Improving Equipment Maintenance – The KAIZEN™ Way

Improving Equipment Maintenance – The KAIZEN™ Way

KAIZEN™ practitioners sincerely believe that crises not only pose challenges but also provide opportunities to learn & innovate. In the series of blogs which you have been reading from our desk regarding this Covid-19 crisis, on how to face it and the ways to emerge much stronger than before, we are at the final phase of our report.

As you are aware, we have projected 3 phases – first during the crisis period, the second on revising the Strategy and the final one on KAIZEN™ in Operations in the post-lockdown times. In each of the phase, we had a question asked and tried to answer the question in the form of 5 initiatives. We would like to recall the question that is posed in the 3rd phase of this crisis. The question goes like this: How can we best prepare the post-crisis phase and be able to get back on top with a Competitive Advantage?

In the process of answering this question, we came up with a 5-point initiative to be practised/ implemented in this phase. This is because a sincere KAIZEN™ practitioner would always seize this opportunity to prepare for post-crisis ramp-up with maximum efficiency. Out of the 5 initiatives, we will be elaborating about the 3rd initiative – Improving Equipment Maintenance in this blog.

The world has faced so many crises and many innovations have happened that we do not have to reinvent the wheel. All we must do is to find out the right initiative and customize the same to suit the current environment. Improving Equipment Maintenance, the KAIZEN™ way is all about practising the 3rd pillar of TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) initiative, Planned Maintenance, of course, with few customisations.

Sensei Masaaki Imai, the founder of KAIZEN™ Institute says, “Everything will tend to deteriorate if left unattended.” Courtesy lockdown due to Covid-19 crisis, most of us are forced to shut down our operations leaving our equipment in the as-is condition, unattended, for a decent period of some time.

In many places, the lockdown has been lifted already. As the operations resume with this unattended equipment, one might experience unexpected breakdowns. With pressures mounting from all corners due to unforeseen lockdown and increased demand, one must be flexible and swift enough to restore the equipment performance.

Thus, one faces two types of challenges in such a situation.

• One – restoring the under-utilised equipment to a basic condition in a rapid manner and, 

• Second – improving the maintenance process of the Equipment

Although we have crossed over the first two phases an overview of the first challenge is essential. Autonomous Maintenance facilitates restoration and prevention of accelerated deterioration of equipment.  The objective of AM is to make Operators “Equipment & Process Competent”. AM is implemented using a step by step approach and it consists of 7 steps. These 7 steps can be categorized into 3 phases. 

Phase 1: In this phase, we have all the steps which enable restoring basic conditions. Thus Steps 1 to 3 fall under this phase.

Phase 2: In this phase, we have the steps that enable the team to prevent the deterioration of the equipment. Steps 4 & 5 falls under this phase.

Phase 3: In this phase, Optimisation of AM is carried out through the final 2 steps. 

The common mistakes made by companies, in general, is to rush in implementing Autonomous Maintenance without following the steps in sequence. In AM, there are no short cuts. Combining the steps will never allow the team to develop a culture of Autonomous Maintenance.  Unless succeeded in multiple tiered audits, one should not jump to the next step in the sequence. 

Maintenance activities have two key ingredients: Restoration & Improvement.

1. Restoration Activities:  

• To fix failures 

• To prevent failures

• To Measure

2. Improvement Activities:

• To extend the life span of parts

• To shorten maintenance time

• Maintenance Prevention

Planned Maintenance, the third pillar of TPM, targets to achieve zero unplanned breakdowns. Devising a planned maintenance system means raising output (no failures, no defects) and improving the quality of maintenance technicians by increasing plant availability (machine availability). It facilitates a structured approach that establishes a management system to increase the equipment reliability at optimum cost.

The crisis period/ lockdown period had come as a blessing in disguise. As a true KAIZEN™ practitioner, one should take advantage of the lockdown period to plan maintenance interventions. This is also the time for capability development of the team both production and maintenance function.

The structured approach follows this sequence:

• Guidance and support in Autonomous Maintenance

• Breakdown maintenance: Restoring equipment to working order as soon as possible after the failure

• Routine predictive maintenance to stop failures (time-based and condition-based maintenance)

• Corrective maintenance and MP (maintenance prevention) to lower the risk of failure

The Planned Maintenance pillar activities are generally led by the maintenance team. To begin with, the prioritisation of equipment is done. Support is provided to the Autonomous Maintenance pillar to establish a sustainable basic condition of the equipment, as the team focuses on eliminating the causes of breakdowns. Then, the current maintenance practices are evaluated, and new maintenance-standards are established. 

Later, Information management systems are generated, recorded, and used to provide detailed data on the maintenance process, its cost & the use of spares. The team identifies the optimum approach to maintaining the equipment, starting with a Periodic Maintenance (Time-Based Maintenance) system before introducing Predictive Maintenance (Condition-Based Maintenance) systems which prove to be cost-effective.

Step by step, doing these activities in the right sequence, the team drives continuous improvement of the process, eliminating reactive activities and assuring machine reliability. The primary benefit of implementing Planned Maintenance is the reduction in breakdowns, which leads to reduced cost and improved machine reliability not to mention the benefits of improved quality and improved safety performance.


N. Gopalkrishnan, Director – East Africa at Kaizen Institute

About Kaizen Institute

Kaizen Institute is the original and premier provider of KAIZEN™ services of Change Management, Business Excellence, Operational Excellence and Lean.

We support companies of all sizes in all market segments, providing them with a sustainable, competitive advantage. Our Vision is Improving the world with Everyone, Everywhere, Every Day – The KAIZEN™ Way. “KAIZEN™ means Change for the better.”

Kaizen Institute is a global organization which provides consulting and training services to companies represented in Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa. We are currently operating in 60+ Countries for 35 years.

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