Recognizing Problems Isn’t the Same as Solving Them
Managing a manufacturing maintenance program is a lot like being a firefighter. Issues spring up at random, and demand immediate attention to quell them. Another day, another issue, another solution. It’s hard work, but it’s essential to keep equipment running smoothly. And while firefighting is a never-ending cycle, manufacturers also need to realize there’s a better way to tackle factory maintenance.
Recognize your fire-starters
While it’s critical to identify problems, it’s even more important to pinpoint their causes. Determining the cause of a recurring issue is more fruitful than contending with it repeatedly, and stopping it from occurring in the first place is key to preventing unplanned downtime.
Getting to the bottom of a recurring issue involves root cause analysis (RCA) techniques to define the problem, collect information, identify potential causes, and determine the best solution. Exploring beneath the surface provides a better understanding of the common causes of machinery issues: physical factors, human error, and faulty processes. And when you know the catalyst, you can develop a preventive maintenance solution.
Prevention is the best medicine
After identifying key causes of a problem, adopt a proactive approach to resolve them before they recur. Thoroughly assess RCA data to determine a solution that will stop specific, unwanted variables from affecting factory processes and productivity.
For example, if a machine runs too hot and causes critical components fail prematurely, understanding the source of excessive heat will lead you to a solution. Check the machine’s operation against original equipment manufacturer (OEM) standards. Make sure exhaust vents are clear. Find ways to reduce dust particulates, or explore cooling options. The right solution comes from understanding the nature of the problem.
Understanding goes beyond identification. Use different problem-solving methods to create an action plan: Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA), 5-why analysis, Ishikawa (fishbone) diagram, and failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) all yield critical insights. Remember, the goal is to rectify the root cause of a problem and prevent future issues.
Once you’ve isolated the contributing variables, ask specific questions, including:
- What tools do we need to prevent this problem?
- Is there a more efficient solution than the one we’ve developed?
- Who should be responsible for implementing changes?
- What, if any, new problems could this solution cause?
Improve your maintenance approach
To facilitate the shift from firefighting to fire prevention, continually improve upon your maintenance plan with new, responsive systems for prevention. Frequently updating and improving a maintenance program gets technicians into the habit of identifying issues before they arise and grow out of control. Successful proactive maintenance hinges on continuous improvement, lest a static maintenance approach render your solution obsolete in the face of new problems. New problems demand fresh, well-informed solutions.
Recognize AND prevent problems
It’s one thing to recognize a problem and solve it. It’s another thing entirely to prevent problems from arising in the first place. When it comes to factory maintenance, prevention is paramount. That means shifting away from a reactive approach in favor of a proactive, preventive maintenance approach. Don’t just recognize problems; find ways to prevent them.