The many faces of Lean Maintenance

Lean Maintenance is the application of Lean philosophy, tools and techniques to the maintenance function. It has the same goals as the application of Lean principles to the manufacturing function: eliminating wasted time, effort and material (and resulting cost) while improving throughput and quality.

By Bruce Hawkins, CMRP, CPMM, Life Cycle Engineering September 1, 2005

Sections: 5-S process Eliminate the “Seven Deadly Wastes” Kaizen Jidoka (Quality at the Source) Just In Time TheBottomLine…

Sidebars: Toyota christens national customer center Jasinowski to speak at InfraMation 2005

Lean Maintenance is the application of Lean philosophy, tools and techniques to the maintenance function. It has the same goals as the application of Lean principles to the manufacturing function: eliminating wasted time, effort and material (and resulting cost) while improving throughput and quality.

As Lean Manufacturing seeks to provide products at the highest quality at the lowest cost in the shortest possible time, Lean Maintenance provides the same attributes to the maintenance function. In fact, Lean Manufacturing depends highly on reliable systems and equipment to achieve its potential.

Lean does not imply cutting the fat or eliminating jobs. It is not an attempt to reduce cost through headcount reductions, which typically don’t have anything to do with reducing work. Lean organizations reduce costs by eliminating activities that don’t add value to the product stream. It means reassigning people and resources from unnecessary work to value-adding work.

Many tools used to implement Lean principles in manufacturing operations also apply to implementing Lean Maintenance. These tools include:

5-S process

Elimination of the Seven Deadly Wastes


Jidoka (Quality at the Source)

JIT (Just in Time).

5-S process

The 5-S process is a method for ensuring workplace cleanliness, order and organization and should be at the heart of any reliability improvement initiative. It consists of five fundamental steps:

Sort — Get rid of accumulated junk that has no value to the job at hand. In Maintenance, this includes removing everything that does not add value to the work being done — components from broken machinery, unrepaired spare assemblies and tools, obsolete charts and graphs and “abandoned-in-place” equipment and piping systems. If it is not needed for the job at hand, it needs to be eliminated.

Straighten — Organize what remains after the first step. Consider the flow of work through the area and position equipment and storage facilities to eliminate lost motion and wasted travel. A craftsperson should not have to search for a tool or move something out of the way to begin work.

Scrub/Shine — Workplace cleanliness is the next step. Precision work requires a clean work environment. Shop spaces used to rebuild equipment should approach “clean room” standards. Remove all dust, dirt and contamination. Seal concrete floors so that spills are easily cleaned. Repair lighting fixtures and paint the work area with light colors — a brightly lit work environment is much more likely to remain clean. Deteriorating equipment conditions are more easily spotted when not covered by contamination.

Standardize — When the workplace is clean and organized, it must be kept that way. A system should be put into place that ensures the condition of the work area does not degrade. Visual controls can be used at the equipment level — registration marks on fasteners, color coding correct operating ranges on gauges and matched marking assemblies are examples.

Sustain — A process for conducting audits on a regular basis should be considered. When management shows a concern for workplace condition, it is much more likely to remain in good shape. Every employee must understand the need for safety, order and cleanliness. The facility should be kept in “tour condition” at all times.

Eliminate the “Seven Deadly Wastes”

As stated earlier, Lean focuses on eliminating waste from a process. In Lean Maintenance, we also have opportunities to streamline our work processes and eliminate waste. There are seven types of waste that are of concern:

Overproduction — In the Maintenance function, overproduction is doing any work that does not add value. Excessive preventive maintenance, using predictive maintenance technologies that are not applicable to the equipment being monitored, repeating jobs because they were not done correctly the first time and allowing unnecessary or non-value added work to be performed are examples.

Waiting — The biggest waste of craft capacity stems from waiting. Typical areas where this loss occurs include waiting to be assigned a job, waiting at the storeroom issue window, waiting for equipment clearance, waiting for other crafts to show up, waiting for permit approval, waiting for the supervisor to answer a technical question and waiting for access to a computer to document work history.

Transportation — In Maintenance, this loss occurs when people are required to travel unnecessarily. Causes include ineffective planning (traveling to the shop to get technical information or special tools, traveling to the storeroom for parts), poorly designed PM routes, and improper coordination of work.

Processing — Processing wastes occur when inefficiencies exist that require redundant steps or extra work. Examples of this waste in Maintenance are poorly designed work order systems that require multiple entries of the same data, a material requisitioning process that requires redundant approvals and ineffective job plans that create backtracking or unnecessary steps.

Inventory — Excessive inventory of materials ties up working capital and consumes resources to manage it. Examples of waste in the spare parts management system include an inability to identify obsolete parts, “hidden” storage areas such as lockers and toolboxes, multiple entries of the same part in the parts management system and incorrect settings for minimums and maximums.

Motion — Motion losses occur when we have to make unnecessary movements to perform a particular task. In Maintenance, this arises when we have poor shop or storeroom layouts; poor storage techniques for O&M manuals, drawings and loop sheets; and not kitting materials for planned work.

Defects — The causes of defects in the Maintenance function are numerous. Defects due to poor workmanship arise from inadequate training, ineffective procedures and not having proper tools to do the job. Defects can be produced during unnecessary intrusive PM tasks. Improper storage and handling techniques can produce defects in spare parts. Inadequate installation methods are also responsible for defects in equipment.


“Kaizen” is a Japanese word for “continuous improvement.” In Lean Manufacturing implementations, Kaizen events are focused, intensive rapid improvement efforts using cross-functional teams targeted at a specific problem or opportunity. These events generate significant momentum and energy and get a lot of people involved in making improvements. They create a step change in improvement and demonstrate the desired “end state” for long term continuous improvement.

In maintenance, Kaizen events can be used for focused reliability improvement. A system or equipment item that suffers chronic failures is a perfect target. The event usually begins with a simplified failure mode and effects analysis where failure modes are listed and prioritized according to impact (frequency and duration). The team analyzes the high priority failure modes to determine their causes and brainstorms solutions. The best solutions are selected, implemented and the results are monitored to verify their effectiveness. The team may also put plans in place to extend the solution to similar equipment in other areas of the facility, as well as performing “configuration management” tasks such as updating drawings and CMMS records.

Jidoka (Quality at the Source)

Lean Manufacturing organizations adhere to the philosophy that quality should be built in, not inspected in. Maintenance organizations need to abide by this philosophy as well. Jidoka is the concept that machines should not be allowed to make inferior products — if it’s not running right, it should be stopped and corrected immediately. To impart a concern for quality in Maintenance, several things should happen:

Establish an expectation that quality workmanship is an expectation, not an option (it is always faster to do it right than to do it over)

Establish an effective skills evaluation and training program. Quality workmanship comes from knowing how to do it right

Maximize the planning effort. Complete job plans with specification and tolerance detail must be in the hands of the craftspeople. No one can carry that information in memory for all plant equipment.

Establish a “post-maintenance testing” requirement for critical equipment that requires the equipment operator and the craftsperson that did the work to verify that the desired result was achieved

Investigate all “rework” events to determine the cause.

Just In Time

Just in Time is a philosophy where materials are ordered when needed and raw material inventory is minimized. Inventory is costly to hold, so it should be as low as possible while still meeting the needs of the business. In Maintenance, inventory is spare parts and materials. The volume of materials in maintenance stores can represent a huge cost — up to 20% of the total inventory value annually in some organizations.

Stores inventory should be minimized. One technique is to use the JIT philosophy for materials where possible. Obviously, parts needed for breakdown repairs have to be stocked, but materials for planned work can be purchased as needed. Since the amount of inventory needed is based on usage, reducing usage through JIT purchasing where possible results in lower inventory requirement.

In summary, the Maintenance function can learn a lot from our Lean Manufacturing partners. Implementing Lean Maintenance — a focus on eliminating waste from the business processes we use in Maintenance — can pay big dividends in improving reliability while reducing costs. Either way, you win!


Lean strategies can apply to maintenance in the same way they apply to manufacturing.

Common Lean strategies, such as Kaizen, Jidoka and Just In Time, have specific uses in the maintenance function.

Measuring the maintenance function for efficiency, use of inventory and productivity can pay big dividends.

Author Information

Bruce Hawkins, CMRP, CPMM, is Process/Product Development Manager for Life Cycle Engineering, Charleston, SC. He is also author of the book “Lean Maintenance: Reduce Costs, Improve Quality and Increase Market Share” with Ricky Smith. For more information on this book, go to

Toyota christens national customer center

Rolling out the orange carpet, Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing formally opened its National Customer Center on Aug. 2. The event celebrated the eighth expansion of the Columbus, IN facility since opening in 1990, and showcased a unique experience for customers.

“Our customers drive our business,” said Dr. Shankar Basu , president and CEO of Toyota Material Handling USA. This celebration is not only to commemorate a new facility; it is to mark a commitment to our customers.”

It was also an event that brought out a distinguished dais, including Tetsuro (Ted) Toyoda, president of Toyota Industrial Corporation, and Indiana Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman.

“Toyota committed to the North American market in 1967, and in 1990, the first lift truck built in North America was built at this plant,” Toyoda said. “It is important to demonstrate our continuous commitment to the North American market.”

The customer experience starts with a private jet trip from anywhere in the U.S. to Columbus, a customized presentation of products and information in the facility’s state-of-the-art theater. The theater wall rises after the video presentation to reveal the center’s demonstration room. The tour is concluded with a tour of the manufacturing facility and a jet ride home.

The 108,000 square foot, $11 million expansion brings the total facility size to more than 860,000 square feet. The Columbus plant employs more than 760 employees, up from 80 when the plant opened.

Jasinowski to speak at InfraMation 2005

Former National Association of Manufacturers president Jerry Jasinowski will provide the keynote at the InfraMation 2005 Conference , to be held October 17-21, 2005 at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas.

Jasinowski served as NAM president from 1990 until his retirement in 2004. He is now president of The Manufacturing Institute, the research and education arm of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).

Under Jasinowski’s leadership, the NAM helped shape national policies on a broad range of issues, focusing on enhancing productivity and economic growth; improving monetary policy; reducing taxes; advancing technology improvements; improving education and employee training; and increasing international trade.

InfraMation 2005 provides a wide range of information on infrared and thermal imaging applications. Experts will cover such topics as plant predictive maintenance, thermal research and development, online process monitoring and control and nondestructive testing. The event is organized and presented by FLIR Systems and the Infrared Training Center .

For more information or to register for the conference, contact Jon Richards at (800) 254-0632 or go to