Production and maintenance join forces in TPM

All together now: TPM is simple, but not easy, at least, not in a traditional manufacturing environment.

By Paul Studebaker, CMRP, Editor in Chief

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It’s time once again to make much of a simple concept: that two groups with different names, languages and cultures might put aside their old habits, pettiness and grudges, recognize the overwhelming alignment of their most critical self-interests, and join their complementary strengths to achieve unprecedented peace, harmony and productivity.

That’s the concept behind total productive maintenance (TPM), where maintenance and production personnel cooperate to define, standardize, allocate and perform the tasks needed to maximize overall equipment effectiveness (OEE), which keeps equipment producing quality product at maximum efficiency and minimum lifecycle cost.

TPM is simple, but not easy, at least, not in a traditional manufacturing environment. But the experts and plant professionals we spoke with made it clear that the results are worth the effort. TPM not only supports OEE, it also improves job satisfaction. And in today’s competitive environment, it might make the difference between your facility’s death and life.

Why every industrial facility needs TPM

Life and death? TPM requires a change in work habits, so like any culture change, it’s doomed unless the alternative is even more disturbing. It is: Facilities that engage production and maintenance increase OEE by as much as 40%, but it takes about two years. At that point, plants without effective TPM are at a distinct competitive disadvantage with no quick means of correction. Can you say maquiladora?

TPM is simple, but not easy, at least, not in a traditional manufacturing environment.

– Paul Studebaker, CMRP, Editor in Chief

Maximizing OEE means balancing productivity and reliability, getting the most from the machine with the least time lost for maintenance or breakdowns. Production operators and maintenance technicians must work in concert, not conflict. But in many facilities, there’s a long tradition of separation that works against cooperation. Experts say the hardest part of TPM is overcoming that tradition.

Do it by showing workers how TPM will relieve their anxieties and frustrations. “On the floor, it’s about work environment, job security and their role in the organization,” says Greg Folts, president, Marshall Institute. “They want to make sure they have a job, and their kids have a job.”

It’s not operators doing maintenance

“Two years ago, I was sitting with a leadership team including the CFO, executive VPs, and production management,” says Keith Mobley, CMRP, principal, reliability engineering, Life Cycle Engineering. “We talked about the need for transformation, and I told them they would rely on operators and maintainers to tell them how to operate the plant and determine their future. You should have seen their faces. Everybody forgets that you can’t change the culture just by saying you’ll put in autonomous maintenance — you actually have to put operators and maintenance in charge.”

TPM is founded on total employee involvement, leveraging natural work teams of operators and maintenance. Management provides resources and a structure to encourage progress. “Some people think executives will make the decision and the floor will do it. That doesn’t work,” Mobley says. “For example, management says, ‘Tell the operator to clean the machine.’ Hey, it’s been in the job description for 50 years, but we’ve never enforced it. The operator says, ‘Hell no.’”

Lean manufacturing methods, where work-in-progress is minimized in part by arranging sequential operations in individual manufacturing cells rather than separate departments, have done their part to expose quality problems and reduce waste. But it also means every machine is more critical.

“Before, you could take a machine down and others could pick up the slack. Now, it takes down that whole cell,” says Folts. “The value of reliability has gone way up. There’s more recognition today about the importance of maintenance, about the relationship of between using a machine and the need to maintain it. Maintenance is going from a hope to a strategy.”

Part of that strategy is to enlist the individual closest to the machine — the operator — to help keep it running reliably. “Operators interface with maintenance to cooperate and manage assets as a partnership,” says Stan Grabill, director, maintenance excellence, specialty materials, Honeywell. This often means training and relying on the operator to clean, adjust and lubricate, but don’t jump to that conclusion.

Get with your operators

TPM appears to focus on who does what, but in fact, it starts with a cooperative effort to determine what should be done. Take TPM as an opportunity to have a fresh look and reestablish how your production equipment is being operated and maintained. Do it through the eyes of operators and technicians, with the support of the relevant departments.

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