Posted on June 1, 2015 · Posted in Uncategorized
Most of us are familiar with Standard Work and the need to have only one standard way we build a product or provide a service.  We know that having only one way to do things makes our processes more reliable.  Standardizing equipment provides the same benefits.
I’ve been in plants where there were machines from 5 or more different Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM’s), all performing the identical function.  I’ve also been in factories in which they had standardized on a single OEM, but had multiple different models of the same equipment.
Although there are a plethora of reasons to standardize equipment, I’d like to focus on only three: spare parts, maintenance and operator “flexing.”
SPARE PARTS:  Consider this.  Most OEM’s change key components of their machines whenever they change the overall design. When you have multiple models of the same OEM’s equipment; or, the equipment of multiple OEM’s, that means maintaining spares of each unique critical part.  Failing to do so could mean prolonging downtime by days, weeks or even months.
MAINTENANCE:  Each time you add a different machine design, it means training maintenance personnel in the maintenance of each new variation, or purchasing an expensive repair contract.
OPERATOR “FLEXING”: Flexing is the practice of moving operators from one process or machine to another as demand changes.  When a process has multiple types of machines, it often limits the number of operators trained to perform their job on all pieces of equipment.  That, in turn, reduces the ability of leaders to flex, thus limiting their ability to react to changes in the product design, market or workplace.
I’ve been in factories that had been around since WWII.  There were seven or more different models of machines from the same OEM performing the same job.  Can you see how big the problem becomes when you try to stock all those motors, gearboxes, control station components and ancillary spare parts?  The cost of all those parts ties up valuable working capital.  
Then factor in the cost of the brick and mortar necessary to warehouse them all.  That space generates no income, nor can it be used for anything else.
So, rule of thumb: find the most reliable equipment and, as you expand, purchase more of it: same make, same model.  
Where should you look?  The used equipment market.  Often, there are firms that specialize in refurbishing such equipment before it even arrives at your facility.
  • you only need to store spare parts for one model
  • you can train maintenance personnel in maintaining only one model
  • you can train operators in operating only one model

Each of those will provide you competitive advantage in the world of ever hastening global competition.