In our Lunch and Learn session 4th of April 2022, we, among other things, talked about the importance of cooperation between production and maintenance people.

People is a keyword here since it’s not the department itself but communication on an individual level. We can improve this communication and minimize downtime by providing the right tools and technology.

Effective basic communication

Let’s look at an actual use case where we have an operator who needs to change some tool or has a problem with a machine and needs to make a “tool request.” This is where time often is lost, reaching out and trying to find and reach (chase, call, email) the right contact person to solve this request.

We at Novacura suggest a better, more practical, and time-saving solution – to do this on a mobile device. You know that it will be notified directly by the best possible resource in the maintenance department.

Effective communication for tool requests:

  • Request or order new tools or spare parts directly from the work center
  • Observe the progress of requested tools or parts in the app
  • Standardize maintenance tasks with guidelines for operations
  • Require users to complete a maintenance checklist

Collaboration between the operator and maintenance

In the lunch and learn session Östen gives us a practical example by looking at both production and maintenance next to each other to illustrate a typical process of a problem.

As shown in the illustration below, the first thing people in production do when something doesn’t work as it should is to try to fix it independently.

This process varies in the time since it could take a few seconds to restart a machine, or it could be a lengthy process even if they have the skills to solve it. They often have instructions to reach out for help – might be the instrumental, electrical, or mechanical department of your maintenance organization. First, you need to report a problem, get some help and then start looking at how to fix it and let them do the actual repair before you can be up and running again.

This typical situation gives us a couple of lead times to measure:

  • Wasted:
    Wasted time might be a harsh word, but unfortunately, the time is wasted when we try to fix the problem independently but fail. Some companies set the rule not to do this alone or have a maximum of 5 minutes to solve it on your own to avoid wasted time.
  • Mean Time Waiting (MTW):
    When someone reports an issue, there will be a lead time until someone starts working on this problem and that is the lead time we call “Mean-Time-Waiting.”
  • Mean Time To Repair (MTTR):
    The actual time it takes to fix this problem. The actual repair is where most companies perform well but still have room to save some wasted time. In the presentation, Östen tells us about a company that managed to eliminate wasted time in MTT, by requiring the operator to stay by the machine during the repair. That way, the person from the maintenance department could get background information on the issue, get some assistance if needed, and the operator will be ready to switch at the same time as the problem was removed/fixed.
  • Start-up time:
    The start-up time refers to the time it takes to get back on track after the repair. As mentioned in Östens’ example above – there might be some wasted time since the operator needs to get back and start it up again. By requiring the operator to stand by the machine, the switch can be made immediately when the repair is ready, eliminating wasted time.

Eliminate downtime with automation

When evaluating the downtime for this type of problem, you need to calculate the whole production stop. 

We now know that there are several ways of minimizing downtime. One solution is to automate the communication between production and maintenance.

With our BPM platform, Novacura Flow, a notification can be sent to the maintenance person right after the downtime starts. This way, even if the operator believes that he can solve the problem by himself, the maintenance team is immediately notified about the problem. It is not the “call for help” at this time, but they can start preparation, just in case when the operator fails. They can utilize this additional time to collect appropriate tools and spare parts and allocate specialists. Novacura Flow will automatically notify the maintenance again if the production operator didn’t fix the problem after a specific time (timeout). In that case, Novacura Flow will no longer wait for the operator and will call the maintenance for help, even if the operator still believes that he can fix it independently. This timeout is based on the statistical analysis – typically, if the operator can’t quickly fix the problem in less than i.e. 10 minutes (this time may be very different for different industries and even work centers), the probability that he will be able to fix it by himself is lower than 5%.

To summarize

There are several ways to minimize downtime by communicating between production and maintenance better. When analyzing the whole downtime process, we can see that automation of manual tasks is an effective way of minimizing wasted time. With Novacura Flow, manual tasks can be removed and replaced by automatic communication between production and maintenance, saving time and eliminating downtime.