You’re visiting one of your company’s other plants as part of a technical exchange program. The idea is that the various maintenance departments will learn from each other and apply the best ideas.

This plant has a process line similar to one of yours. It’s new, and it’s complicated with bugs yet to be worked out. Thus, it frequently shuts down.

At your plant, these shutdowns last about half an hour, and then you’re good until a different problem arises. On your first day at the other plant, you notice its line has been down all morning. So, you ask why it’s been down so long. Your counterpart looks at you funny and says that’s the normal time it takes to get the line running again.

Can you think of some probable causes of this difference in downtime?

In fact, you can probably see these causes. Walk up and take a look.

  • Excessive forms. If filling out detailed forms inhibits techs from solving downtime problems, deep-six the forms. Stay "form free" until you come up with simple ones that techs find helpful.
  • Label laxity. Are techs getting confused over the terminations? Solve this with mechanically printed labels.
  • Poor response policies. Are techs walking back and forth for tools, drawings, and parts? A "screwdriver-in-the-pocket" repair tech extends downtime; require fully equipped tool pouches. If new equipment is problematic, keep drawings and spare parts near the equipment until things settle out.
  • Static procedures. Don’t reinvent the wheel for the same problems. Provide a means of recording whatever has been learned in a given repair job, and update procedures accordingly.