Integrating Lean Thinking into Maintenance for a Petrochemical Company
In its ongoing efforts to increase overall competitiveness, one of the largest independent refining and petrochemical companies in the U.S. zeroed in on maintenance processes as an area ripe for improvement. The company had a significant backlog of maintenance work across its plants, which exceed 300,000-barrel-per-day capacity.
The challenge was to identify sources of waste — mostly process inefficiency — then implement rapid improvements organization wide.
The client sought out Argo to take a leading-edge approach by implementing best practices and tools taken from traditional manufacturing improvement methodologies from multiple industries.
Argo has a track record for doing just that — adapting successful Lean Thinking tools and techniques for industries that are less familiar with those concepts, such as petrochemical manufacturing and refining.
In this case, Argo conducted a deep analysis of all maintenance processes and operations over four to five weeks. Doing so confirmed both the challenges and the size of the opportunity. Among our findings:
- Multiple barriers were preventing craftsmen from fixing equipment in a timely manner. Just to start work, they would wait on work assignment, materials, tools, and equipment. Also, shops were disorganized, causing wasted time spent locating items.
- Front-line supervisors needed training and systems to instill greater accountability and improve discipline among the craftsmen.
- Work order quality needed improvement at every step: scoping, planning, scheduling, and execution.
- Maintenance coordination among departments was lacking, impeding handoff between warehouses, mechanical shops, and the plant.
Acting as a player-coach, Argo helped the company achieve new levels of productivity thanks to several value-added initiatives:
Optimized Craft Productivity
Argo enabled the craftsmen to eliminate non value-added activities, clearing barriers to fixing equipment. Solutions include a system that enables craftsmen to come to work, get their assignment, tools, and parts, and arrive at their repair location within 30 minutes of on-duty time. The shops were organized, so that everything is close to the point of use. Also, part retrieval was streamlined. Rather than waste time walking to a warehouse to get parts, a craftsman arrives at his shop to find everything he needs has been kitted and delivered so that work can commence.
Argo worked with leaders at all levels to increase the amount of time they spend actually leading. We implemented Leader Standard Work, which includes tactics for instilling accountability. To further those efforts, highly visual boards clearly communicate what a craftsman needs to do once on duty. As a result, front line supervisors now are spending twice as much time out in the field.
Improved Maintenance Coordination
Argo created processes that improve communication and coordination between operations and maintenance, so that one group is always ready to hand off to another.
- The client is getting more done with less. The number of craftsmen has been reduced by 40 percent, but the time it takes to get maintenance done has been slashed in half.
- Risk has been greatly reduced thanks to better prioritization of work orders — pulling priorities forward to get them fixed. The most pressing jobs are getting done three times faster.
- There is tremendous buy-in on the front lines. A new performance management system keeps motivation high, and a passion to be competitive is providing the most competitive edge of all.
Argo takes pride in partnering with clients to increase their competitive advantage in their respective industries. In this case, the client is rapidly gaining ground in their industry.