There is currently a lot of talk about the efficiency of maintenance tasks across multiple heavy industries, including mining. Site teams that have tackled maintenance efficiency improvement have quickly discovered that it’s a process of many incremental gains, rather than a few silver bullets. And the mechanism for sustaining those improvements is standardised work. Considering there is no value in the same tasks being performed differently, across different crews, just some of the benefits of standardisation include:

  • Creating a means to systemise team expertise, as the best methods end up on task lists
  • Providing a foundation for process stability to support waste reduction and continual improvement
  • Engaging team members in identifying and owning improvement-related change in their workplace

What can be hard, disciplined implementation turns into rewarding outcomes for teams that gain back time to add greater value elsewhere…think long term…finally deliver that innovation project!

There are various approaches that can be used for standardising work to improve maintenance efficiency. To drive the most practical value, here are our team’s top four focus areas to successfully create a standard maintenance process:

  1. Crew alignment – any process you set up or improve will depend on people’s acceptance of benefits. This is critical to real standardisation. All crews need to deliver their work using the same methods including how they set up tooling, parts and materials, and workshop or field-based tasks. Given it’s common for different crews to have developed their own rhythms over time, this shouldn’t be a completely top-down decision. Doing that doesn’t work culturally – but it also doesn’t benefit from the insights and lessons each crew can offer. All crews need to be involved in the process of standardising workflows – locking in the best base method for each type of task or service. If the changes are made by just one crew, then other crews have no ownership and you have no guarantee you’ve landed on the best methodology. Strong communication and then team acceptance of method changes are essential.
  2. Workshop organisation – 5S (sort, set, shine, standardise, sustain) is commonly understood but not always effectively executed. When the goal is to reduce movement waste, the way you set out a workshop to create an efficient work area, with everything at hand, makes a big difference. Standardisation is one of the ‘S’ principles and the challenge here is to ensure all crews use the workshop in the same, efficient manner. Here again, all crews need to have input into the 5S discovery and design process. More minds lead to stronger insights and outcomes. However, part of this is also about change management. Crews need to clearly understand the benefits of a change – and being part of the process is the best way to understand those benefits.
  3. Parts delivery and management – crews may be humming along with work methods, and workshops may be finely tuned, but parts delivery and issue is another non-negotiable. The job can’t progress without parts and materials. Two key strategies for better parts management are transparency and centralisation. Transparency means a well-oiled operation is also well known to the right people – for issued, delivered and returned stock. Centralisation is ensuring the process is managed by a dedicated resource to achieve a single source of truth. This is imperative. Having multiple people manage this process creates too many variables and introduces the very waste we’re seeking to eliminate. When you achieve good parts management, it creates cost benefits and supports productivity and efficiency improvements.
  4. Maintenance schedule collaboration – the final element is very commonly overlooked, and that’s the development of the maintenance schedule. This can’t afford to be a siloed exercise. It needs as much input as possible by execution teams, and specifically supervisors. When the schedule is issued, it is theirs to execute, and that makes their ownership vital. Like with any change, ownership then drives behaviour. Ensuring crews stick to the schedule will then reduce the reactiveness created when a schedule is not followed…because reactive maintenance can lead to poor reliability.

These four critical areas are significant bodies of work in their own right. Changing everything at once will almost always create confusion and unrest within crews. Unless a specific team culture is already set up for fast support of change, we recommend incremental implementation to allow the process to flow.

What is clear is the importance of effectively and genuinely involving people. Without people’s buy-in, standardisation, and the sustainability of improvements, won’t happen. And you can’t talk about people without talking about leadership. Leaders need to drive the process, and the ultimate change, or people will go back to their old ways and sustainment will fail. The investment, though, is worth it!