Include Maintenance in Your Lean Dialogue from the Start

Posted by Amy Fitzgerald on Apr 3, 2015 11:37:57 AM

As you plan strategies for launching or revitalizing your lean implementation, don’t forget to include maintenance in the mix.

5.1Bio_KravontkaJ-452x300“Maintenance is a key contributor to a continuous improvement or lean initiative,” said John Kravontka, president of Fuss & O’Neill Manufacturing Solutions. “Many times, they are the last function to receive lean overview training, and they do not fully understand what is happening in their facility. This can lead to confusion and negative thoughts, taking away from the initiative’s progress. Good lean overview training per all personnel, including maintenance, can support a smoother transition.

The initial 5S focus accompanying your lean roll-out may involve moving equipment (and moving again, as new improvement ideas surface). The maintenance organization will play a key role in ensuring timely, safe equipment moves and related lighting, etc. changes. Encouraging a proactive maintenance approach throughout your lean transformation, through communications and training, will help to minimize machine breakdowns.

“When equipment is relocated to create better flow, a breakdown will shut down a production cell,” said Kravontka. “With active involvement by the maintenance organization, these interruptions can be avoided, supporting great quality and shorter setups targeted by lean project teams. A downtime event/breakdown causes typically five to ten times the cost of preventive steps.”

"As operators document current conditions and evaluate steps to achieve performance gains during kaizen/improvement activities, shared accountability for top OEE (Overall Equipment Effectiveness) performance can emerge," Kravontka added. Operators tracking machine uptime as well as issues affecting OEE may be asked to communicate more closely with maintenance about preventive maintenance. “Be specific about what’s expected of maintenance and operators working collaboratively to keep the equipment running,” suggested Kravontka.

Nurturing a sense of cooperative ownership and teamwork among operators and maintenance personnel encourages preventive practices for detecting and avoiding issues before they cause equipment failure and poor OEE levels.

Asked about “do and don’t” counsel about effective maintenance practices supporting lean implementation, Kravontka shared these suggestions:

  • Develop a long-term perspective— a vision for lean performance improvements, including the role of maintenance and other functions — for the next five years.
  • Consider total costs. The costs associated with a machine breakdown are steep compared to the investment in preventive maintenance training and timely replacement of a bearing or other parts.

Visit Fuss & O'Neill Manufacturing Solutions at

To learn more about incorporating maintenance solutions in your continuous improvement plans, contact IMEC manufacturing specialists at or by calling 888-806-4632.

Amy Fitzgerald

Written by Amy Fitzgerald

Topics: lean, operations, facility optimization

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