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Engagement - A Maintenance Story


Lean manufacturing depends on real-time data to provide fact-based, methodical evaluation of operations and processes. Portola deploys organizational learning and innovation management techniques to sustain and improve production and support assets. We also use key performance indicators (KPIs) and our interlocking X-Matrix to achieve integration throughout Portola’s three U.S. manufacturing facilities. (X-Matrix is a software program that visually aligns annual fiscal goals to monthly expectations.)

The objective is to create alignment with the company's mission, vision and values. We wanted to transition from a “firefighting” problem solving mentality to a preventive and predictive maintenance approach. However, this cannot be achieved without getting everyone in the facility engaged. But what does “engaged” look like and how can you get there?


In Portola’s case, it started with the creation of maintenance department get organized (GO) teams to help drive performance. Each GO team is comprised of a process engineer and a mechanic who are dedicated to a specific product line. Following the 80/20 rule, we created four teams that cover 80 percent of Portola’s products.

These teams are responsible for planning, executing, evaluating, sustaining and improving the company’s maintenance processes on the assets to which they are assigned. By continuing to emphasize the importance of the preventive maintenance (PM) process and ensuring this is communicated clearly to all involved personnel, the philosophy began to take hold.

The idea behind the GO team process is similar to that of a racing pit stop. Everything is pre-staged. All plans have been finalized so when the PM starts, there are no distractions involving missing parts or tools and the time is spent actually working on the asset. Because the focus is on performing the work, this allows for a much more efficient use of PM time. When the PM is completed and the asset is returned to service, it is ready to run as designed.


Even though we’re talking about a maintenance initiative, our efforts have focused on the “voice of the internal customer.” In Portola’s case, it’s primarily our production team members.

This is the second “engagement” key. The production team members have as much of a stake, if not more than the maintenance department, in the proper operation, care and maintenance of the equipment. By listening to the internal customer, maintenance is focused on creating value for the production team members. This is a critical factor in increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of Portola’s processes and operations, which, in turn, help achieve organizational success.

We developed a total productive maintenance (TPM) tag system to assist with overall communications between all the separate groups. These are simple T-card tags with two sections. Once an issue is identified, one part of the tag, which describes the problem, is tied onto the equipment. The other part goes into the maintenance shop rack, organized by the GO team.

Willingness to use these TPM tags has increased as more operators have gained an understanding of their purpose and are more willing to participate in the program. Portola is currently averaging a monthly completion of more than 50 percent of these items and they are numbering in the hundreds. The remaining tags are put in queue in our computerized maintenance management system and prioritized for completion during the next scheduled maintenance event.

As the program evolved, we also added to the tag the name of the production team member who originally reported the issue. Although the typical school of thought is anonymity breeds honesty, identifying the person enables us to turn this into a communication and engagement tool.

When we fix an item, we can now ensure it was done to the person’s satisfaction. Feedback provided to the operators has been key to the success of identifying the problem. People now have proof that their voice is heard and it has had a positive impact on performance.


Data drives our efforts. We evaluate results against our KPIs for PM completion, asset uptime, scrap percentage and number of late shipments. We have daily routine tiered meetings that allow issues to be addressed and communicated through the chain of command.

We created a Tier I meeting schedule where the oncoming shift reviews the previous shift’s KPIs. They look for major off-standard data points to better understand what drove the issue. Charts are posted weekly for each unit to provide results, promote feedback and identify opportunities to improve.

Results are communicated to upper management and corporate levels through the Dploy/X-Matrix reporting system for KPIs and facility objectives. Weekly conference calls with all plants and corporate staff are used to discuss each plant’s performance and issues/concerns for the past week. The intent is to share best demonstrated practices and learn from each other, rather than having multiple resources trying to solve the same issues.

Before the creation of the GO teams, we were mired in downtime in excess of 15 percent, with overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) in the 60 percent range. Scheduling was a nightmare because we were guessing what a good planning rate for a given injection molder should be. Our scrap was driving costs up and the concern was not the same in all departments because certain items were seen as “production problems” or “shipping issues.”


This is where the greatest improvement in culture and performance has occurred. We have created critical and creative thinkers who have replaced the “take the marching orders and do the work” approach. We encourage and expect continuous improvement. We focus on what can be done better, smarter, easier and cheaper.

Over the last two years, PM compliance has emerged as the driving force behind uptime improvement. Preventive/predictive maintenance is not viewed as an event, but as part of a process improvement continuum. We are using a multitude of tools and teams to detect problems earlier, eliminate the root causes for failure and use data to improve uptime within our GO team framework.

Two years ago, the compliance number was in the 50 and 60 percentiles, now it is regularly in the 90 percent range, with PM completion (some accomplished outside of the scheduled window) hitting 100 percent during several weeks. We were saddled with 15 percent downtime, poor OEE and a large number of late/split shipments. During our last fiscal year, downtime was reduced by more than 30 percent, OEE is approaching 85 to 90 percent (previously under 60 percent) and in the last year, we reduced late shipments from more than 300 to less than 100.


The end result has been eight consecutive months with uptime beating the 90 percent target. Downtime has been in the single digits, with a low of 5.6 percent in January 2012. Moving a major PM more than 24 hours requires approval from our vice president of operations. Portola considers performing PMs as scheduled very important.

Our shipping performance has been a major benefactor of the improvement in uptime and overall production efficiency as we went from an on-time performance of 92 percent in 2011 to right at our target of 98 percent in 2012. We accomplished this while increasing the total number of shipments and boosting production by more than 20 percent per month.

Due to increased uptime, scrap generated by starting and stopping has been greatly reduced. This has allowed us to beat an aggressive 10 percent reduction from the previous year by almost .5 percent. With a target of 3.35 percent, we are seeing numbers on a shift basis below three percent in many cases. Year-to-date, they have averaged right at three percent.


We believe in educating and training our people so they become scientific thinkers. We want to promote their involvement in problem-solving discussions within a structured approach. We also have to be able to prove that our efforts and results directly impact the company’s profitability.

Our lean journey has come a long way, but we aren’t done improving. Getting people engaged in the workplace can have an amazing effect on change. As people start to see that they can help bring about change, that their voice is heard and that cooperation brings change that is right the first time, the effects snowball. Team members start looking for additional ways to improve or change the workplace. This engagement is key in keeping a workforce moving your company in the right direction.

ABOUT PORTOLA PACKAGING - Portola Packaging, Inc., is a leading manufacturer of stock and custom tamper-evident plastic closures and containers for dairy, juice and other food segments. The company is known for its superior product integrity, technical capability, global manufacturing footprint and speed-to-market.

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