Maintenance Management Process used at a Typical Industrial Plant


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As an electrical/mechanical technician in an industrial food plant in Ohio myself and fellow technicians work individually, for basic troubleshooting, and as a team, for more challenging problems. “Process models” [e.g. here ] are the best analogies for how my profession “works.” In fact, the company recently initiated a testing/training program for its technicians that resembles the flow-chart-like “Signal Fault Resolution” process model (Barghouti et. al. 1995). This model is, in many ways, how our entire Maintenance/Engineering Department functions. The production operators (people) and machine fault displays are “monitoring tools.” If they detect a problem then there are two options: refer to a technician immediately (i.e., a production line has stopped) or, if not critical, write a work-order to have it addressed at a later time. Other techs and I are part of the critical-problem team – those that have to be addressed immediately. We have a senior technician who supervises the team. The non-critical team is called “PM” or preventive maintenance. They address work orders.

A flow-chart process model is enacted on a macro and micro level. Macro in the scope of the entire Maint/Engr Dept and micro in the scope of the troubleshooting skills that each individual tech uses. Each time a tech has to troubleshoot, whether its mechanical, electrical or programming, a process flow chart goes through his/her head.

The company as a whole follows a “Systems Dynamics” model [http://www.albany.edu/cpr/sds/]. We have a formal HR (Human Resources) department, the “control” and “planning” structures are handled by corporate (California and Nebraska) and local (Ohio) managers and engineers. In Systems Dymanics model, I would be in the “production” structure – and specifically, in the “error detection and correction” substructure.

How well does the company comply with "Desirable Properties of Process Modeling Tools and Techniques”

[see: http://www-rcf.usc.edu/~madachy/kmrsub.pdf for more information on "Desirable Properties of Process Modeling Tools and Techniques”. Although this is a software-modeling process, it works quite well for maintenance and facilities management.]

In all honesty, my company does not comply well with these properties!

(1) Facilitates human understanding and communication:

Company and employees:

The company fails when it comes to the frequency of department-wide meetings (i.e., those that inform how the business is doing and what the projections are for the months ahead). As an example, corporate assigned a new plant manager to our Ohio plant. It was two months before he planned a department-wide informational meeting.

Company and customers:

The company has a loyal base of customers who buy and respect the dessert snack-cup products we produce. However, the only way for customers to comment on products is via a postal address (written on the back of the package). This is not convenient. An 800 number and /or an email address should be provided.

(2) Support process improvement:

Yes, my company does try to implement new development and maintenance processes. Recently, in fact, the company has begun to invest quite heavily into our specific plant because the projection for out product looks very favorable (and the stockholders are eager!). For example, an HVAC (heating ventilation and air conditioning) project was the result of this technique. However, there is a high turnover of upper management employees. Hence, new and radically different ideas are being implemented every year or two. And there are too many wise and sensible improvements that are put on the back burner. This has caused a great deal morale problems throughout this company.

(3) Support process mgmt:

A new process-specific project called “Project Rainbow” is currently being implemented. Rainbow launches a whole new series of layered pudding snack cups which are targeted for adults. The company initiated a series of plant trials over the course of a year before these products were put on the market. If the sales are high, then the company can forecast (and bank on) these new adult-based dessert products whereas in the past they had more products targeted for kids.

(4) Provides automated guidance in performing the process:

Two years ago, the company installed a data acquisition system and network. All process of our highly-automated plant are monitored through one network. The network is tied into an Intranet which is linked to company’s HQ in California and Nebraska. The data line performance, downtime, material usage, etc. is used to forecast and improve the process.

(5) Supports auto process exec:

see (4)

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