Increasing production capacity is usually a good thing. Orders are up and business is booming. But that doesn’t mean it’s smooth sailing. If you and your maintenance team aren’t used to (or haven’t planned for) an uptick in demand, you might face some unique challenges. It gets even trickier if the reason you’re ramping up is to provide essential services during a global pandemic
Maybe your resources are pushed to the limit. Or COVID-19 has forced you to work with fewer staff on each shift. Or you have to modify equipment on the fly. There’s also the added stress of taking on new responsibilities.
All of this might be unfamiliar and stressful. That’s why we put together some tips on supporting increased production capacity. Hopefully, these best practices can help relieve some of the uncertainty and pressure you’re facing.
Maintaining health and safety
Making sure you, your team, and the whole facility is safe becomes a bigger challenge when the pace speeds up and you’re being pulled in a million different directions.
“When you’re doing more than your normal capabilities, it usually means people are doing things that they’re not used to doing,” says Jason Afara, Fiix’s solutions engineer. “They aren’t trained or aren’t familiar with tasks or procedures, which increases the chances of accidents.”
You might also have to contend with more unplanned maintenance, which always increases risk, says Fiix’s solutions engineering lead Stuart Fergusson. That means unexpected breakdowns, but also work that’s been pushed forward so your facility can meet deadlines.
Focusing on the well-being of your team will help your entire operation stay safe and stay resilient…Efficiency, availability, and production will follow.
All these risks are magnified in the era of COVID-19 when new dangers are changing the way production facilities are approaching health and safety.
There are a few easy adjustments you can make so you and your maintenance team can tackle the increased workload safely.
- Create crash carts for sanitization: This is something that CMMS coordinator and Fiix customer Brandon De Melo put in place at his facility to combat COVID-19. It helped him make sure work stations were sanitized quickly and properly.
- Create designated quiet areas for troubleshooting: Fighting a pandemic means social distancing, which isn’t all that easy in a loud workplace. For operations manager Juan Ruiz, his solution was designated quiet areas. It allowed operators and technicians to talk without putting themselves at risk.
- Add PPE to every work order: It’s not always easy to adapt to new PPE guidelines that come with new work. Visibility and repetition will help reduce the learning curve.
- Set up a cleaning station for tools and parts: It’s no small task to make sure all the supplies that come into your facility are clean and in working condition. Maintenance manager and Fiix user Tom Dufton set up a dedicated station to do the job so it’s done fast and correctly.
- Focus on facility maintenance: With machines running as much as possible, you might find fewer chances to inspect, adjust, and repair. When this happened toJuan and his team, they used the time to stock their facility with supplies, like soap and hand sanitizer, and clear obstacles that presented safety risks.
- Increase the number of health and safety meetings: The more you talk about health and safety, the more knowledgeable your staff will be about procedures and responsibilities, and how to respond quickly in high-risk situations, says Jason.
- Establish mandatory sick leave: This is the strategy endorsed by James Afara, the COO of a cannabis producer. It’s led to a small reduction in staff on a daily basis, but it’s saved employees from spreading illness and the facility from an even bigger impact.
- Identify high-risk work orders: Stuart suggests pinpointing work orders that your team is not familiar with, hasn’t done before or puts them at risk so you can create a mitigation plan.
Avoiding burnout and miscommunication will go a long way to keeping your staff healthy and in the best position to get the job done when the intensity at your facility goes through the roof.
- Find new ways to communicate with your team: Getting your whole team on the same page is crucial, even if you can’t get them in the same room. Alternative communication tools like video meetings and WhatsApp groups can be really helpful for improving remote communication.
- Keep new procedures handy: Make it as easy as possible for your team to follow new guidelines. Create guidelines that technicians can carry with them— either small, physical versions or digital ones they can access on their mobile devices.
- Reorganize your shifts: Spreading your maintenance team across shifts will allow you to provide coverage for the facility while creating schedules that your team can count on. This reduces off-hours call-ins and burnout. Tom, James, and Juan have all used this approach to keep things running smoothly while keeping their teams healthy and giving staff the flexibility to take care of personal needs, like childcare.
- Put tasks in the hands of operators: Embracing this central tenet of total productive maintenance will help to ease the pressure on your team. Empower operators to do routine maintenance tasks, identify problems, and submit work requests.
Get things done faster
Speed and efficiency can’t come at the expense of your team’s well-being. It also can’t be forgotten. Getting work done fast while putting people first is a tricky tightrope to walk, but hitting the right balance is possible.
- Prioritize your tasks: Start by looking at production schedules and asset criticality. We recommend narrowing down the list by checking if any tasks can be done while machines are running or if time-consuming PMs can be replaced with quicker ones without substantially increasing the risk of failure.
- Keep track of your backlog: Create a list of work you’ve let slide and update it frequently. This will help you calculate and communicate risk, as well as make a plan to tackle this deferred maintenance in the future, says Jason.
- Build emergency kits for critical assets: Put together a kit of parts for critical assets so technicians don’t need to spend time searching for the right spares when things go down or when PMs need to be done.
- Do frequent inventory cycle counts: Juan’s team has had difficulty sourcing critical parts because vendors have shut down or have long lead times, which has made frequent visits to the storeroom to check supply quantities more important than ever.
- Create a dashboard of important metrics: Prioritize the maintenance metrics you look at every day and create a dashboard for them so you can check the status of your operation without having to create complex reports.
- Improve response procedures: Breakdowns are inevitable, no matter how well you plan. Having a list of common failure codes and repair checklists handy for critical equipment can help speed up troubleshooting and repairs.
Modifying equipment—and keeping those machines running—has its fair share of challenges for maintenance. Here are a few tips that can help maintenance teams that find themselves in this position.
- Create new health and safety documents: You should treat modified equipment like new equipment, says Fiixer Stuart Fergusson. He recommends reassessing the potential risks, required PPE, emergency procedures and compliance standards. Talk about these details with your team so everyone is on the same page.
- Conduct some training: Full-scale training sessions are probably out of the question if you’re operating at hyper-speed. But a little know-how goes a long way when it comes to modifying machines and maintaining them.
- Meet with the design team: Get together with the team that designed and installed the new elements for the modified assets, if possible. This way, you can get a better understanding of what scheduled maintenance and parts for the equipment.
- Increase the frequency of inspections: Don’t assume the PM guidelines you’re handed for modified equipment are correct. Inspect and inspect some more to make sure new materials or processes aren’t causing failure.
- Embrace total productive maintenance: The benefits of TPM go double for modified assets, says Jason. Operators know their machines best. Give them the power to inspect machines and talk about their observations. It’ll allow you to spot small problems on modified equipment before they become big ones.
- Keep a list of what’s changed: Did you change the parts you’re using? Or the number of technicians assigned to a task? Track these changes so you can get back to your regular schedule faster once production normalizes.
At the end of the day, it’s about focusing on what’s important
Things might be busier than usual for you right now. You’re getting pulled every which way. Your equipment, processes, and people are strained. Unfortunately, nothing can stop the whirlwind you’re caught in. The good news is, there are things you can control. One of them is what you prioritize. Focusing on the well-being of your team will help your entire operation stay safe and stay resilient. Reducing health risks, avoiding burnout, and recognizing all the amazing things staff do will help you blaze a trail. Efficiency, availability, and production will follow.