The concept of lean management originated in Japan and was later formalized in the United States. It has since spread to many companies, particularly in the automotive industry. However, the principles of the lean approach, also known as lean manufacturing in industry, are still rarely applied to maintenance departments, despite its benefits for productivity.
To develop lean maintenance, it is necessary to follow certain steps and, above all, to use the right tools, in particular an adapted CMMS software.
What is the lean approach?
The concept of lean management appeared in Japan, in the Toyota production system. Its aim is to eliminate any waste in the management of production.
The 7 types of waste
Lean management, sometimes called “lean production”, aims to avoid the 7 types of waste (mudas in Japanese):
- Additional forms of waste.
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The principles of lean management
Formally developed in the United States by J. Womack and D. Jones, the 5 main principles of lean management are the following:
- determine the added value expected by the customer;
- identify the value chain and question all the steps of the production process that do not participate in it;
- ensure a continuous flow of products;
- move from “push flow” to “pull flow“: the entire production process is “pulled” by the needs expressed by the customer and only what the customer has requested is produced;
- establish a dynamic of continuous improvement over the long term to strive for perfection.
Lean management tools and methods
The main tools to apply the principles of lean management are the following:
- the 5 S’s: clear, tidy, clean, order and be thorough;
- the Kaizen method, or continuous improvement, which implies that the problems are solved on site with the actors of the production;
- VSM (Value Streaming Mapping): analysis of the value chain to identify obstacles and analyze processes;
- Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, which allow us to improve our responsiveness to problems.
Other tools exist, such as the Six Sigma method, visual management, the SMED method or the Kanban method.
How to implement lean management for maintenance?
Generally speaking, the application of lean management principles to maintenance implies moving away from traditional allocation schemes and giving a proactive role to the maintenance department, so that it can participate in the improvement of production processes. This means freeing up time for maintenance technicians and managers so that they can focus on long-term solutions.
5 steps to develop lean maintenance
The application of lean maintenance usually starts with a maintenance audit to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the department.
Then, the following 5 steps are used to implement lean maintenance:
- establish standardized practices that will extend the life of equipment and spare parts;
- develop these practices to improve response capacity and reduce the frequency of interventions;
- entrust routine maintenance operations to the production department without losing quality;
- improve inventory management methods, planning, reporting and analysis;
- manage projects and equipment availability with anticipation.
How to use a CMMS to develop lean maintenance?
To apply the lean approach to maintenance, the use of a CMMS software has become essential, as it is the only way to follow the 5 steps described above. Nevertheless, not all CMMS are equally effective in developing lean maintenance. It is therefore important to choose a recent maintenance software that respects certain criteria:
- easy to use, so that the teams really take ownership of it and participate in the continuous improvement process;
- with a mobile version, to be used at any time on site;
- providing a streamlined process for entering intervention reports;
- allowing the search for documents and spare parts;
- able to provide reports and maintenance histories;
- that can be connected to other tools such as an ERP.
To summarize, today’s “smart” CMMS must have an intuitive design, generate work orders, and be able to link easily with other plant systems, such as accounting and purchasing.
To go even further in the lean approach, the ideal is even to adopt a community-based CMMS like Mobility Work, in order to promote exchanges between professionals of the same plant, of the same group or even of different companies. This gives the possibility to the maintenance managers and technicians using similar equipments and thus facing the same problems to exchange in real time in order to improve their maintenance processes.
Lean maintenance is an essential step in the application of lean manufacturing, which corresponds to lean management applied to industry. To implement it simply and effectively, it is essential to adopt a new generation CMMS that is mobile, ergonomic and efficient.