Industry Week recently ran a great article on how Culture Counts and how maintenance is deeply involved in any true lean initiative. Fundamentally, lean is about finding and removing waste — and who knows more about waste than anyone else in the organization? The people who watch it go down the drain. The people who watch it get hauled away. The people who shovel it into the incinerator. In essence, the maintenance department.
A true lean initiative never reduces headcount in the maintenance department. (In fact, it might actually increase headcount in maintenance.) A true lean initiative involves maintenance from day one and gets their insight on where the most waste is produced and what methods could be used to reduce or recycle it. In true lean initiatives, the maintenance department is a strategic player who not only finds a way to reduce waste, and associated costs, but to profit off of it. Just like food waste can often be recycled into animal feed, industrial waste can often be recycled into raw materials usable in another product or industry. (And if maintenance can identify a unique recycling process that can produce secondary products that can be resold, the size of the maintenance department might actually increase as you add people to support a profitable waste recovery and recycling initiative.) And that’s why it’s not lean if you don’t engage maintenance, as you could miss the strategic opportunities without their help.