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Moving to World Class Maintenance - It's Like Driving Your Car
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Moving to World Class Maintenance - It's Like Driving Your Car

Author : Herman Ellis - QMS

Plant Maintenance Resource Center Home Maintenance Articles

Moving towards World Class Manufacturing (WCM) can be likened to driving a car. This analogy is deemed to have an excellent fit to the maintenance function, and is frequently used in various and different applications, including the striving of maintenance practitioners to achieve world class strategies - against all odds.

Driving through the countryside, in low gear and at slow speed (open top!), you can afford to chat, look around, comment on the scenery and generally take it easy. If your organisation is in the early stages of development, you are buffered by stocks, and by the absence of competition. You are probably in a niche market. None of the sub-system components are under stress. (You are fat and happy). There is only one small complication, your company cannot survive indefinitely. Others are starting to take a keen interest in what you are doing.

If you shift the transmission into higher gears and travel at speed on the freeway, you have to operate on additional, new principles, as well as the old ones:

  • You have to focus on a few essential issues.
  • You can no longer attend to every detail yourself.
  • Most systems are now automatic.
  • You can now no more afford to make the mistakes that you made when you were driving slowly.
  • It starts to count now that you are lean and mean.
  • Empowerment rules - you may not distract the driver every 5 seconds to show him something, or to ask assistance with a problem.
  • Sub-system components are feeling stress, and the weakest link will show up first. (Be sure that you address the real problem, though)
  • Direction adjustments are smaller, but more frequent.
  • It's probably not the same car you used for country driving.
It is inadvisable to speed up and stay in the same gear (have you got another gear?). Plan every move carefully, and get expert advice. If you travel along a well thought-out, well planned, and well communicated road map, it is just so much easier. You should know where you come from, where you are now (audit), and you should have a very good idea of where you are going (maintenance strategy).

It is a fact that you take the whole car with you on the road. You are unlikely to leave a piece behind just because you don't need it right now. In essence, you cannot split your organisation into discrete 'pocket' departments, proceed to move some of them into WCM, and leave the others behind. It simply cannot happen. Yet we see it attempted every day.

If we extend this analogy to a racing car on a track, yet more new WCM issues become apparent. There are no passengers. Weight is at minimum, well distributed and balanced. Speed and direction adjustments happen in quick succession, almost continuously. The entire operation is planned to the minutest detail. Every member of the team knows exactly what to do, and when. Each team member is an expert in his own job, but he can do more than one job. The whole operation is totally focussed on just one objective - getting there first, and safely. There is total trust amongst team members. They communicate in their own unique language.

Our manufacturing industry is now on the racing track, whether we like it or not. This presents us with new challenges and opportunities that we cannot avoid.

If we equip our maintenance employees with the three most basic of World-Class Manufacturing skills namely: 'Pro-Active'; 'Change agent'; and 'Trainer'; we will have another 'gear' to change to.

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Revised: Thursday, 08-Oct-2015 11:51:45 AEDT
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