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Maximized Manufacturing Reaps
Rewards at Whirlpool-Findlay

by James K. Ryan, Marshall Institute, Inc.; with Kirk Wolfinger, Tom Meyer & Jim Dray, Whirlpool Corp., Findlay, Ohio ©

Clic Aquí Para Traducir al Español

Many Efforts at Once!

Imagine supporting a business plan that requires a transition to pull manufacturing, while reducing work in process and finished goods inventory. The industry demands continuous supply of product to the customer’s hands at the right price, in the right quantity, and of the finest quality. And while demand for product is increasing, capital dollars for expansion are not available. If you can’t supply the customer, you know the story, your competitors will.

When you consider the cost of lost opportunity, also known as cost of unreliability (CoUR), the potential losses are staggering. In addition to lost sales, loss of marketshare is even more threatening.

At Whirlpool Corporation’s Findlay, Ohio Division, demand for product is at an all-time high. The Findlay Division manufactures dishwashers for Kenmore, KitchenAid, Estate, Roper, Inglis, and Whirlpool brand. The objective for this manufacturing facility was how to get more out of the facility and its equipment without making huge capital investments? And more specifically, for Kirk Wolfinger, manager of maintenance and plant engineering, how can the maintenance department support the needs of manufacturing to achieve the company goals?

Master Plan

In 1995, Wolfinger sponsored a cross-functional team of skilled trades personnel to develop a Maintenance and Tooling (M&T) Department Master Plan. This team, along with assistance from their production partners, set forth to develop a plan that would allow the plant to improve production rates by eliminating unplanned downtime. The vision of zero unplanned downtime, which was a significant culture change, would be supported by improved planning, machine specific preventive maintenance, more utilization of predictive maintenance technologies, TPM, root cause failure analysis, and the company’s Operational Excellence (Six Sigma) program.

The M&T Master Plan, along with the resulting improvement initiatives at Whirlpool-Findlay evolved into what is now known as "Maximized Manufacturing," a term coined and strongly supported by Mark Buehrer, director of plant operations. Maximized Manufacturing underscores the importance of aligning many different improvement initiatives into a single effort that focuses totally on improving efficiency and ultimately "maximizing" manufacturing processes.

OEE in Action!

To make these improvements, the Division needed to obtain a measure of their current equipment efficiency. The tool they used to do this was Overall Equipment Efficiency (OEE) rating, a cornerstone measurement of the Total Productive Maintenance methodology. OEE assesses the current status of equipment and can track future gains. The basic formula of OEE is Availability x Performance x Quality. The formula turns raw data into a meaningful interpretation of how well equipment resources are utilized. The lower the OEE (usually shown as a percentage, such as 78%), the more opportunity for improvement.

As the company started tracking individual pieces of equipment’s OEE ratings, it became apparent that there was room for improvement. "The low equipment efficiency could be tied directly to a need for more ownership, awareness, and use of problem solving tools by the equipment operators and maintenance personnel," said Wolfinger.

Under the Maximized Manufacturing umbrella, operations and maintenance personnel joined forces. And in the words of Jim Dray, TPM Facilitator, "it was the people that made this change possible". But the change did not come easy.

When they first started initiating the TPM process, there were many skeptics. Many viewed TPM as another "program of the month". As with any new improvement initiative, people were sensitive to change. What they didn’t know was that TPM was not a program, but a true cultural change in the way that the equipment is maintained and the product is manufactured.

What people at the Findlay Division were experiencing wasn’t anything different than what most employees feel when implementing TPM. In general, people would prefer doing things the same way; they resist change. But to be competitive in an intensely competitive industry, things must change. Continuous improvements must be a way of life.

As a result of the M&T Master Plan, employees at the Findlay Division had introduced preventive maintenance, predictive maintenance, and root cause analysis programs, but they still had too much reactive maintenance. They also needed a tool to align maintenance and operations.

To insure the effectiveness of Maximized Manufacturing, and more specifically, to combine the various efforts to focus on improving OEE, Whirlpool sought out the services of Marshall Institute, a Raleigh, NC based manufacturing/maintenance consulting firm. Whirlpool had worked with Marshall earlier, at the initial stages of the M&T Master Plan. What they were looking for was a tool that would enable the entire organization to see and feel what reliability looked and felt like. Improving the plant’s reliability was not only in the best interest of Whirlpool; it was the best use of resources for the employees who worked at the facility. That tool was The Manufacturing Gametm.

"We had been using this simulation for over a year with one of our large clients and thought it was a perfect fit with what the group at Whirlpool really needed," said Dale Blann, CEO, Marshall Institute. "We knew that the workforce at Findlay was highly skilled and highly motivated, but the problem was getting everybody aligned in the same direction. What The Manufacturing Game did was to allow large groups of people to experience in two short days, the journey from a reactive world to a extremely reliable, proactive one."

Combined Tools and Strategies

The combination of fundamental maintenance practices such as root cause failure analysis and a preventive/predictive maintenance system, along with very strong support from Division leadership, enabled the Findlay Division to gain steam in implementing their TPM system. The Manufacturing Game has helped demonstrate how multiple initiatives can work together toward accomplishing a common goal of improved plant efficiency.

"Initial TPM efforts didn’t always allow us to get the right people together for team meetings. We know that the people operating and maintaining the equipment are the real experts to improving performance. The format of the Manufacturing Game has allowed us to combine teams of production operators, skilled trades, and management to work on a common goal that will provide a specific improvement in their area. Our expectation is that upon completion of the initial project, the teams will continue by considering other improvement projects," said Dray.

The Manufacturing Game provides an excellent opportunity for people that sometimes have adversarial relationships to come together as a team, working towards a common goal of improved plant efficiency. According to Tom Meyer, Maintenance Engineer, "some of our people have really changed the way they go about their work as a result of having "walked in the other guy’s shoes" during the game simulation."

"The massive improvements we have made in our OEE numbers are a direct reflection of the efforts from our people on the floor," Wolfinger said. "We were very fortunate that there were tools available to us that allowed our workforce to see how a completely reliable plant ran. Without that tool, I don’t know that we would have gotten where we are so quickly.’

"In contrast to some of our previous thinking, we learned that the answer is not necessarily to assign more time to PM, but to actually reduce the reactive work by eliminating the defects that cause breakdowns," Meyer said. "This in turn allows us to spend time on the right things, the proactive work, which directly improves our plant availability."

Action teams have applied various training techniques, along with The Manufacturing Gametm, principles, to record phenomenal improvements in OEE numbers on many pieces of equipment. This fits together into what Jim Dray calls the paradigm shift of TPM: "We are all responsible for our equipment". The Manufacturing Game Workshop also instills an expectation among the participants that their equipment can perform better, and work life can be better - if we all pull together and work on defect elimination as a team.

Impact on the Results!

So what are the results of Maximized Manufacturing in Findlay? The Division has been able to increase production by 21%, without any significant capital costs. "We feel very comfortable that these are actual production gains, not inflated numbers. The increased product availability is a direct result of our people taking ownership in their equipment through methodologies of TPM," according to Kirk Wolfinger.

In this intensely competitive environment, Whirlpool-Findlay is not resting on its laurels. The team has developed a solid accountability system that will allow the Division to maintain the gains and set the stage for continued improvements. This system includes establishment of a TPM Council, made up of the senior leaders, responsible for reviewing and certifying all new TPM teams. In addition, a TPM Steering Committee made up of production and maintenance managers, meets monthly to review the progress of all TPM teams. The group also shares best practices and looks for ways to promote TPM throughout the plant. The system also includes assigning specific people to specific pieces of equipment to lead TPM implementation and ensure that it is sustained after implementation. This accountability system, along with monthly reviews of all the equipment OEE ratings, has created a means for Whirlpool Findlay Division to continue its success.


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This page last updated on

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