We have been working with customers for over 35 years to implement CMMS / EAMS solutions worldwide. During this time we have seen many different approaches to try and integrate these systems into existing or new processes and procedures for the surrounding business environment. This series of “Success Topics” is our attempt to share some of the recurring topics that we feel provide the best return on investment of time and effort to address.
Continuous Improvement (CI) is one of many approaches that are used to address problems and issues in an organization. As the name implies, this is a process that tackles a problem over time with the goal of progressive improvements that result in a long term solution. Not all problems lend themselves to this approach, so we will look at what best fits CI, and how to manage the process.
When can Continuous Improvement best help?
CI lends itself to situations where there are resource limitations or constraints that prevent an immediate or rapid resolution to a problem. In these situations, the plan is to start a process that will fix or improve the situation, but over some long term time frame. Here are some examples:
Ideal for Continuous Improvement
- Reducing inventory carrying costs.
- Improving equipment availability and reducing downtime.
- Reducing maintenance overtime costs.
- Improving the ration of Corrective to Preventive/Predictive Maintenance efforts.
- Reduce unavailable spare parts due to non-reporting of usage.
- Improve compliance with safety procedures.
- Reduce overdue vendor shipments.
The Less Ideal could be addressed using Continuous Improvement, but in fact these could be addressed more quickly via management decisions and immediate actions.
What makes a CI process work?
There are two major components of a Continuous Improvement process. The first is to be able to measure the problem. So for example, to reduce the spare parts carrying costs, you need to be able to measure the current inventory value as well as being able to measure improvements to this quantity during the CI process. Not a problem. But you may also want to measure any impacts on equipment availability. Also doable.
The second component is to define the action that should make improvements to the problem. This is the root of CI. Often the action proposed is based upon rational expectations. But often there are many factors entering into the problem.
For example, with the reducing inventory carrying costs problem, there could be several factors envisioned:
- Improved analysis of reorder logic based upon usage and safety levels.
- Improved linkage of parts to equipment to reduce on demand (non-stock) ordering of stocked items.
- Identification of lower cost suppliers and increased use of requesting quotes.
With Continuous Improvement, you can pick any one of these factors to improve, or a combination.
In order to address the problem, the actions that you propose need also be measurable. Then you will be able to correlate your progress at taking the proposed actions against any improvements to the original problem.
For example, one might decide to review reorder logic (reorder points, reorder quantity) for each new Purchase Requisition for items over $500. Measuring this is as simple as counting how many PRs have been generated with unit costs greater than $500. (Not the most accurate, but easiest.) Or better, add a Reviewed Date to the spare part remarks field that can be reported against. So on a monthly basis you can report on the number of spares reviewed and compare to inventory value to see if there are any reductions to inventory value, keeping in mind that there will be a delay in results.
Likewise, if you decide to improve linking of spares to equipment, you can decide on a plan to do this on some time frame, or when issued and / or ordered. This can be measured by reporting on the percentage of parts linked to parts lists over time.
Continuous Improvement is a great way to address problems where the approach is time consuming, so spreading the process out over time makes sense. And if you measure both the problem being fixed and the process proposed to improve the problem, you can validate your assumptions before you expend too much time.
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About GP MaTe
GP MaTe is a User-friendly maintenance and material management system that facilitates maintenance planning and inventory control. Our product has many optional modules that support Safety (PSM, MOC and LOTO), Budgeting, Multi-plant information sharing, and Operator Tours and Data Collection. The system is available in many languages and supports vendor currency conversions.