A Guide For Implementing Cost Reduction

How to apply basic process improvement principles to increase maintenance productivity and reduce costs

Maintenance and reliability professionals are being asked to deliver like never before. Today’s economic conditions demand greater levels of reliability and increased maintenance productivity with an ever-increasing focus on reducing costs. In order to survive, an organization’s plans must turn to optimizing maintenance capacity as a means to achieve its goals.

Continuous improvement processes, such as Lean and its tools, have been the process of choice for most organizations over the past 10 years. Although the business sides of these companies realize tremendous improvements, oddly enough, many maintenance processes are left to be a part of someone else’s Lean event, or are simply made “Leaner” as a result of having less than before.

There’s no doubt the maintenance process eventually will be targeted for change through the revelation that maintenance cannot keep up with the reliability demand of a Leaned organization, thereby becoming a victim of Lean. On the other hand, a savvy organization can choose to proactively apply Lean tools to improve its process by design.


Across the industry, we see three business motivators driving the need for improvement:

  • Companies already impacted by market conditions that are trying to “survive” implemented decisions.
  • Companies preparing for reductions.
  • Companies which are unaffected by current market conditions but must remain competitive within their industry.

Although each of these motivators targets improvement for different reasons, the solution is common. Companies must open the flow of the maintenance process and improve capacity in order to survive.


Among the reasons maintenance “bats in the cleanup spot” in the continuous improvement lineup is the traditional view held by many companies that a maintenance department is simply a “cost” to an operation. Thus, the only way to improve “cost” is to reduce it.

Additionally, many organizations are cutting what they consider to be Muda (the Japanese word for “waste”) out of their maintenance budgets without necessarily making changes in how they operate. But doing so severely handicaps the maintenance organization’s ability to ensure adequate reliability in equipment and processes, furthering the negative spiral.

In this scenario, there are even considerations of decentralization, which places maintenance at the place of concern to compensate for the absence of reliability.


First, Lean Maintenance is process improvement, not an outcome or consequence of cutting resources to keep up with external demands. Otherwise, maintenance will have appeared to achieve the goal of being Lean, but probably lack the effectiveness and efficiency required to sustain itself or deliver the value required by the environment at which it is applied.

Secondly, Lean Maintenance is, quite simply, the application of Lean techniques and tools to the maintenance process to drive out waste - anything within your process the end user would not be willing to pay for. The challenge is converting or translating already known elements of Lean into the maintenance process.

The most common elements of Lean can be applied to any process, including maintenance.

The Lean/Maintenance Conversion Chart (see Table 1) takes Lean elements and shows the maintenance equivalency in three primary areas of the maintenance process:

  • The process overall focused on workflow and market demand.
  • PM Optimization (PMO) to drive waste from the forecasted backlog.
  • Planning and scheduling (P&S) optimization to drive waste from the existing ready backlog.


In order to apply Lean principles, we must agree that maintenance is indeed a process, rather than an event. As a process, preventive, predictive, corrective, reactive, project, production support, etc., can have different value streams. Therefore, they must be addressed individually, much the same as different products in the production value stream.

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