The Operations Director is visiting for an inspection: no problem!

The Operations Director visits for inspection: no problem!

In our previous blogs, we followed operator John, autonomous maintenance project leader, as he implemented AM together with his team. The factory floor was cleaned up, procedures were standardised and all operators have now been trained to perform simple maintenance and standard audits themselves. Since the project kicked off last year, the factory has undergone a true transformation – just in time for the annual inspection by the Global Operations Director.

It is an annual ritual: the inspection by the Global Operations Director, Mr. Müller – a surly German who is certain to frown when you explain something. John used to be very apprehensive before this inspection. He would spend several days cleaning up and improving on the production manager’s instructions to make sure everything was done by the book during the high-profile visit. Things would go wrong as a result of the stress, and yet another warning from headquarters would follow. But this year will be different. This morning, production manager Robin asked John to do the tour himself.

And John is looking forward to it, for he has a success story to share.

John enters through the platform, glances at the factory floor, and asks himself what still needs to be cleaned up and resolved before Mr. Müller’s visit the next day. He smiles: not a single thing. All they need to do is follow their standard routine.

Improved numbers

John and his team have come a long way since the early days of the project. First the total clean-out, where even Robin lent a helping hand. Next, they addressed all defects, pollution sources and hazardous situations. The team had been somewhat resisting the changes at first, but everyone’s enthusiasm was triggered after the clean-out. No wonder, since work was now a lot more pleasant and convenient. Next, the mechanics trained the operators to perform standard maintenance tasks and audits themselves. This has taken a load off the mechanics, who can now focus on fundamental preventive maintenance and greater issues that truly demand their expertise. John has enjoyed the fruits of his labour as well. Robin and the director were so impressed by John’s results, that he got promoted to team leader.

John and Robin have been seeing the numbers improve in their monthly meetings; fewer brief interruptions, higher productivity, a clear safety improvement and a higher output quality. Rather than talking about problems, they now find themselves mostly discussing growth opportunities.


In order to keep it manageable for the operation, the implementation proceeded line by line until all five production lines had been transformed. Each line went faster than the one before. Another contributing factor was their implementation of the EZ-GO app for work instructions, minor maintenance and audits. John had to bend over backwards to persuade Robin that digitisation was the right way forward: Robin thought that paper checklists and work instructions were just fine. But when John invited Robin to join him for a couple of audits, the production manager was quickly sold on the idea

Within just half a day of training and a week to load all the instructions into the app, they were operational. A long list of work instructions was reduced to just the portion that is relevant at that point in time and for that specific machine. The addition of useful photos and videos has eliminated the need for lengthy written instructions. The same goes for audits. Updating a procedure and publishing the update for all to see has become as easy as pie. Deviations are now reported in the app and if necessary, a photo or video can be added with the tap of a button.

The floor has been adapted as well: lines and dots indicate the correct location for each activity to ensure checks are always conducted in the same way. This saves a lot of time as inspections are always done correctly the first time around. People are having a hard time imagining doing all this the old way. Robin is particularly happy about the convenient reports, as they are easy to share with Quality Control.


By now, all operators have enthusiastically adopted this new way of working. The initial resistance has vanished: now you can count on a colleague confronting you if you don’t store something in the right place, you skip a step or you perform an activity in an unsafe way. Everyone is committed to following the standard. Plus, everyone knows what to do when a problem has been identified: resolve it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

To that end, John conducts weekly AM meetings with the entire team to discuss whether standards are being followed properly, procedures are still functioning optimally and whether any potential improvements have been identified. The agenda for these meetings is largely fed by comments recorded in the EZ-GO app by the factory staff.

Autonomous team

The team itself has been professionalised as well. All ten operators have been trained in several specialisations such as quality, production, safety and efficiency. As a result, they are now an autonomous team that is able to implement solutions and improvements independently. Plus, the need for intervention by the Technical Service has been dramatically reduced.

John looks out over the factory floor and asks himself how to best convey all this to Mr. Müller. He smiles as he recalls how the guy had tripped over packaging material lying around and how much that had angered him; the entire factory could hear Mr. Müller screaming all the way from Robin’s office. John realises that there isn’t that much to tell. He can simply show him. Tomorrow, he will take Mr. Müller along for an audit. The tour will start here, on the platform, for the visual effect.

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