Machine breakdowns are one of the main sources of disruption and throughput fluctuation in highly automated production facilities. One element in reducing this disruption is ensuring that the maintenance team responds correctly to machine failures. It is, however, difficult to determine the current practice employed by the maintenance team, let alone suggest improvements to it. ‘Knowledge based improvement’ is a methodology that aims to address this issue, by (a) eliciting knowledge on current practice, (b) evaluating that practice and (c) looking for improvements. The methodology, based on visual interactive simulation and artificial intelligence methods, and its application to a Ford engine assembly facility are described.