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Mike Monday and Knee Jerk Maintenance

January 19, 2018

The last two weeks have been rough and it’s because I am missing something important.

It started with fixing the leaking cylinder. It worked, for half a day. The problem is much deeper than a leaky cylinder, half the machine needs replacing! We’ve put that project on the backburner while we wait for parts. Everyone else is as frustrated as I am, but we’re moving onto some of the other machines around the shop.

When I say everyone else, I mean the two people who have been hired to help maintain the machines- Seth and Carrie. Seth is fresh from high school and has a knack for the mechanical. He’s taking night classes for engineering. Carrie transferred over to the maintenance department from the office. Said she prefers hands on maintenance rather than over the phone. Also, one of the office managers has taken an interest in our team, his name is Thomas. He used to run a maintenance program at another plant years ago and will help us any way he can.

We’ll need all the help we can get- because most of the systems are near critical failure. We’ve had to respond to one emergency repair after another. My co-workers keep using phrases like- “that’s the way it’s always been,” or “it’s supposed to be a tough job.” I died a little inside when, upon inspecting a bearing, the outer ring fell apart in my hands. We ordered another and shut down the machine for the day with a familiar frustration. Thomas came out to the shop and looked at the remains of the metal ring, he was less than enthused too.

“Production is the name of the game. If we’re not producing we’re wasting time and money.”

I agreed. “These machines aren’t being well cared for, plain and simple. Whoever was taking care of them before didn’t do a good job.”

“Don’t think about what he did, you already saw what he did. Think about what you can do, that’s why you were hired, right?”

Thomas, with his thin wire framed glasses and mostly grayed hair, said this to my team with a calm authority. He was right- it is useless to talk about the last guy who didn’t do his job. Blaming someone else accomplishes nothing and wastes time.

So, with that in mind, I met with Seth and Carrie and we determined what action to take first. To their credit they never complained about the previous maintenance tech. They are focused on action, and that’s good.

First- we’re putting together a list of every machine and their components. If this isn’t done now we’ll never break the cycle of endless repairs. We’re still missing an important link in our chain and finding it is important. Knowing what we have can only help us.

Second- we’ll prioritize the machines on the list. Which machines are most vital to production? Which components need the most attention? Which parts are the most dangerous if they fail? These are a few of the criteria we’ll have to consider.

The goal here is to move away from the knee jerk maintenance that’s been established and accepted. This will require massive changes over the long haul and re-thinking how we work. I’m going to get to it.