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The Role of Lean Maintenance in Smart Foundries

Feb. 12, 2018
A next-gen, Industry 4.0-inspired CMMS streamlines maintenance, delivers insights into asset health, and significantly improves the production cycle.

Following all the recent digitization trends, encompassing Big Data, Cloud systems, the Internet of Things (IoT) and smart computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), traditional metalcasting plants are on the way to irreversible change. Sensors and data are at the heart of interconnected systems aiming at delivering better, faster and more efficient results. And, even though the complete smart foundry is not yet a reality, many metalcasters are realizing the power of the latest Industry 4.0 trends, and are giving their best effort to turning their production programs in the right direction.

Lean manufacturing is nothing new, but it is a solid foundation for IoT manufacturing, and “going Lean” is the first step that manufacturers should undertake if they intend to go “smart.” Lean manufacturing needs dedicated organizational support and reliable production machinery, and it cannot exist without a Lean maintenance program. Implementing Lean manufacturing principles in a foundry leads to the elimination of all wasted activities that add no value to the customer. This will reduce production time and production cost, while maximizing quality. Six Sigma, project management and the adoption of a next-gen CMMS are just some of the ways to increase profitability.

It has been proven frequently in recent years that manufacturing facilities that have successfully implemented a Lean manufacturing approach have seen significant gains in other aspects of their business performance.

Basic Principles of Lean — The core idea of lean manufacturing is to eliminate waste in a production cycle to provide customer satisfaction, and to do so in ways that bring profit to the manufacturer. There are various tools and approaches that can be adopted in order to achieve this.

The most common approach is the Japanese-originated 5S concept (the “five S’s” are Sort, Set in order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain), which also is the easiest and fastest way to introduce lean. The target of 5S is to optimize a work area in order to eliminate waste that results from a poorly organized space (wasting time looking for a spare part, tool or a person.)

Bottleneck Analysis and SMED (Single-Minute Exchange of Dies) are other well-known concepts applied to modern foundry operation. “Kaizen” probably is the most widely adopted and understood Lean manufacturing strategy, embracing employees’ actions and all possible Smart tools to achieve regular production improvements.

Lean Maintenance v. Lean Manufacturing — Lean is not a tactic. Lean is a way of operating that is adopted and enacted by an entire organization, and thus it can be applied on every single part of the organization. Proceeding from that premise, reliable machines are at the heart of every Lean-functioning factory, and behind reliable equipment is Lean maintenance.

Lean maintenance is part of the Lean manufacturing concept. The principles applied to Lean maintenance are the same as the ones applied to Lean manufacturing, but always within the context of asset monitoring.  Lean maintenance is a proactive maintenance approach, including scheduled activities and Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) practices, and all this performed in the most effective and efficient manner.

Auto-maintenance, weekly kaizen events, the 5S process, and a next-gen CMMS enabling the creation of predictive algorithms are some of the most powerful Lean maintenance tools. The desired results should be rapid, measurable improvements in bottom-line performance, stabilizing and optimizing equipment performance by eliminating waste and increasing reliability.

Smart CMMS for Lean Maintenance — A computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) provides a company with the proper organizational support that Lean programs require. By improving maintenance and workforce schedules, spare parts and work-order management, creating preventive maintenance plans and monitoring equipment, a CMMS basically eliminates process waste by helping technicians and operators to focus on tasks that really matter.

A modern, next-gen CMMS goes along with the latest Industry 4.0 trends. It offers a mobile version and can be accessed anytime and anywhere; teams adopt it easily; and it is connectable to all other company’s systems, from the ERP and to the process sensors. The right platform collects, stores, and analyzes asset-condition monitoring data to support the creation of predictive algorithms. 

And there are more innovations to come in this technology venue. Newcomers to the market, like the Mobility Work maintenance management platform, offer a CMMS, a social network, and a marketplace, together in a single platform. Each “member” of the Mobility Work “community” is connected with thousands of professionals from a wide range of industries — automotive, railway, food/beverages, chemistry, buildings, materials, pharmaceutical, metallurgy, mechanics, textile, electronics, and more. Equipment and consumables manufacturers and service providers can register a company profile and add their own products to the official catalogue. Users can search for a provider and providers can now reach their end users directly through the platform.

The direct benefits of CMMS as a Lean maintenance tool in process manufacturing include: less time spent looking for work orders; improved data accuracy; better budget information; increased organization; maximized productivity; improved spare parts inventory management; creating reports on patterns of maintenance and repair activities; defining the right frequency for preventive maintenance; and minimized emergency orders to suppliers.

One Smart Foundry — Fonderie et Mécanique Générale Castelbriantaise, FMGC, is an iron foundry in western France, and a well-known producer of counterweights for machinery, heavy-duty vehicles, and energy systems, and it is the metalcasting subsidiary of the Farinia Group. Three years ago, FMGC decided to expand its product portfolio into the “marine renewable energy” sector, and its goal now is to become one of the leading suppliers of ballast systems for submarine power cables, wind and tidal turbines, and other MRE installations. It is committed to innovation and lean production cycle.

At that time, FMGC equipment maintenance manager Anthony Blanchard decided to integrate a CMMS platform. Unfortunately, his attempt resulted in chaotic schedules, angry team members, a large volume of unscheduled repairs, and production delays.

The reason for the disorder was that the conventional solution didn’t have a user-friendly interface and required long training sessions for the technicians and operators expected to use it. It could not be easily connected to the company’s other systems, and it did not offer a mobile version.

After a year of unsuccessful attempts to achieve full Lean engagement on this costly technology, Blanchard decided to turn to a then-new solution created by a start-up developer claiming to have created a next-gen CMMS. FMGC was the first customer for Mobility Work.

FMGC continues to rely on Mobility Work as its maintenance program. “It is hard to believe how our maintenance routines have drastically changed over such a short period of time,” according to Blanchard. “We have almost forgot what it feels like to deal with stressful unplanned breakdowns. Our spare parts are always there at the right moment.

“The maintenance costs have dropped down even though the foundry plant has grown and acquired a lot of new machinery,” he continued. “It is important to mention that there also have been noticeable changes in regard to employees – optimized working hours and more engagement. If I had to choose one indispensable tool to help me to apply Lean maintenance, then I would choose a modern, Industry 4.0-inspired CMMS.”

Is your Lean Maintenance program good enough? — Equipment data and information are at the root of every good Lean maintenance strategy. The manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule and the history of all performed maintenance activities, breakdowns, and repairs of every individual unit are the foundations that every maintenance team can return to with confidence. In this way, the team can define the goals of the program according to the foundry’s background. The perfect outcome should be minimized cost for preventive maintenance and minimized risk of unscheduled breakdowns.

As you accumulate asset condition-monitoring data, you must evaluate the effectiveness of your Lean maintenance program by comparing various metrics. One simple example is the hours and costs for unscheduled repairs per month, before and after the implementation of the program. Ongoing evaluation is critically important because it helps manufacturers to master a plan for further improvements.

The direct benefits of Lean maintenance — Given the fact that lean maintenance reduces inefficiencies by preventing downtimes, some of the most important benefits for the casting manufacturing process can be summarized as: high productivity; low inventory blocks; optimized flow of products and services; and measurable, near-term performance improvements.

There are actually no direct benefits of Lean maintenance for customers because they cannot (or should not) appreciate the importance of equipment maintenance. As customers, they value the finished product. However, Lean maintenance is responsible for on-time production and on-time delivery, and thanks to Lean maintenance companies are able to quickly adapt to customers’ changing demands.

Lean manufacturing is a business concept that embraces the elimination of all non-value-adding activities that cause bottlenecks and other forms of waste in metalcasting operations. Lean maintenance is a critical component of a successful Lean manufacturing program, seeking as well to avoid waste by applying preventive and predictive equipment maintenance strategies.

A next-gen, industry 4.0-inspired computerized maintenance management system is at the foundation of the Lean maintenance concept, and a modern CMMS streamlines the maintenance process, delivers important insights into asset health, and significantly improves the entire production cycle.

Ralitsa Peycheva is a technical content manager at Mobility Work, a developer of computerized maintenance management systems for industrial operations. Follow her at Google+ and Twitter.