How does Rx accelerate the benefits of lean?

George Brady, Life Cycle Engineering
Tags: lean manufacturing

Lean and Lean Six Sigma were introduced to U.S. manufacturing during the early 90s. Several of the significant influencers have been The Machine That Changed The World by James Womac, and more recently, The Toyota Way by Jeff Liker. Today, after over 15 years of chasing Toyota’s manufacturing philosophy, otherwise known as the “Toyota Production System” (TPS), only 1 percent of U.S. manufacturers are considered “lean” based on the Toyota model.

In simplest terms, lean is defined by four key words – create flow / eliminate waste. In order to create flow it is first necessary to have reliable assets and waste-free work processes that support reliability. The purpose of creating lean flow is not to get the product moving through the process fast; it’s about linking processes and people together so that problems surface fast. Many lean experts refer to these methodologies as “draining the lake to expose the rocks (waste) below.” However, what most lean organizations will tell you is that you must first put your plant in a maintainable state or you’re sure to fall victim to the rocks. Flow is the key to a robust continuous improvement process and eliminating waste.

Toyota has identified seven major types of non-value adding activities in the business manufacturing process. A more contemporary view surfaces eight forms of waste that include: Defects, Overproduction, Waiting, Non-utilization of talent, Transportation, Inventory, Motion, and Extra processing, also known as D O W N T I M E.

“TPS and flow and lean don’t work if you have unstable, unpredictable equipment.”
Reliable Plant, October 2005 issue
Alcoa Warwick Plant

Reliability Excellence (Rx) is a business transformation methodology and the foundation of Lean. Rx is designed to eliminate waste caused by poor equipment reliability, insufficient process controls, and inadequate material control and conformity. Rx focuses on the work processes that support work management, preventive/predictive maintenance, materials management and other reliability-centered programs. It is not a maintenance initiative – but one that cuts both horizontally and vertically across the organization. Through a business process re-engineering approach, Rx builds standards-of-practice that effectively transform organizational culture. Successful implementation and sustainability of Rx is achieved through a comprehensive change management focus, led by senior management with the engagement of plant personnel at all levels.

Like lean, Reliability Excellence exposes losses from ideal performance through the key performance indicator of overall equipment effectiveness (OEE). Rx is geared towards exposing the rocks while creating and implementing consistent practices to remove the rocks in order to restore process control and ultimately improve manufacturing performance. Organizations, such as Alcoa, who have taken their first step in lean with a focus on Rx have proven to accelerate the benefits promised by lean and have sustained these benefits year after year.

About the author:

George Brady is a Certified Maintenance and Reliability Professional with more than 25 years of experience in manufacturing. He is also certified in RCM, lean and Six Sigma. His leadership strengths include developing and implementing comprehensive strategic initiatives that support a proactive manufacturing culture. He has proven results in significantly reducing maintenance and operating cost while increasing overall equipment effectiveness. As a managing principal with Life Cycle Engineering, George has worked directly with clients such as Pfizer Pharmaceutical, Cargill, U.S. Sugar, Swagelok, Novelis, Alcoa and others, both internationally and within the U.S.


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