Failures become chronic as a result of either management problems or of technical problems. This section discusses the former. Figure “Management Issues” summarizes the weaknesses and vicious circles that can occur within the management structure, based on the experiences of a range of different companies.
One of the most serious problems affecting equipment management in many companies is the “I make, you fix” mentality of the production department, which leads them to think that maintenance is none of their responsibility. A second is the lack of specialized training given to the maintenance department, making them unable to keep up with technological progress and keeping their morale low. A third is the heavy reliance of equipment design departments on outsourcing, introducing time and budget pressures that inevitably result in equipment riddled with problems from the start.
Two principal reasons for this poor attitude to productive maintenance amongst managers can be identified.
First, many of them are still trapped in the ‘throw-away’ attitude to equipment that developed during the period of rapid economic growth. This is demonstrated by the fact that there are still plenty of companies whose priority when investing in new equipment is to minimize initial costs, and plenty of others whose first move when profits start to decline is to cut their maintenance spend by 20 or 30%. Even if no money were spent on maintaining it, equipment might last long enough to keep production going for a few years. However, if it were not properly maintained during this time, it would probably grind to a halt in the fourth or fifth year in such a state as to be virtually irreparable. In other words, the very equipment that ought to have been continuing to generate profits for the business would have dragged it down into the mire.
Second, many of these managers do not understand the full scale of the losses (the causes of higher costs) that arise if equipment maintenance is not up to scratch. Substandard equipment maintenance not only causes losses due to unexpected breakdowns, but also has harmful effects going well beyond this, such as increased changeover times, more frequent idling and minor stops, slower speeds (i.e. longer cycle times), poorer quality, and lower yields, as well as the energy losses and labour losses that derive from these. Experience has shown that the combined total of these losses often reduces the equipment’s effectiveness by 30 – 50%.
It is absolutely essential for management to clearly identify and fully understand the problems in the management system and the precise structure of the vicious circles it generates, before taking any action to reduce the number of equipment failures. Nothing will be achieved if the management aspect of equipment failure is neglected, and any efforts made to improve the technical aspect will simply go to waste.