Strategic maintenance

In his new book, Making Common Sense Common Practice , Ron Moore makes an eloquent argument for the strategic role that maintenance needs to play in modern manufacturing. Unfortunately, according to the data he presents, not many manufacturers recognize that role. Or, at least, they're not demonstrating that they believe in it to the point of supporting it adequately.
By Richard L. Dunn Editor April 15, 2002

In his new book, Making Common Sense Common Practice , Ron Moore makes an eloquent argument for the strategic role that maintenance needs to play in modern manufacturing. Unfortunately, according to the data he presents, not many manufacturers recognize that role. Or, at least, they’re not demonstrating that they believe in it to the point of supporting it adequately.

People in the maintenance function themselves are partly to blame. As Moore points out, “There’s more glory today in fixing things after they become a problem than there is in stopping them from happening in the first place.”

But there are plants and companies that use the tools Moore describes and take the high road to maintenance. They’re known as world-class plants with world-class maintenance. And they are invariably more profitable than their less-enlightened counterparts.

One such plant is discussed in our cover story on AK Steel Rockport Works. Although it just started operations in 1998, it has already proved itself to be a world-class performer in the steel industry. A hefty share of the credit goes to its emphasis on maintenance.

From the plant floor to the top floor, maintenance excellence is part of the AK Steel culture. And it’s recognized as a key to operational performance and profits. Chairman, CEO, and President Richard Wardrop made sure that maintenance issues were addressed while the plant was still a gleam in the designers’ eyes. And management has given it a high priority ever since.

Reading Moore’s book, one has to wonder if maybe Rockport Works had an advance copy. Moore makes the case that strategic asset management, predictive maintenance, and root cause analysis are major factors in production reliability and productivity. Rockport Works proves his point. Uptime at the plant is 90%, and if you remove downtime factors other than maintenance, it’s an astonishing 96.5%. Now that’s world class.

Granted, it doesn’t hurt to have a plant that’s only 4 yr old. But Rockport Works intends to keep operating at those levels — and even improve on them. The commitment to strategic maintenance became clear when the plant was first becoming operational. As various production lines were starting, there was considerable pressure, for example, to take people away from predictive maintenance baseline data gathering to help with other construction and startup activities. But Maintenance Manager Dennis Brickley asked for and received support to continue with his plan. That’s strategic thinking.

Ron Moore would be proud.