Autonomous maintenance: your machines are now safe, clean, and reliable. How do you keep them that way?

Autonomous maintenance: your machines are now safe, clean, and reliable. How do you keep them that way?

In our previous articles we described the advantages of autonomous maintenance (AM) and how to get off to a good start. AM begins with cleaning, tidying, and troubleshooting – but how do you keep your machines running smoothly?

The answer lies in phase 2 of AM: standardizing and securing machine and environment basic conditions. 

John, the operator appointed as AM project leader for the filling machine, is satisfied with the outcome of the first phase. Everyone helped to clean up, including his production manager Robin and even the director. The work floor is spotless, and the filling machine runs well and doesn’t get dirty quickly, thanks to a few simple adjustments.

John has also laid down a clearly defined set of AM tasks and work instructions. He still uses paper lists, but is talking to Robin about switching to the EZ-GO app.

Phase 2: Performing your own inspections, maintenance, and audits

Now that the groundwork has been done, it’s time for the next step. At the moment, John and his colleagues have to call out the maintenance department for even the most trivial of tasks. Fifty percent of these are routine: standard inspections, replacing a hose, changing the oil, or calibrating the machine. They’re not happy about this.

The maintenance department should be concentrating on jobs where their expertise is really needed, and John’s team often have to wait for things they could easily do themselves. They spend all day using the machine, and are its real ‘owners’. They should be the people carrying out regular inspections and intervening before something goes wrong.

That is exactly what the second phase of AM is about: standardising and securing procedures. First of all, ensuring that operators have the technical knowledge required to carry out regular inspections and first-line maintenance. Secondly, ensuring that the new AM standards are being secured by carrying out regular audits.

Multisensory inspections

John plans a number of training meetings for operators, where the technicians teach them how to do simple maintenance themselves. On the first day, Anna explains how they can use their senses to detect the most common problems: an audible leak in an air hose, a smell that may indicate overheating, feeling if an engine has too much vibration and, of course, anything you can see if you know where to look. This is followed by other sessions on specific topics concerning this machine. Afterwards, John and his colleagues work in small groups with the mechanics to put these skills into practice.

Step by step

This takes some getting used to. The technicians sometimes find it difficult to delegate, and the operators occasionally find the new tasks a bit tricky. So John takes it one step at a time. They begin with simple inspections and maintenance tasks, with the technicians still on hand to help where needed, and then they perform more and more of these jobs independently. When all this is done, the machine is shut down for maintenance less often, because operators can perform inspections even when the line is running.

Fewer delays, higher productivity

Because the operators have increased their knowledge and are now proactively carrying out inspections and maintenance themselves, they are more likely to see where problems can arise and stay ahead of them. This makes the production process safer, and significantly reduces the number of malfunctions and stoppages, which saves an enormous amount of time because there is less need to reset the machine. This results in considerable productivity gains, and the quality of the end product is more consistent.

Getting a grip

The technicians are now free to carry out preventive maintenance and deal with larger problems where their specific skills are really needed. There is more peace and quiet on the work floor. The operators have more control over their work, feel ownership of the machine, and identify more ways to improve the process.

John is satisfied, but finds working with paper checklists, audits and instructions rather cumbersome. He looks forward to using the EZ-GO app to convert these into digital documents which can be filtered to identify the AM tasks to be carried out on specific parts at specific times. He also finds it important that operators can easily feed back their findings and suggestions. John is in discussions with EZ Factory, which promises that EZ-GO will be able to do all of these things, and Robin has already approved the budget.

In conversation

John loves the fact that the machine now performs so well, but what he finds most valuable about this AM project is his weekly audit meeting with Robin. He asks about the condition of the filling machine and the environment in which he works. Is the floor clean? Have all tasks been carried out? Are the safety standards being applied? In this way, they are able to agree improvements and respond to issues more quickly and easily than before. Running an audit is suddenly fun, because it makes John’s work easier.

Standardising and digitising

And so John moves on to phase 3 of autonomous maintenance: standardizing, optimizing and digitizing operating procedures and working towards a wholly autonomous maintenance team with a full range of specialist skills. This boosts efficiency and is also the stepping stone to real continuous improvement. Because the operators are more autonomous, they can identify and exploit opportunities for improvement at an earlier stage.

In the next article, we’ll tell you how to create an autonomous team. And we’ll show you how John uses EZ-GO to handle inspections and work instructions, and how this affects him and his colleagues.

Randy Appiah

Robert Bouwman

Founders, EZ Factory


If you want more information on how to implement Autonomous Maintenance within your factory, or take it to the next level: our partner Pontifexx can help you. Visit their website for more information:

Pontifexx Autonomous Maintenance Continuous Improvement