For one of the largest heavy construction firms in North Carolina, getting a handle on inventory control and standardizing maintenance procedures are the keys to future growth and competitiveness. These challenges pressed S.T. Wooten to transform its business through inventory and maintenance control processes and systems to make it more competitive and profitable. These improvements were part of the company’s Total Process Reliability (TPR) efforts.
The new operator care program takes advantage of the greatest resource in anticipating, finding, and even correcting problems with rolling stock before it becomes a problem. “Since operators spend the most time with the equipment, we’re training them on what to look for so that they can take on part of the maintenance by performing routine lubrications and checking the machine over,” says Kelly Webb, logistics manager. “By knowing these ins and outs, they can notice when there is something wrong, so they can report these corrective maintenance needs.”
The company has created operator care standards—using the OEM standards of each vendor for each piece of equipment—that coincide with a machine-based checklist. The checklist goes with every specific piece of equipment, based on manufacturer and model, and is used for daily operator inspections and greasing standards.
Operators complete the inspection checklist every day at the start of the shift and perform the necessary routine maintenance, such as greasing and cleaning. Each piece of equipment has a black box that contains the operator’s manual, plus the operator care standards, including the inspection and greasing checklists, grease gun, tools, and other items relevant to operator care.
In order to provide operators with the necessary training to fulfill this vital role, the company brings the operators and the specific piece of equipment into the shop. Using Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) principles devised by Japanese engineer Seiichi Nakajima and adapted by TBR consultants, the company learns how to increase equipment reliability, decrease downtime, and create a unified asset management process.
This is exemplified using clean, lubricate, adjust, inspect, repair, and eliminate (CLAIRE) and equipment improvement teams (EIT) training. With training from Raleigh-based TBR Strategies consultants, an internal three-person TPR department conducted the training process in numerous scheduled events that took place over the course of a week.
Here, the team works with the operator to go over the machine based on the operator care standards. This includes any needed cleaning and painting, as well as parts replacement and minor repairs needed to bring the machine back up to standards.
Once completed, they outfit it with its own operator care black box and decal, showing the machine is up to standards. “We’re a huge company, so in addition to learning a lot about TPR and how it will transform our operational culture, they get an opportunity to meet and work with people from other divisions that they otherwise would never meet, which forms relationships that make the company stronger,” explains Webb.
The company also trains managers on these standards. The managers participate in annual meetings to discuss progress, challenges, and upcoming steps for TPR. This enables them to assist field operators with equipment compliance accountability. The company’s size has required a gradual implementation process, which accounts for the extended rollout time.
“Once everyone’s trained on operator care, we’ll have a team of over 130 trained operator care auditors that can ensure standards adherence,” explains Webb. “This includes providing a grade score for machines and their operators so that any deficiencies can be immediately addressed by supervisors to get the equipment back up to standards.”
Daily checklists are passed from operators to supervisors, then to superintendents, and finally to the TPR department with compliance checks along the way. The TPR department then electronically scans the checklist into a document manager for processing and equipment history tracking.
So far, the changes have been dramatic in terms of time and cost savings. For example, 2015 savings yielded a 10 percent reduction in maintenance and repair costs over 2014. Planned maintenance and inventory control protocols significantly reduced the time for conducting repairs, doubling planned maintenance activities over the previous year.
Additionally, the company is seeing about a 95 percent scheduled compliance with PMs while netting a 30 percent reduction in overtime, with more gains to come.
A newly instituted operator hotline enables operators to call from the field for emergency repair assessment that follows a prescribed corrective plan. The hotline routes non-emergency calls to corrective maintenance in order to provide ample time for troubleshooting, parts and kit assembly for the mechanic, and repair scheduling. The new inventory control system enables maintenance providers and mechanics to see available inventory at both locations from their side of the system and have it delivered by Holcomb.
All non-emergency repairs now have coordinated shutdowns for the repair at non-peak production times for the field operation, which minimizes costly downtime, lowers repair costs, and therefore operational costs. “The old way created a ripple effect with whole crews, jobs, and schedules disrupted, which ultimately affects the bottom line,” explains Webb. “This new process allows us to standardize so that we’re maximizing mechanic wrench time, minimizing production impact, and tracking repairs for better metrics on equipment lifecycles.”
With several months left until the completion of inventory control for the equipment division, the next step is to move to plant maintenance operations, which, in essence starts the process all over again with a different part of the company. At that point, they will move to the company’s six satellite locations from eastern North Carolina to the Greensboro and Raleigh areas, where they have shops and jobs.
The road to efficiency is a long one that must be paved with the right methodologies, processes, and technology. As S.T. Wooten continues down that road, the well-constructed bridges and structures that seamlessly integrate those processes, methodologies, and technology will bring greater bottom-line gains the further they go. ■
About The Author: E. Victor Brown is a freelance writer specializing in technology, data, and processes with an emphasis in healthcare, business, manufacturing, and industrial sectors. He can be reached at .
Modern Contractor Solutions – February 2016
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