Lean Management: The Facilities Impact
Implementing continuous improvement, standardization and people involvement to benefit maintenance and engineering
Maintenance and engineering managers are constantly looking for ways to make themselves, their technicians and their organizations as efficient as possible.
They can do this two ways: increase the quality of services rendered, and reduce waste that detracts from the quality of services they provide.
In industrial organizations, the concepts contained within the lean manufacturing systems are designed to do just that. Lean is all about eliminating waste, increasing quality and optimizing efficiency. Its practices are derived from the Toyota production system, with origins dating to the 1940s. The concept of lean as we know it became industry vernacular in the 1990s and is primarily founded on two principles:
• just in time, which involves making only what is needed when it is needed
• autonomation, which involves automation with a human touch.
These principles can be highly beneficial for managers looking to optimize facilities management (FM).
Waste in the context of lean management is defined as any step or action that is not required to complete a process. Waste can come in eight different shapes and forms within lean: defects, overproduction, waiting, non-used talent, transportation, inventory, motion, and extra-processing. To remember these, use the acronym DOWNTIME, which is comprised of the first letter of each type.
To apply this to maintenance and engineering management, let’s assess each one and look at examples of their applicability within facilities.
Defects. This waste involves the presence of products or services that are out of specification and, as a result, require resources to correct. An example of this within the facilities space could be a restroom that is not cleaned properly the first time and requires another cleaning. Another example might involve a maintenance work order that is executed incorrectly and requires more resources to complete the work order correctly.
Overproduction. The waste in this case refers to producing too much of a product. In a facilities, setting, an example of this principle could be a custodian who takes more time than allotted in the prescribed standard to clean a space, thus impacting the schedule and ultimately the quality of cleaning throughout the entire process.
Waiting. The waste here involves having to delay action until the previous step in the process is completed. An example could be a maintenance technician who has to wait on a critical part to complete a work order because it was not available when needed. An example of this type of waste could involve janitorial routes that are not optimized, meaning custodians have to wait for areas to become vacant in order to clean them.
Non-utilized talent. This waste occurs when employees are not effectively engaged in the process. This could be where employees do not have the necessary training or tools to complete tasks assigned to them.
Transportation. This waste involves having to unnecessarily move items or information from one place to another to perform the process. One example of this in facilities is where job routes and floor layouts are not thoughtfully planned, requiring maintenance technicians to take materials from one place to another to complete a job, as opposed to having the materials available at the point of use.
Inventory. The waste in this case is material that sits idle. This type of waste occurs often in stockrooms and janitorial closets in which too much material is on hand. One risk in this setting is the potential damage to or loss of the material, which renders it useless.
Motion. Waste here involves people, information or equipment making unnecessary motion due to workspace layout, ergonomic issues or searching for misplaced items. One example of this can occur when tool crib areas are not organized, thus creating waste in the time that is needed to look for materials required to complete tasks. Another example can involve hard-to-reach equipment that planners did not consider during the facility’s design phase, creating the need for technicians to use ladders and aerial work platforms, as opposed to designing proper access points at floor level.
Extra-processing. This waste refers to performing an activity that is not necessary to produce a functioning product or service. An example of this can occur in redundant quality checks or audits or when duplicate work orders are produced as a result of poor recordkeeping.
Waste manifests itself in so many ways in facilities, so it is critical that maintenance and engineering managers and technicians identify wasteful processes and activities as soon as they appear and take steps to eliminate them. By applying key lean principles, managers can achieve this goal.