Monday, November 27, 2006

Dynamite to Dry Rot

The world of work is filled with challenges, problems and obstacles ranging from minor irritations to major catastrophes. Some of these issues are truly beyond our control and we react to the best of our ability to overcome the difficulties and pain inflicted by them. But the problems within our control that we allow to exist, in my opinion, are the most wasteful and painful. One prime example is how we neglect our equipment in manufacturing and the effect of unplanned downtime, lost productivity and declining quality this neglected equipment causes our business.

It is sad to see manufacturing equipment that once was a dynamite piece of machinery turned to dry rot, all because it was not important to us to maintain this machine in top working condition. It’s sometimes hard to believe that, at one time, this piece of equipment was a brand new machine primed for productivity.

Some may believe this is just the nature of all machinery and not give it another thought. We simply go to the bank and borrow money for a new one. All things mechanical fall apart, wear out, or just plain die. It’s a scientific fact of life.

Yes, nothing lasts forever. But by neglecting our machines, we suffer with constant breakdowns that never occur at a good time and our machine suffers a shortened useful life by forced deterioration.

In my experience, the useful life of machinery can be maximized by proper care and attention. Even if we have neglected our machines in the past, we can still extend its useable life. Here are five simple ideas that can help.

  1. Clean up the machine and keep it clean.
  2. Have Operators take the lead in maintaining the machinery instead of the Maintenance Deptartment.
  3. Simply keep the bolts of your machines tightened.
  4. Perform daily machine inspection.
  5. Take the time to stop and fix the small problems.


Anonymous said...

Very true, Mike! My husband's company can learn from this post. Last week, their kettle caught fire. When they inspected, they couldn't see any leak that would have caused it. It turned out that it lacked cleaning. They clean it up regularly all right, but I guess it was not enough. Thus, I agree with all your five points.:)

Mike Gardner said...

Amen, Mike. I am constantly amazed by the poor condition of manufacturing equipment I encounter. I am even more amazed that otherwise intelligent, capable managers routinely miss the obvious connection between poor machine conditions and lost productivity, quality problems, delivery failures, high costs, and lost business. Thanks for your post.

Anonymous said...


The one thing you are missing is the scheduled maintenance. It should be a given operating cost of the machine that the bearings here get replaced at this time, and the belts here at another.

It was neglected at my company for some time, and now we are putting up with poor quality because no one will sign off the cost of replacing all the required parts in one go. Even though the cost of poor quality is approaching the cost of the required maintenance.

Things are getting better now, but we have a legacy of poor maintenance to deal with.

Anonymous said...

Mike.. Could not agree more. We just finish wrapping up a project where a company found thousands of dollars going out the window due to machine down time.

The solution was an overall revamp, including putting the right person in the right job from top to bottom, as well as implementing a whole new training philosophy.

More importantly, they saw a huge difference by integrating our graphic style of visual maintenance procedures. The staff was able to understand and VISUALIZE the problem, thus resolving the problem faster, safer and efficiently.

I would like to invite you to preview our work at

Karl On Sea (twitter: @karlonsea) said...

Mike -
I'm constantly amazed at factory managers trying to buy their way out of poor maintenence - it's almost as if the 'throw away' culture has gone all the way up to machines that cost literally hundreds of thousands of pounds.

I'd add to your list:

o Outlaw materials to soak up leaks - fix the darned problem, not the symptom!
o Big visual signs for who does what
o ...and when.
o How about a spares policy:
- Consumables, stored lineside.
- Operator-fit spares, in stores.
- Maintenence-fit spares in stores.
- Supplier-fit spares that they hold in stock.
- Supplier-purchased parts (ex-stock from third parties)
- Supplier-manufactured parts.
o Clean the equipment daily / weekly, but also have a repaint schedule. If it looks like new, people will treat it like new.
o Create an in-house 'upgrade' team to enhance equipment capabilities.


Anonymous said...

. . . oh, and most of the comments above also apply to your office environment. Just because the machines tend to cost that much less these days, there's still no need to treat them as throwaway items.

o Windows laptops last much longer with periodic rebuilds (clean format & re-install).
o Organise your desk for 5S
o Clean your phone regularly with a disinfectant wipe - especially if you're not the only one to use it. Look on this as preventative maintenance for your nose and throat!
o Use visual communication for communal areas, like kitchens and meeting rooms. Words aren't enough here - pictures are what's needed.