Every day, meat processing plants need to make sure the metal detectors in their machines are working. It’s a simple check to ensure there’s metal where there should be and no metal where there shouldn’t be.
This process involves running test balls through the machine. It takes about 45 minutes to complete (25 minutes of manual labour and 20 minutes of admin time). It’s routine maintenance— the type most people don’t give a second thought to.
It’s also an example of how tweaking maintenance processes can boost production efficiency. Instead of a manual check, the inspection can be done with an automated test-ball shooter. A button is pressed, the balls roll out on their own, and the task is wrapped up in five minutes. The result is more than 160 hours of extra equipment availability per year.
This is just one example of how companies can leverage maintenance to increase production efficiency. This article outlines several other strategies for bolstering production efficiency using maintenance, including:
How maintenance impacts production efficiency
Five ways the maintenance team can boost production capacity
How to measure the impact of maintenance on production
What is production efficiency?
Production efficiency is a measurement used mostly by manufacturers to determine how well (and how long) a company can keep up with demand. It compares current production rates to expected or standard production rates.
A higher rate of production efficiency delivers three critical outcomes for manufacturers:
Reduced resource usage: Efficient production systems produce the same number of goods with fewer resources
Higher financial margins: Efficient production means higher margins throughout the supply chain
A better customer experience: Efficient production allows products and services to be regularly and dependably delivered to customers
How to calculate production efficiency
The calculation for production efficiency compares the actual output rate to the standard output rate. The formula can be applied to either manual or automated work.
When it comes to industrial processes, the calculation takes quality into account. Let’s say you produce 50 units in an hour, but only 30 are useable. Your rate of production for that hour is 30 units.
The following formula is used to calculate production efficiency:
Production Efficiency = (Actual Output Rate / Standard Output Rate) x 100
For example, a manufacturing company receives a new order of 100 units. The standard rate of completion for 100 units is 10 hours, or 10 units per hour. However, the company took 12 hours to complete 100 quality units. In this case, the production efficiency formula would look like this:
Actual Output Rate = 100 units / 12 hours (8.3 units/hour)
Standard Output Rate = 100 units / 10 hours (10 units/hour)
Production Efficiency = (8.3 / 10) x 100 (83%)
In this instance, output and productivity levels are below capacity.
How maintenance can increase production efficiency
Proper equipment maintenance is essential for increasing production efficiency. It ensures your total effective equipment performance (TEEP) is as high as it can be. Using preventive maintenance to keep assets operating at their best helps to:
Limit equipment downtime: If equipment is checked regularly, you can find and fix failures before they cause big breakdowns that disrupt production. Having a solid preventive maintenance schedule also allows you to coordinate with production so planned downtime is done quickly.
Establish a corrective action system for failures: Having a strategy to find, analyze, and fix failure (aka a FRACAS) allows you to target recurring issues at their root. You can spot and eliminate problems that impact equipment availability and product quality the most.
Coordinate better shift changeovers: Better changeovers between maintenance shifts means communicating the right information to technicians quickly and accurately. This includes a run-down of what work needs to be done, when, and any obstacles that might get in the way of that work.
Ensuring standard operating procedures are clear and maintained: SOPs train operators to do routine maintenance so machines can be operated with fewer breakdowns and accidents.
Five things your maintenance team can start doing tomorrow to increase production efficiency
There are a lot of projects that take months or years to complete. But getting quick wins is also crucial for building momentum and proving the value of your maintenance team. So, here are five things your maintenance team can start doing tomorrow to increase production efficiency.
1. Optimize the frequency of your PMs
A preventive maintenance schedule can be a good example of having too much of a good thing. Going overboard on preventive maintenance can affect production efficiency in two ways. You can either waste valuable time preventing non-existent failure. Or you can increase the risk of failure by meddling with a perfectly fine component.
These guidelines can help you find the right balance between too many PMs and too few:
Use equipment maintenance logs to track the found failure rate on preventive maintenance tasks. Start with PMs that take the longest to do or cost the most.
If a PM leads to regular corrective maintenance, keep it at the same frequency.
If a PM rarely identifies failure, try increasing the time between inspections. If the found failure rate exceeds the frequency of the PM, tweak your schedule so it’s better aligned. For example, an inspection might happen every two weeks. But a failure is usually found every six weeks. In this case, plan for the PM to happen every 4-6 weeks instead.
If a machine experiences frequent breakdowns between inspections, try shortening maintenance intervals. You can also modify the trigger for maintenance, changing it from a time-based trigger to usage or performance-based trigger.
2. Identify machines that can be maintained while running
Some routine maintenance can be done while a machine is still operating. Find out if there are any assets that can be safely worked on while being used for production. The key word there is ‘safely’. This might mean that some work can’t be done because certain areas of a machine aren’t safely accessible while it’s operating. In this scenario, determine if partial maintenance is possible and if it’ll have a positive impact on the performance of the equipment.
It’s also a good idea to track rotating or spare assets and swap them for production equipment when possible. That allows you to do regular maintenance on these machines without sacrificing productivity.
3. Make equipment capabilities transparent and clear
Create an iron-clad list of instructions for operating equipment and common issues to be aware of. You can use a failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA) to create a list of common failures experienced by each asset. This can also include warning signs for breakdowns.
Having this information clearly outlined and easily accessible gives operators a chance to notice the early signs of failure and notify maintenance before it gets worse. Employees will be empowered to observe and identify any potential problems, and report them accordingly.
4. Use work order data to identify where your team can be more efficient
Work order data can tell you what jobs can get done quicker and how to minimize the risk of asset failure so you can boost production efficiency. Look for these telltale signs of broken processes in your work orders:
Unavailable parts and supplies: If this issue is delaying maintenance, review the purchasing process for parts and supplies. That includes making sure your cycle counts are accurate and the threshold for purchase approvals is low enough that inventory can get replenished quickly. You can also create parts kits for frequent repairs or emergency repairs on production equipment so your team can locate and retrieve parts quickly.
Misidentified/misdiagnosed problems or missing instructions: Make sure task lists, failure codes, and descriptions are clear. Attach photos, manuals, and other documentation to the work order.
Diverted resources resulting from emergency work orders: Emergencies can always be avoided. Analyze your work order data, find tasks that are too big, and break it down into smaller jobs to reduce the risk of major disruptions.
Scheduling conflicts with production: See if maintenance can be scheduled while production is happening or if work can be done at an alternate time, like evenings or weekends. You can also consider giving operators minor maintenance responsibilities associated with the work order.
Lack of adequate worker skillset: Work order data can show you if the person/people assigned to the work may not have the right skills. Make it very clear on the work request what kind of skills or certifications are necessary for certain maintenance types.
5. Find the biggest obstacles for your team and eliminate them
You can learn a lot from the data that comes from your equipment and work orders. But sometimes, you just have to ask the people who are doing the actual work. They will be able to tell you what barriers they face when completing work. Acting on this information is crucial to continually improve your maintenance processes. All those improvements can add up to a huge boost in production efficiency.
For example, your technicians may spend a lot of time going back and forth from the office to retrieve manuals, asset histories, or other materials that help them on a job. You probably won’t know that just by looking at work order records or wrench time reports. Armed with this information, you can figure out a solution. Maybe that’s creating areas throughout your facility where files can be accessed for nearby assets. Or it could be digitizing those files so they can be accessed through a mobile device.
Here are a few questions to ask your technicians to find any roadblocks:
What tasks commonly take you away from a machine?
Are information and parts easily accessible? If not, why?
What information would help you complete work more efficiently?
Are there processes or systems that are hard to use or you think could be improved?
Is there anything that frequently keeps you from starting a task on time?
Four ways to measure the impact of maintenance on production efficiency
There are many ways to measure how your maintenance efforts are affecting production efficiency. The most common metrics are the following:
Found failure rate on preventive maintenance
This metric will help you measure how efficient your preventive maintenance schedule is. If your found failure rate is high, it means you’re cutting down on unnecessary maintenance while preventing major disruptions to production.
Unplanned asset downtime (last 90 days)
This number tracks the amount of unplanned equipment downtime and compares it to the previous 90-day period. Because each minute of downtime lowers your production efficiency, this number highlights how maintenance is contributing to healthier, higher-performing assets.
Average time to respond to and repair breakdowns
This stat quantifies all the work you’ve done to prepare for emergencies. Breakdowns will happen. Having a plan to quickly and safely fix these failures will help you reduce the amount of time production is stalled.
Compare the amount of useable products coming from the equipment prior to and after maintenance is completed. If the machine is running better after maintenance, it’s proof that your team is increasing production capacity in a meaningful way.
Maintenance has the opportunity to drive production efficiency
Maintenance often gets talked about as an expense. A necessary evil. A cost-center. But the reality is, good maintenance can drive your business forward. When you keep the machines running, you can do more, faster, with less. That means happier customers, a better bottom line, and more profit for everyone in the supply chain. It’s a true win-win-win.
In order to turn maintenance from a cost centre to a business driver, you need to reorient maintenance as a business function and start asking how maintenance can drive production efficiency. From there, a world of opportunity opens up.
When operations and maintenance don’t work well together, it can be costly. And messy. Take this story of a food manufacturer as an example.
The facility uses a sheeter, which rolls huge balls of dough. The sheeter needs to be cleaned every day. The production team regularly cleans the machine with water. There’s just one problem with this—water makes the dough clump up and break the machine. As a result, emergency maintenance is the norm.
If this situation feels familiar to you, you’re not alone. It happens thousands of times a day. Operations and maintenance have different goals, motivations, and processes. The result is confusion, frustration, and finger-pointing. This isn’t good for business or employee health.
This article is all about learning how to break that cycle and improve alignment between operations and maintenance, including:
Metrics to share
How to increase collaboration
Tips for building joint processes
Why aligning operations and maintenance should be your top priority
Any manufacturer working to reduce waste is either leading the pack or about to break away from the field. For proof of that, look no further than the fact that manufacturers waste 20% of every dollar they spend.
Large industrial facilities lose over 323 production hours a year to unplanned downtime
The average annual cost of downtime is $532,000 per hour or $172 million per plant
The cost of downtime for Fortune 500 manufacturers is equal to 8% of annual revenues
Cost of Downtime
Oil & Gas
Unplanned downtime hours per facility each month
Cost per hour of downtime
Huge costs are one thing. But work delays, reactive maintenance, and emergency purchases have a mental and physical toll as well.
Improving the relationship between operations and maintenance is critical to cutting downtime at its source.
“When maintenance and operations are aligned, it allows the business to find issues within the operations,” says Jason Afara, Senior Solutions Engineer at Fiix.
“And then business leaders can make informed decisions on how to correct these issues with the appropriate resources. It turns guessing games and blame games into a unified effort.”
Where to align operations and maintenance processes
Planning scheduled downtime
The definition of efficient maintenance is keeping equipment up and running with as little downtime as possible. Of course, this is easier said than done. The production team has quotas to fill. Anything that gets in the way of hitting that target is a threat. That includes maintenance.
“We would fight operations just to get a little bit of maintenance on a machine,” says Jason, remembering his time as a maintenance manager.
This is all too common and unproductive. Luckily, there are two ways maintenance and operations can create a plan for preventive maintenance that benefits both groups:
Use data to compare the impact of maintenance to the impact of failure
Develop shared processes that reduce the amount of scheduled downtime
The first step is for both teams to understand how their activities affect the performance of equipment. Once again, it’s often more complicated than it sounds.
“This is where maintenance departments usually fail,” says Charles Rogers, a Senior Implementation Consultant at Fiix with over 33 years of experience in maintenance.
“They don’t have data to back up their asks. You have to be able to prove your case and show evidence that if you don’t do maintenance on schedule, there will be much worse consequences at some point—probably sooner than later.”
The best way to align your efforts is to determine the acceptable risk and the consequences of failure as one team. Share information on common failure modes, how often they’re expected to happen, as well as repair times and costs for each one. Compare this to the frequency of scheduled maintenance, the time it takes to do these tasks, and the costs involved.
Quantifying the difference makes it clear that scheduling frequent breaks in production for maintenance is a better way for both teams to hit their goals and avoid big, time-consuming breakdowns.
Creating shared processes between operations and maintenance allows the teams to share and action data. For example, it allows operators to detect small failures and maintenance technicians to respond to them faster. Examples of these processes include:
Regular meetings between operations and maintenance leaders to discuss production and preventive maintenance schedules, spec changes on machines, or other updates
Quarterly meetings between the two teams to discuss successes, challenges, solutions, and root cause analysis
A work request process that enables machine operators to quickly and confidently identify problems and empowers technicians to prioritize and respond to issues with minimal disruption
Creating shared work and clear responsibilities
Any mention of operations and maintenance working together will inevitably lead to talk of total productive maintenance (TPM). You can read a short primer on TPM here, but the idea is that everyone at a company (from technicians to accountants) is responsible and involved in maintenance.
Making operations part of the maintenance process is one of the easiest and most effective ways to begin building a TPM program. Here’s an example of how that might be done:
The key to making these shared processes successful is to create clear job responsibilities. When people know exactly what they need to do, it helps you:
Provide the right training and materials to the right people
Create accurate timelines and budgets
Test new processes, optimize them, and expand them
Pick out bad data and figure out the root cause of it
Start defining clear responsibilities by creating a maintenance type for operators. This allows you to track how much work you’re giving to operations. It also helps you design work order templates for operators so they know what to do and where to go if the scope of work changes.
Building realistic work timelines
When operations and maintenance know how long it takes to get things done, it’s easier to set schedules, budgets, and targets accordingly. It also prevents unseen delays, reduces frustration, and fosters respect between the two teams. But it’s not useful to share maintenance timelines if they aren’t accurate. There are a few strategies to make sure expectations match reality:
Look at equipment maintenance logs. Identify work that frequently takes longer than is expected, and adjust timelines accordingly.
Analyze your work order data to find PMs with a high rate of required follow-up maintenance. Factor that into your brief to the operations team.
Account for parts of a work order that fall outside of actual wrench time. That includes retrieving parts, completing safety procedures, and running tests on machines.
Providing realistic timelines doesn’t always mean your schedules will match up. But it does help operations and maintenance have a conversation about what can be done in the time you have. When determining what maintenance can be sacrificed for production, here are a few questions to ask:
Five ways to build a strong relationship between operations and maintenance
Your operations and maintenance teams might be best friends. Or maybe there’s some tension between them. Whatever the relationship is like, there’s always an opportunity to make it better with a few, simple strategies.
Create multiple ways for the two teams to communicate
Communicating with other teams is often one of the first activities to be abandoned when work gets busy. That’s why there needs to be formal processes in place to maintain the flow of information. Creating dedicated channels for communication might include:
Team meetings: Regular meetings create space for everyone’s voice to be heard and to keep challenges, plans, and updates visible
Channels to post and see updates: This can be anything from a whiteboard to a WhatsApp group, or a digital work request portal for tracking the status of requests
Peer reviews: This is a process where operations and maintenance team members review each other anonymously to identify how they can work better together
There are a few key pieces of information to discuss when you’re working in these channels:
Machines updates: Bring up spec changes, potential problems, safety risks, or updates to standard operating procedures
Schedules: Talk about upcoming work, risks or conflicts, what’s needed to be successful, and any changes from what was previously discussed
Reporting: Review targets, progress, troubling trends, or major successes in your reporting
Roadblocks and solutions: Discuss major challenges or questions your team has and collaborate on ways to remove those obstacles
Long-term planning: Figure out how both teams can continually improve, including how to better manage budgets, hit long-term goals, and develop new skills
Having a framework for communication between operations and maintenance allows you to turn talk into action. Here are a few ground rules:
Focus on solutions, not blame: Finding a solution should be the goal of all your conversations
Focus on the collective: Find solutions that work for everyone, instead of trying to win an argument or battle for your team
Develop a feedback loop: Create trust by actioning feedback and keeping everyone aware of progress
Value consistency, but stay flexible: Commit to communicating, but understand that meetings might need to move around once in a while if an emergency occurs
Create an agenda for all meetings: Have a plan for what you’re going to talk about so you can make the most of everyone’s time
Set the same goals
There will be less friction between operations and maintenance when the two teams define success the same way. There might be different ideas on how to get to your goal, but both departments will be moving in the same direction.
“In the worst scenario, these departments are siblings who are constantly fighting,” says Jason.
“But in the best-case scenario, you’re working together to achieve the same goals, celebrating together when you hit those targets, and joining forces to get back on track when you don’t.
There are a few metrics that both operations and maintenance can share responsibility for:
Clean start-ups after maintenance and first-pass yield/first-pass good: Both numbers aim to measure efficiency and waste
Total cost per unit of production: Both operations and maintenance can be accountable for reducing costs while improving quality
Time spent supporting production/maintenance: Tracking the time each team spends supporting the other will help you allocate resources and create effective hiring plans
Unplanned downtime( last 90 days): See the impact of preventive maintenance and the shared processes that make this work efficient
Mean time to detect and repair: Everyone has a part in finding and fixing failure before it leads to breakdowns and doing so with as little disruption to the business as possible
Integrate production and maintenance systems
It’s easy for operations to have a negative view of maintenance when their only exposure to it is a breakdown or service interruption. Integrating the systems used for production and maintenance provides visibility into each team’s work. This allows you to see the positive impact of each department and help each other accomplish even more.
Ryan Robinson’s maintenance team is a great example of how integrating maintenance software with equipment and production systems can deliver incredible results. Ryan, the shop manager at a wholesale tree grower, connected sensors on several machines with a CMMS. This gave him the data he needed to optimize maintenance intervals and increase production efficiency.
“Because we know how equipment is used on a daily basis, we have some idea of what is going to be expected of maintenance tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day,” says Ryan.
Ryan was also able to use this data to spot vehicles with high idle times. He brought this information to the farm manager, who figured out the reason why and found a solution.
World-class maintenance teams are aligned with operations
Operations and maintenance are the heartbeat of any company with lots of assets and big production targets. That’s why it’s essential that they develop a healthy relationship and formal processes for working together. The two teams must share everything from the metrics they aim for to the systems they use, and the schedule that guides their work. Joining forces gives them better visibility into the challenges that face the business and the power to overcome them. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.
A few words can make or break a maintenance team. Work orders are proof of that.
“In the past, bad decisions were made because we didn’t have accurate work order information,” said Tim Davison, Asset CARE planner for MillerCoors, in this case study by Reliable Plant.
A failure-prone fan at a MillerCoors site is proof of this. The fan failed three times in 18 months. A vibration analysis had found anomalies a month before the third failure, but maintenance wasn’t scheduled or prioritized before the fan failed.
The lesson: Work orders weren’t set up properly, causing important maintenance to be missed.
If this can happen to one of the world’s biggest brewers, it can happen to anyone. That’s why this article is going back to basics and exploring strategies for creating world-class work orders. It will provide the building blocks for great work order processes, from start to finish.
Five key strategies for managing maintenance work orders
Just like every asset at your company, your work orders need standard operating procedures. SOPs give you a baseline for creating, reviewing, and optimizing every job you do.
#1: Deciding on goals and measurements for your work orders
It’s important to know what information you want from a work order when you set them up. Work order and maintenance metrics deserve their own article entirely, but the chart below will give you a good framework to start from.
#2: Define roles and responsibilities
Create clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each part of the work order process. Outline who can create, assign, prioritize, complete, and review work orders. This will help you avoid duplicate or unauthorized work and miscommunication.
#3: Decide on your work order frequencies
OEMs and the knowledge of veteran staff usually decide the frequency of scheduled maintenance. This can give you a good baseline, but it’s not an exact science. Decide how often to review frequencies so you can spot work you’re doing too often or not often enough.
#4: Build work orders triggers
Outline how work orders can be triggered at your operation. This includes triggers that create the initial work request as well as follow-ups for failed PMs, compliance documentation, or extra work that needs to be done on the asset.
#5: Conduct work order post-mortems
Big projects and big problems deserve hindsight. Create a plan to find what went right and what went wrong on these major jobs. Then apply your learnings to the work order process.
How to create work orders in nine steps
Creating and optimizing work orders means reviewing, tweaking, and optimizing thousands of fields. Pro tip: Start small. Pick one field, review one group of work orders with it, and apply improvements to them as needed. Then move on to the next group.
Naming conventions: These are the labels you use to identify the maintenance type, work order, and asset being worked on. Great naming conventions have three things: Consistency, clarity, and meaning for the people reading them.
Description of issue and scope of work: Be as specific as possible with these fields. Instead of saying that there was a leak, identify how bad the leak is and where it is on the machine. Be clear about the skills, tradespeople, contractors, and permits needed.
Required parts and tools: Add information that can help technicians locate parts or supplies faster parts as well as best practices for using them. Use these lists to build emergency kits for critical equipment that can be accessed quickly after breakdowns.
Health and safety notes: Include a list of required PPE on every work order and note common risks, safety procedures, and accidents/near-misses associated with the work. Add compliance information for equipment where necessary, including follow-up tasks.
Requester and date requested: These fields offer a glimpse into the source of problems. For example, are the right people requesting work? Were there too many requests on one day?
Expected and actual labor hours: Elevate this section by adding the amount of time expected for each task. Cross-reference the notes of completed work orders and zero-in on tasks that took longer than expected so you can tweak processes as necessary.
Task lists and associated documents: Eliminate vague task lists at all costs. Don’t stop at “Lubricate bearing.” Add the type of lubrication and amount. Use every chance you get to attach manuals, SOPs, or other resources that might help to work orders.
Assignment and priority: The priority of the work order and the people it’s assigned to should match the type of maintenance being done. Define exactly what different priority levels mean so everyone on the team is on the same page.
Notes: Work with experienced technicians to add notes to common work orders or failure modes so this knowledge can become standardized and accessible.
How to make maintenance work orders that give you better data
Information from completed work orders is your main tool for optimizing processes. Getting that information can simply mean making a work order field standard (like labor hours or parts used). Other sections require work to ensure you’re getting the data you’re looking for.
Failure codes: Limit the list of failure codes to only the most common ones to avoid “other” becoming the default for technicians short on time.
Completion notes: Every technician has their own way of describing the work they did. Standardize and streamline the process by giving specific prompts or questions. For example, ask if any tasks took longer than expected and why.
Costs: Provide technicians with a template for noting extra resources that were necessary so it’s easy for them to fill out and easy for you to calculate additional costs.
Follow-up actions: Describe the proper follow-up actions for common scenarios, like a fault found during a routine PM. This will streamline the process for technicians, and help you track compliance issues, potential failure, PM frequencies, and more.
Everything you just read in three sentences
Move slowly by starting with work orders you do most often or on assets with the highest criticality.
Consistency is the key to good habits, scalable success, and good, clean data, so make sure all your processes are airtight, like work order templates and follow-ups guidelines.
Balancing clarity and being concise in work orders is key so technicians have all the information they need without being overloaded with extra work they see as nothing but a chore.