In recent years, “Defect Elimination” has become a hot topic in the reliability world.  But what exactly does defect elimination mean?  How does it differ from other maintenance practices?  Is it more than just a new way to describe planned and predictive maintenance?


Let me start by answering a more basic question.  What is a defect?  According to Merriam Webster’s online dictionary, a defect is defined as “an imperfection that impairs worth or utility”.  The simple definition of a defect that we have used for the past 25 years in The Manufacturing Game® workshops is “Anything that erodes value, reduces production, compromises health, safety or environmental performance or creates waste”.  Or in the words of the fictional Chance Brooks, plant manager turned corporate manager in the book Don’t Just Fix It, Improve It  “…I came to regard defects as my real enemy. I always thought of them as the little imperfections that caused all of our problems and upsets. Some were big and some small, but when they lined up in just the right way… kaboom!!! A catastrophe would hit.”

A lot of time and attention has been paid to breaking the reactive maintenance cycle – equipment fails, operations call maintenance, maintenance repairs the equipment and turns it back over to operations – rinse and repeat.

Many organizations now perform time-based preventive maintenance, use predictive technologies, and perform operator rounds, all to find defects when they are.  Then effective planning (the what, why, and how of the job) and scheduling (the when and by whom of the job) are employed to remove those defects prior to the functional failure or perish the thought, catastrophic failure of the equipment.   Those are all characteristics of planned maintenance – simply put, finding defects and efficiently removing them before they cause a failure.  A much more efficient and cost-effective approach than fixing broken stuff!

But what can be done to prevent defects from getting into the equipment in the first place?  Like death and taxes, having some defects is a certainty – normal wear and tear happens. But most organizations have far more defects than can be ascribed to normal wear and tear. There’s no doubt that “extra” defects sneak in based on how we operate and maintain the equipment.  It’s these defects that are not inevitable.  And if we prevent them from ever getting into the equipment, we can avoid all of that work required to detect and remove them.

Misalignment is one of those “extra” defects that can be avoided through proper repair and installation techniques, both of which are made significantly easier and more effective with the use of laser alignment tools.   Properly aligned equipment has less machine vibration, fewer bearing and coupling failures, and may even consume less energy.


But the opportunities don’t stop there.  Tools that have historically been used in support of planned maintenance to find defects that are hidden from the human senses can also be used in a defect elimination capacity to avoid putting defects into the equipment in the first place.  For example, ultrasound solutions can be used to provide insight into the current health of an asset in a planned maintenance capacity, but they can also be used in a defect elimination capacity to ensure that the proper amount of lubrication is administered, avoiding the introduction of over or under lubrication defects.



To achieve truly breakthrough performance, an organization has to do more than improve their work efficiency through Planned Maintenance.  They must find ways to make some of the work go away.  That is where harnessing the power of site‑wide Defect Elimination and available technologies can provide true leverage.  To achieve sustainable reliability improvements, the frontline workforce can make or break you.  So don’t just tell them about it, don’t just show them; instead, give everyone in the organization a role to play in the process so that they can truly understand and contribute.  That brings true buy-in and with it a fighting chance at sustainability.  Go beyond Planned Maintenance.  Don’t Just Fix It, Improve It!

Thank you Michelle Ledet Henley with The Manufacturing Game for sharing this informative article on defect elimination with us! 

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, by Diana Pereda