Focus on four strategies for a 'Super Lean' operation

CMMS can help companies that utilize lean manufacturing in eliminating waste in inventory, waiting, defects, and underused employee creativity.


CMMS holds the key to helping an enterprise shift from Lean to "Super Lean." Specifically, it tackles at least four of the seven fundamental "wastes" that must be eliminated to create a Lean working environment: inventory, waiting, defects, and underused employee creativity.

Here is how a modern CMMS contributes to optimizing maintenance in each of these four areas where no company can afford to waste resources:


Managing inventory is often labeled as one of the worst of the wastes in Lean business philosophy—because inventory does not obviously add value for clients and it can tie up space as well as working capital. Handling inventory in the most efficient manner possible, then, is an essential component of Lean operations. With a cloud-based CMMS, users can increase efficiency by scanning barcodes on spare parts, making it easier to track and replace those parts.

Essentially, the CMMS automates numerous tasks associated with the day-to-day ordering, replenishing, and recalculation of inventory counts. It can also provide automatic e-mails to notify maintenance personnel when parts fall below re-order levels, match up spare-parts barcodes to work orders, and adjust the inventory database. And, even with physical counts, the CMMS reduces waste. For instance, suppose the CMMS database lists 100 cases of motor oil in inventory, but the physical count shows only 80. That gap can be investigated to find the root cause of the waste: Are staff members taking more than they need, or were some of the cases damaged or stolen?

With intuitively designed CMMS, it becomes much easier to analyze data that points to wastage—a fundamental practice in the Lean-management approach. In addition, the CMMS also offers the option of leveraging just-in-time (JIT) inventory procedures. Instead of having to keep excess parts on hand, a JIT inventory system can be set up companywide, making it possible to order parts in time to complete a work order, or even to pick up parts from other departments or sites within the company.

At the same time, a modern CMMS can also reduce the amount of parts used through a predictive maintenance (PdM) approach. By performing preventive maintenance (PM) when required rather than when a calendar dictates, it becomes possible to reduce corrective work orders, thus reducing the need for spare parts.


The very word "waiting" implies a period of time when nothing is happening-and if nothing is going on, then no value is being created. If a piece of equipment is down and staffers are standing around waiting for repairs to be made, there is a waste of labor resources and no product can roll off the line. Anything that can be done to reduce downtime clearly reduces waste, and nothing cuts downtime better than a predictive maintenance strategy supported by a robust CMMS.

Lean maintenance can be taken to a higher level when the CMMS is combined with an OPC server to set up PMs and work orders based on actual equipment usage, hours run, number of units produced, or other meter reading—the same PdM approach cited earlier. The impact of an intelligent PdM strategy on Lean operations cannot be underestimated. If a motor burns out, that's waste. If a PM is in place to repair that motor before it goes down, that's Lean. And when assets stay up, waiting goes down.


Instead of adding value for a customer, defects in products or services only subtract from it. When customers reject defective items, it costs the company all of the time, material, and labor that went into producing those products. Similarly, complaints about services also take time and extra processing to rectify. In manufacturing, if equipment is not properly calibrated, it leads to a waste of finished goods.

To eliminate defects and make operations Leaner, CMMS can be employed to analyze maintenance issues using problem codes and cause codes. That data can then be applied to create remedies or improvements in manufacturing operations or equipment use.

CMMS also provides a work-order history that can be examined to expose recurring problems. That history can help pinpoint the performance issues with specific machinery that created the defective products. Addressing those issues lowers the rate of defects and cuts the fat from operations.

Unused employee creativity

The concept of not squandering employee creativity was one of the newer ideas added to the original list of wastes to avoid in Lean operations. It is now an essential part of that list.

One of the pitfalls on the path to becoming more efficient is the confusion between creating a Lean environment and doing more with less, which often translates to operating with less staff. For instance, it could be argued that a company will reduce waste by laying off employees. But that philosophy can lead to burnout among the employees who remain with the company and are expected to do more with less.

There can be greater return on investment in creating a smart, well-thought-out plan for reducing waste and using a CMMS to optimize PMs, eliminate unnecessary inventory, and employ staffers strategically. A CMMS with job-planning capabilities enables managers to assign staff members at appropriate times so they are neither over- nor underused. Job planning via the CMMS also helps bring more balance to the maintenance schedule because staff members can be re-assigned according to their workloads.

This flexibility helps reduce overtime, which not only saves money for the company, but also enables employees to find a better work-life balance-since they do not have to rush away from family activities because a machine has broken down after their shift is over. It also decreases staff burnout, which allows employees to contribute their ideas and creativity for a healthier—and Leaner—work environment.

Paul Lachance is president and chief technology officer for Smartware Group, producer of Bigfoot CMMS. Lachance has been developing and perfecting the company's CMMS solution for the maintenance professional for 20 years. Contact Lachance at

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