News Flash: If you’re experiencing frequent breakdowns during production runs, you’re probably not in base condition. If your operators are calling maintenance several times per shift and walking away from the line when the mechanic arrives, you’re probably not in base condition. If you have a fire-fighting or reactive culture, you’re probably not in base condition. And finally, if you don’t know what base condition is, you’re probably not in base condition. But all hope is not lost. This article is going to help you understand how to close the gap between where you are and base condition and why you should, immediately. This is an excellent early step in your Continuous Improvement journey.
What is Base Condition?
Well I’m glad you asked. Imagine going to the doctor and being examined from head to toe; finally receiving a perfectly clean bill of health. You might say that your body is as good as new, except maybe the size of an adult, which is to be expected. Well this is also the state of a machine or production process in base condition. It is the widely considered the main objective of Autonomous Maintenance Step 1, which is a core pillar of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). It is a state of zero defects (or abnormalities) in the production process. This means there are no issues such as loose or missing bolts; built-up oil or debris; bent or broken parts; worn down or missing gears; chipped Plexiglas; or anything else of the sort on the production line. It also means that all motors, gearboxes, joints and other moving pieces are properly lubricated. Base condition goes far beyond 5S, although this is an excellent way to get started. You can look at base condition like making your old production line run like new – except with perfectly dialed in settings and adjustments.
Why is Base Condition Important?
Let me start by saying that achieving and sustaining base condition could be the single greatest thing you could to to dramatically cut production cost, lead time, and inventory while improving quality, safety, productivity, morale and customer service levels. If you’re below 50% OEE, and assuming the bulk of your losses are in process failures and breakdowns, getting to base condition could easily mean millions of dollars in conversion cost savings.
There are 7 Steps in Autonomous Maintenance, with the purpose of the first four being to sustain base condition and help operators become more autonomous from the maintenance function. Although the task of step one is to achieve base condition and install centerlines, it cannot be sustained without completing Step 2 (Eliminate Sources of Contamination), Step 3 (Cleaning, Inspections, Lubrication, and Tightening), and Step 4 (General and Component-level Inspection).
Base condition virtually eliminates unplanned stoppages. It enables the production line to run at optimal speed over a sustained period, achieving remarkable efficiencies. Not all causes of failure are eliminated such as poor raw material quality, failures due to end of part life, changeovers, or other phenomena; however, running at base condition makes these other issues a lot easier to isolate and manage effectively. Base condition also improves product quality and safety because it ensures that the production line runs in a highly controlled state.
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How do you achieve Base Condition?
There are several ways to achieve base condition. One way or another, all defects or abnormalities need to be eliminated from the production line. The optimal approach is to have process owners, or the people who operate the line everyday to remove the defects themselves with coaching from mechanics or other technical resource. Here are a few steps to achieve base condition:
Step 1) Schedule a key piece of equipment (possibly a bottleneck machine to start with) down for a sufficient amount of time (usually a week)
Step 2) Assemble cross-functional team to complete the exercise with a trained leader or coach. Ensure that spares for consumable or key parts are ready if needed
Step 3) Review downtime logs to understand and drive to the root causes of leading failure modes
Step 4) Break the equipment down as needed and clean thoroughly as to increase visibility to defects
Step 5) Repair all root cause issues contributing to leading failure modes and all other observable defects. For items that cannot be resolved immediately attach problem tags or submit work orders so that they can be addressed as soon as possible
Step 6) Reassemble the equipment. Replace worn bolts, belts, gears, or other parts as needed to eliminate all detectable defects
Step 7) Test the equipment with actual product to dial in settings and ensure it runs as intended. Ensure that the line is completely set up for the upcoming production run
Step 8) Install centerlines on gauges, pumps, adjustment rails, and all other variable controls (both physical and digital). Do this for all key products initially and all others as needed. This should help with quick set-ups and as a visual indicator that defects have begun to re-develop on the line
Step 9) Repeat this process on a periodic bases if needed as line performance declines over time. However, the objective is to address defects as they occur to ensure that base condition is sustained
In later stages of Autonomous Maintenance progression, you’ll need to complete steps 2, 3, and 4 as described above. As your line operators gain greater autonomy from the maintenance function, mechanics can begin to transition into longer-term projects as operators become better skilled at minor repairs and preventative maintenance. Finally, operations can begin to transcend to becoming more autonomous from the management function as they approach AM steps 5, 6, and 7. Achieving and sustaining base condition is a fantastic early step in your Continuous Improvement journey.