Horizon Global designs, manufactures and distributes high-quality, custom-engineered towing, trailering, cargo management and other related accessory products. Two facilities in South Africa found that poor maintenance management was creating bottlenecks that ultimately affected uptime and production output. They knew it was time to change their spreadsheet-based, word-of-mouth maintenance system.
The maintenance team at Horizon Global had been keeping track of requests by using a spreadsheet and a few handwritten notes as well as simply talking with one another to sort out job assignments.
“Our biggest bottlenecks happened on those days when a bunch of stuff went wrong at the same time,” said Dirk van der Laarse, IT manager. “If we have five things break at the same time and three maintenance technicians available but only two know how to fix certain problems, where do we start? We had no kind of system to manage those situations.”
The management team knew these scenarios were hampering quality and customer service. “In the beginning, we really just needed something to help us manage reactive issues and breakdowns,” Dirk explained. “We wanted to be able to track our assets and make calculated business decisions. For instance, we wanted to be able to see that this machine has had X breakdowns in two months and it’s cost us X amount so we should replace it. We needed a solution to give structure to our maintenance team.”
Horizon Global began searching for a solution and working with demos in August 2018. About two months later, the company rolled out UpKeep’s mobile-first solution at its plant in Pretoria. The other facility, located in Springs, went live by early 2019.
Over the past 18 months, Horizon Global has experienced an increase in efficiency and production. One significant measure of improvement has been in the area of reactive maintenance vs. preventive maintenance. Before UpKeep, the maintenance team spent about 30 percent of its time on preventive maintenance work orders; that figure has risen to 81 percent with a goal of 85 percent in a short period of time.
Horizon Global began its implementation of UpKeep by setting up three distinct phases.
The first phase involved simply moving all the asset data and anticipated schedules from the manual system into UpKeep. “This was a challenging phase,” Dirk remembered. “We had to take all this data from spreadsheets, much of which was outdated and some with handwritten notes. It was a big challenge to start with nothing.”
Although Dirk said the original preventive maintenance schedules may have been a bit too long, it allowed the company to start to figure out how to manage its resources better.
“During this time, we also issued cheap smartphones to our team leaders on the shop floor,” Dirk said. UpKeep’s mobile-first dashboard can be easily accessed on smartphones, which allowed all work requests to be centrally approved and assigned.
The second phase revolved around organizing the plant’s spare parts to identify areas of highest risk. “This is very important in the automotive industry in terms of customer compliance,” Dirk said. “If we have a customer that’s relying on us to build a very important product and there’s only one day of stock, you have to make sure you have the right spare parts.”
Finally, the third phase involved sharing results, reports and analysis with the entire team. “We wanted to be able to show the shop floor guys that we received the request, someone is on the way, and that daily checks have been done,” Dirk said. “It helped to include the guys on the shop floor to say, ‘You are a part of this, and this is why it’s important for you to log your information.’”
Although literacy rates in South Africa may provide some challenges, all maintenance technicians understand how to use a smartphone, which made implementation of UpKeep easy.
“We were actually surprised at how well the technicians accepted the UpKeep app,” Dirk said. “It was just another app to use on their phone. A few individuals were a little hesitant to change in the beginning, but once they could see how the system worked, they were sold. They really went into the whole thing with open arms. And ultimately, they could see it helped them to spend more time at home on the weekends instead of at work fixing equipment.”
Horizon Global found that poor maintenance on the shop floor had a domino-effect throughout the organization, landing ultimately with the customer.
“The poor condition of our maintenance system and the lack of preventive maintenance definitely affected our equipment uptime,” said Dirk, as he explained the domino effect. “If equipment was down, our production team couldn’t meet its targets, which meant the sales employees couldn’t deliver on their promise dates. I think improving that whole situation has probably been the biggest effect we’ve seen. It’s hard to quantify, but there’s a definite overall feel that it’s better.”
Management has seen an improvement in many metrics. For example, Horizon Global used to have production backlogs of eight to 12 weeks; now, no production order is more than one week old. In addition, the maintenance crew was spending 70 percent of time on reactive maintenance, which has shifted to only 19 percent today.
“In the dark, early days before we had a proper maintenance system, we were always fighting fires and trying to fix stuff,” Dirk explained. “We couldn’t even make time to think about preventative maintenance. Now, we’re very close to achieving our goal of 85 percent preventive maintenance.”
One area that has really helped Horizon Global is having quality data at their fingertips. For example, as managers studied schedule compliance, they realized their KPIs looked really bad on paper. “We saw that was because our deadlines for technicians didn’t match how we were tracking,” Dirk explained. “For example, if a task is assigned on Monday but not due until Friday, tracking every day makes it look like you’re not getting anything done. However, that did spark us to revisit our due dates and whether they made sense.”
In addition, management is taking a closer look at the technicians’ day and week, focusing a bit more on resource allocation to ensure preventative checks do not overburden technicians.
Another metric that has been helpful to Horizon Global is mean time between failures. “We’ll probably start looking at that more as our equipment gets older over time,” Dirk said. “It will help us start making those decisions on whether to repair or replace. I know the management team is relieved to finally not have to make an expensive buying decision based on a gut feel.”
Dirk believes UpKeep will have the biggest impact in terms of increased uptime. “If any key piece of equipment is down, we not only lose production time on that process, but also in all of the upstream processes that depend on that piece of equipment,” he explained. “Many of our parts have a lot of processing on them, from as few as six processes to up to 22 processes. That means if process number eight is down, process number 22 is not getting what it needs. It’s an exponential effect.”
One factor that truly delights the maintenance team at Horizon Global about working with UpKeep is the company’s desire to always improve and add new features. UpKeep prioritizes listening to its customers, always trying to develop new features that solve real problems and then making those features available to their entire customer base.
“UpKeep always has a very quick turnaround of new features,” Dirk said. “There are always new exciting tools popping up. It’s nice to know that UpKeep is continuously improving, and we will have the opportunity to take advantage of automation, advances, and technological developments quickly and easily. That sits well with our management team.”
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