s pocket card and their assigned PM’s and CM’s (all discussed in previous articles) as a guide to see if all the used parts have made their way back to the mechanic’s box.

It is important to watch these boxes very carefully at the beginning and you will notice a couple very interesting things. The first thing you will notice is that some of the mechanics boxes will have considerably more parts in them than others. These are your “parts changers.” These are the mechanics who need to be trained in proper diagnosing of repairs. They will have to be broken of simply replacing parts rather than troubleshooting problems.

The next thing you’ll notice is that shortly after implementing this process, the use of parts across the board will be reduced dramatically. It is not unusual to see a 50 percent reduction in repair parts cost. Every step in continuous improvement is important, but as soon as you start enforcing accountability, regardless of whether it is in your production department or maintenance department, you will notice an immediate change in behavior.

After the initial introduction, you must be careful, however, that all the parts are making it back to the mechanic’s boxes. Remember, this is not an exercise to place blame, but rather a tool to inform and teach. Mechanics must not feel like they will be publicly humiliated if management happens to discover a part in their box that is still functional or they will simply throw them away. This defeats the purpose and keeps you from attaining the benefits of collecting the parts. Maintenance management should be using this as an opportunity to talk with mechanics and probe their knowledge of the equipment for which they are responsible, to teach them so the next time they face the problem they will be better problem solvers.

Create ‘good parts’ procedure
When a good part is discovered there needs to be procedures in place to get that part returned to inventory. Additionally, when unsure if a part is still functional, it needs to be clearly marked as such and it must be tested to verify it as completely functional before it is returned to your parts inventory. The last thing you want to do is pull a part off the shelf, especially if it is the last one left, only to find out it doesn’t really work and the piece of equipment will be out of service until a new part is expedited in.

This sounds too simple to work, but if it is so simple why not try it?

The bottom line is this: You may only have to place boxes in your maintenance shop to fill your ‘pot of gold.’

Mark Eystad is President of Mark 1045, Inc. He has implemented management operating systems in processing and maintenance departments in meat-processing facilities in the US and Puerto Rico.