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December 14, 2023

| 2 min read

The connection between lean manufacturing and maintenance

We’ve talked about all kinds of maintenance strategies here on the Fiix blog (most recently, total productive maintenance). There are a number of ways a maintenance manager can choose to run their team’s activities. But how does maintenance fit under the larger umbrella of lean manufacturing? We’ll start to explore that by looking at the relationship between lean manufacturing and maintenance.

Let’s begin by defining the concept: Lean manufacturing aims at minimizing waste, and its premise is a philosophy, set of tools and techniques, way of thinking, and way of life. That being said, we need to understand the most common causes of waste within manufacturing first, before we understand the connection between maintenance strategies and lean manufacturing.

Ten causes of production waste

  1. Overproduction: This happens when something is made before it’s actually needed, which can lead to excess inventory.
  2. Waiting: This refers to the time added by a work-in-process waiting for the next stage of production.
  3. Transport: The unnecessary movement of anything in the production process, from raw materials to works in process to finished goods.
  4. Motion: This is considered as any unnecessary movement between locations that is done by the people involved in the production process.
  5. Overprocessing: This refers to processing more than what is needed to produce what the customer needs.
  6. Inventory: This means any product quantities that go beyond supporting immediate production needs.
  7. Defects: Defects occur when there is production that is scrapped or needs to be reworked.
  8. Wasted human potential: This is a slightly more abstract form of waste, and simply refers to any unused human potential, which is the responsibility of management.
  9. Underutilized equipment: If machinery and equipment are not used to their full capacity, it can be considered a form of waste.
  10. Lack of standardization: Inconsistent processes and a lack of standardized work procedures can lead to variations in product quality and increase the likelihood of defects.

Linking lean manufacturing and maintenance

As you can see, manufacturing waste can come from virtually anywhere. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that there are a staggering number of lean manufacturing concepts and tools out there for facilities to explore. In fact, there are several different tools that relate to the lean strategy, including:

If these look familiar, it’s because most of them are part of a total productive maintenance strategy (total productive maintenance itself is even listed as a tool for lean manufacturing).

The goal of total productive maintenance is to remove deficiencies that cause defects or downtime by getting everyone in a facility to participate in maintenance. If a maintenance team wasn’t employing a TPM strategy, it stands to reason that they wouldn’t be doing all that they could to eliminate waste, as the lean framework mandates.

Understand the difference between Six Sigma and lean manufacturing

Manufacturing and maintenance go hand-in-hand

To conclude, what does maintenance have to do with lean manufacturing? A lot, if you want to embrace the manufacturing strategy fully. Truly embracing a total productive maintenance (TPM) mindset will help teams eliminate excess inventory, reduce downtime, and ensure time isn’t wasted on avoidable maintenance emergencies.

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