It takes a determined leader with the right tools to create notable change worth over $50M
A global mining company with a very large asset base focused on the mining and processing of precious metals and minerals suffered from throughput losses due to unreliable equipment performance. They created a vision to re-imagine mining in a way that it has a positive impact on their employees, including the creation of predictable work environment where machines perform as desired. Their vision included a goal to achieve operational performance that was above the industry benchmark. T.A. Cook, part of Accenture, was selected to help achieve improvements in asset performance excellence using a technique we call Precision Maintenance (PrM). PrM provides the impetus for transitioning from a reactive, or break-fix, maintenance culture to an environment where breakdowns are managed with a proactive defect management mindset.
When tasked with the requirement to support a culture change from the top-down and bottom-up, a program was created to integrate precision maintenance as the way of working throughout the organization. Precision maintenance brings attention to defect avoidance in these areas:
– Mechanical fastening including threaded fasteners, belts, and welding
– Electrical fastening
– Lubrication practices for both oil and grease-based systems
– Alignment for shafts and pulleys
– Mechanical and electrical balancing for rotating equipment
– Hydraulic system contamination control and appropriate component maintenance
Action items from root cause analysis findings are developed in such a way that the contributing defects are avoided in future instances, instead of being repeatedly corrected by reactive maintenance. Additionally, improved utilization and interpretation of condition monitoring methods such as ultrasonic fastener tension measurement, vibration analysis, infrared thermography, and tribology (oil analysis) helps elevate equipment health. For example, if craftspeople were previously using soapy water to find air leaks, they were enabled to use ultrasonic acoustic emissions measurement for safer, faster, and more accurate results.
For sustainability, the program also featured structured learning for a full cross-section of the engineering and maintenance organization accompanied by a coaching and mentoring approach for first- and second-line staff to help operationalize the desired practices. Engineering teams engaged to integrate fit, tolerance, quantity, and quality details in maintenance work instructions. Meanwhile, over 1,500 front-line workers were educated in precision maintenance principles of vibration and friction reduction by improving simple activities such as fastening, lubrication, alignment, balance, and hydraulic systems maintenance.
A common response to why certain questionable practices existed in the first place was, “That’s just the way we’ve always done it.” For the transition to a precision maintenance culture, an environment where everyone is empowered with the knowledge to challenge “business as usual” had to be fostered. While training and field coaching in precision maintenance provided technicians with a knowledge refresher, it also added techniques to avoid and eliminate defects. This is what set the culture change in motion, paired with the leadership drive to support their teams’ journey to a new business as usual by providing tools and in-field guidance. This was the successful recipe for a prominent leader at one of the initial mining operations who proved to their team the value of attending to the details. This success provided a near-40% improvement in production throughput within 18 months!
The champion location noted a measurable reduction in equipment breakdown and realized an increase of maintenance work accuracy by over 10% through a decrease in rework. As a positive side-effect of this leadership team’s determination, this operation realized over 35% improvement in their production output, and this is just the beginning of the corporation’s journey. The overall program is on track to realize circa 5% increase in overall production via 10-15% reduction in maintenance preventable downtime. What it will continue to take are determined leaders supporting their teams by asking the right questions as their team’s become better equipped with the right knowledge.