Continuous Improvement

Continuous Improvement

We take a very procedural approach to implementing Maximo systems including consulting with our clients on processes involved in implementations of Maximo and Asset Management programs. Continuous process improvement and employee involvement initiatives are two process oriented focuses for A&A. In this article, we’ll focus on continuous process improvement with a  follow-up on employee involvement coming.

Continuous Improvement

Continuous improvement (or Kaizen) is a term that is self-explanatory in meaning but often not fully implemented in practice. It has been applied broadly in the manufacturing industry. Though, We’ve not seen continuous improvement programs utilized as frequently in maintenance practices and specifically, in the implementation of Maximo.

There are very specific routines and programs involved in applying continuous improvement including processes proposed by Edward Deming. Edward Deming is well known for his quality improvement initiatives. One technique proposed by Deming to impact quality is named the PDCA Cycle. This cycle consists of Plan-Do-Check-Action.

In the above model, plans for improving processes, such as processes for asset maintenance, are reviewed. Next, the process improvement is implemented on a small scale. Impacts are checked and then the approved process is released on a broad scale. Of course, you’re not ever done. Information about the process is constantly being gathered which then feeds back in to new plans. In the end, with ever improving maintenance practices, it’s far more likely that a company can go from reactive maintenance to preventive and predictive programs.

Job Plans – Maximo

The primary focus in this article is on Job Plans established in the Maximo system, though, continuous improvement can benefit numerous other areas.

Within the Maximo system, a series of tasks are added that eventually are brought down to a work order. Defining tasks at the right level here is important. Add top many tasks and managing these tasks can become arduous. Add too few tasks and analysis of improvements is hindered. In general, this is the difference between Jobs, Tasks, and Steps. A job will contain the overall goal of the maintenance activity. With tasks, a good rule of thumb is a listing of anywhere from 5 to 10 or so tasks. Finally, there will be individual steps within a task. While this is useful information, it’s generally contained in attached manufacturer maintenance manuals and guides and not the primary focus for improvement programs. The key is a measurable activity that is improved upon over time.

Associated with the tasks are Labor, Material, Services, and Tools. These are the resources necessary to get the job done. The resources can be associated to the overall job plan or defined for each task. If you have professional planners, it may be possible to plan to the task level. Many companies however leave resources at the Job level instead of defining down to the task. The loss here is the ability to keep continuously improving upon the level and amount of resources used at the lower task level.

Within the Maximo system, you can further refine plans to use Flow Control identifying when one task flows to another (one task may complete setting another in progress). In more recent versions of Maximo, it’s possible to use conditions so that tasks and resources are conditionally displayed.

The key point here is that there is a great deal of flexibility in setting up these job plans. And of course, it’s unlikely that they will be set up perfectly for all maintenance routines from the time they are entered in the Maximo system. Thus, a process is needed that leads to continual updates as work is performed. Perhaps use the Plan, Do, Check, Act method mentioned above. Based on past actions, work order history, did the Job Plan meet the needs for work performance? Should more or fewer tasks be added? Was the right labor indicated? Were the right parts and quantity of parts listed. Were these parts available when needed from the storeroom?

Note that it’s the feedback loop from work orders back to job plans associated to work orders that is key.  To formalize this feedback loop, you may want to consider adding a quality check performed prior to completing a work order. This check is what leads to constant improvement of the job plans.

Continuous improvement ideally, would impact all processes above. It’s the Quality Review at the end feeding back to work initiation that can help drive this improvement.

A last point here involves data. None of the discussions above are fully implementable without good data. Is there enough information entered on a work order to update a job plan? If there is enough information entered and that data is accurate, are there comprehensive tools to compile and analyze this data? This might be in the form of developed queries, reports, or Key Performance Indicators. Some companies will even take this to the next level and integrate with statistical packages for an even deeper dive.

Of course, there are many other areas that can be impacted by the continuous improvement philosophy. Results of work may lead to updates of failure information for more accurate and detailed failure analysis. The information can be used to inform asset management practices. Is the company constantly working on extending the life of assets and making better repair or replace decisions? Where does your company stand on the following three outcomes?

  • Eliminating inefficiencies that prevent Maintenance work from being performed effectively,
  • Constantly updating Preventive and Predictive Maintenance routines, and
  • Eliminating the defects which cause the need for Maintenance work in the first place

There’s a lot involved in continuous process improvement. And, there’s a wide range among companies related to practicing continuous process improvement. If we were to examine your plans entered in the Maximo system, have they changed over time? Or perhaps, do they look very similar to when they were first loaded during the implementation of Maximo?

We’d truly appreciate hearing from others related to continuous process improvement programs in which you’ve been involved and the impact on the maintenance department. Do you have accurate data to use for improvements? Are your job plans changing regularly?

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