Lean Manufacturing and Lean Maintenance - an introduction
The Engineering Network Ltd
Posted to News on 6th Apr 2010, 12:50

Lean Manufacturing and Lean Maintenance - an introduction

MCP Consulting and Training offers the following as an introduction to the concepts underlying Lean Manufacturing and, in particular, Lean Maintenance.

Lean Manufacturing and Lean Maintenance - an introduction

The concepts of 'Lean' business processes have been known for over 25 years. Developed by the Japanese automotive industry, they are based on a common sense approach to business - with the basic principle being to eliminate wasted effort by only performing the activities that are necessary, and doing so in the shortest and safest manner.

There are a variety of Lean tools and techniques that can be applied to a company's maintenance department and, if used and supported, will: reduce maintenance costs, improve equipment reliability, improve safety performance and increase workforce productivity.

Typical results will show: costs reduced by 20-30 per cent, equipment performance and reliability increased by up to 50 per cent, labour utilisation increased by 100 per cent, and accidents significantly reduced.

Added value

To achieve these goals, it is necessary to understand the differences between added value and waste; 'Lean' defines three categories of added value:

  1. Value adding activities, which, in the view of the customer, make a service of value (ie worth paying for - such as reliable equipment)
  2. Non-value-adding activities, which do not provide any benefit to the customer - for example, testing for spare parts/information
  3. Essential non-value-adding activities, which are essential to the running of the plant in the short term - for example, quality inspection


There are seven categories of waste; in a maintenance context, these are exemplified by:

  1. Overproduction - too many preventive maintenance tasks
  2. Quality - doing the same job more than once
  3. Inventory - too much stock of spare parts
  4. Processing and Processes - unnecessary, complicated procedures and data entry processes
  5. Transportation - time lost walking to jobs/stores/workshops, etc
  6. Waiting - Waiting for the next job, waiting for a breakdown to be repaired, waiting for assistance,etc
  7. Unnecessary movement - poor workplace organisation, difficulty in accessing equipment,etc

Having established what we mean by 'adding value' and 'wastes' we can now look at what steps need to be taken.

Step 1

Identifying and eliminating all areas of wasted activity is the first step in improving maintenance performance. This can be achieved by conducting a review of all maintenance processes, activities and procedures to identify:

  • Their degree of Value Add
  • Scope and size of the 7 wastes

"Without effective maintenance processes the implementation of a Lean Manufacturing programme will not succeed."

The objective of Lean is to reduce variability, reduce stock and respond rapidly to customer demand. Clearly this requires reliable equipment and, for this to happen you need:

  • Trained staff
  • A structured approach to preventive maintenance
  • The right spare parts
  • The right information
  • Good supporting processes

Lean Maintenance will provide all of these.

Step 2

Get the basics right! Sometimes companies attempt to implement one or more of the advanced techniques such as six sigma when they have not overcome many of the basic barriers to productivity improvement. For example, a major multinational healthcare company spent in excess of 75,000 training its staff in six sigma techniques and identified a number of projects on which these people could work. Two years later, not one project has delivered a significant benefit.

However, on observing the plant, which was operating at an OEE of around 55 per cent, it immediately became apparent that staff were running the lines with extra people, they were stopping lines for breaks and were extending their break times by up to 30 per cent.

Before embarking on any improvement project care should always be taken to ensure that all the basics are in place.

Case studies

MCP Consulting and Training worked with an automotive company to develop a process that focused on small improvement actions that are easy and fast to implement, and correspond to a worthwhile saving for little or no investment. The process was workshop-based, with six to eight workers and a facilitator in each workshop, working for five days to identify waste and propose actions. The process was benefits-driven, with the team receiving a bonus of 10 per cent of the savings achieved.

But what are the benefits of Lean Manufacturing? Here are some examples of improvements achieved, focused on the three MCP core competencies of people, process and plant.



tdata{Paper|Raised skill level of operators; performance improvement driven by performance measures|Increased efficiency from 65% to 85%|Extended planned operating life by five years}

tdata{Food|Improved teamwork and morale; operator-driven problem solving|Increased output by 20%, worth $500,000|Resolved minor losses and engineering problems}

tdata{Healthcare|Changed shift patterns to match process cycle times, eliminated need for third shift|OEE increased from 45% to 65% in ten weeks|Saved 70,000 and avoided capital expenditure of 40,000}

tdata{Power|Clear roles defined. Team identified over 800 improvement ideas|Work Planning. CI processes development|Increased plant reliability by 10%}

tdata{Food|Team identified 120 'lost opportunity' ideas through Kaizen|Integrated production and maintenance teams|Increased output by 25%, worth 5million}


More in-depth studies are available from MCP Consulting and Training.

To find out how MCP Consulting and Training could help your company with Lean manufacturing, maintenance benchmarking and training, go to www.mcpeurope.com.

MCP Consulting Group

Blythe Valley Innovation Centre
Blythe Valley Business Park
B90 8AJ

+44 (0)121 506 9032

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