Thursday, March 25, 2010

Importance of Maintenance Fundamentals

One of the most important and most often overlooked areas of maintenance and reliability improvement lies in the fundamentals. Many of the facilities that I visit are caught in a game of chase, following what ever new philosophy or acronym has become vogue ( I like to call it “chasing the shiny stuff.”). Fighting the urge and putting the “shiny stuff” on the back burner is the basis of good maintenance. You must first take a look at basic maintenance practices and see where you stack up.  Does your facility have a good partnership between maintenance and operations? Do you practice precision maintenance techniques? Are you capturing and using your maintenance history? Are your Preventive Maintenance tasks failure mode based and are they in use by your crafts? Do you truly plan your work? These and many other basic questions need to be addressed in order to build the foundation that will support true manufacturing excellence. Once these elements are shored up and strong, then the advanced tools and shiny processes will work more effectively to provide the most fundamental reason for manufacturing: Profits.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Art of the Production Floor Prank: not a best practice but certainly quite funny

The production floor prank has been refined for years and maintenance guys are notorious for the skill and work they will put in to execute these planned acts of trickery. These plant jesters have a collection of knowledge and trickery stored away in their heads. They have perfected the art. Many of them sent young apprentices after belt stretchers, buckets of steam, and various nonexistent types of lubricant. Others spent weeks working on the perfect prank. What tricks were pulled on you? What did you see pulled on others through the years? Feel free to add them below as comments. I'm sure there are more than a few chuckles to be had from this dieing art of plant trickery.

The funniest one I ever saw happened in a core plant in just outside of Lincolnton, NC where the guys worked together with the fork truck trainer to pull a prank on the brand new shipper. You see we had high speed roll-up doors between the production floor and the docks and you used a remote to open them as you approached in the truck. The guys had convinced the trainer to give up the remote and as he approached the door he would clap and the floor guys would click it to let him through. The training program for all new fork truck operators required the student to follow the trainer for a day to learn the ropes. The trainer told the new student that we had installed "the clapper" on the high speed doors so all he had to do was simply clap as he neared the door. They practiced and the door operated like clock work. So they started the training day and all day as they approached the leader would clap and the door would open. On day two the training plan called for the new driver to start transporting material on his own. The only flaw in this great plan was that on day two the plant manager was doing what all good plant managers should, he was out on the floor talking with various folks when our shipper started a fateful run. If you were watching from the balcony as many of us were you saw the fork truck arriving to the door with three claps on the way but the door did not open. The driver looked confused. He stopped at the door and clapped again. Nothing.  He lowered the forks got off and walked over to the door where he clapped a third time and stood there with a dumb look on his face. By this time his hands and face were red and we were all nearly hysterical. Then to add insult to injury as he walked away the door rolled up behind him.
Unfortunately for our resident jester the Plant Manger was on to him and to show our support we scattered like leaves in a hurricane.