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

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.

Have a steering committee with six to 12 staff-level representatives from plant management, maintenance, engineering, quality and production — across the organization from different silos. “If there’s a union, I want union leadership,” says Folts. The steering committee typically meets weekly for a few months, then monthly.

The steering committee establishes practical, aggressive targets to move reliability forward through better practices and training. They establish goals that are true to the business and develop plans. They assign projects to subteams, provide resources and audit.

“It’s a teamwork framework,” says Mike Fitzgerald, director, Lean and reliability, Advanced Technology Services (ATS). “Bring together operations from multiple shifts so they all do things the same way, with maintenance technicians to work together to develop the process.”

Use equipment histories and analyze breakdowns to develop lists of items for operators to do and for technicians to do. From data on occurrences and downtime, let operations and maintenance together determine the root causes. “Use the ‘five why” approach and determine proactive activities,” Fitzgerald says. “For example, the machine fails because it runs out of lubricant. Why? Because it wasn’t checked. So check it daily.”

It might seem that engineers and technicians could do this without taking the time of operations, but operator involvement is essential. “A good operator is a wealth of knowledge. They know what vibrates and what doesn’t, and what it means,” says Jeff Owens, president, ATS.

“You can have identical machines, one run exclusively by Roland that’s in great shape and has no problems, and one run by rotating operators where you’re spending lots of money on rebuilds and having twice the trouble,” Fitzgerald says. “The operator has a huge influence.”

Analyzing and discussing the equipment history will uncover problems that require help from other departments. “Develop a partnership among maintenance, operations, engineering, training and purchasing,” says Folts. Each brings a needed piece of expertise or support:

  • Maintenance for their skills and knowledge
  • Operations for their proximity and daily experiences with equipment
  • Engineering to reduce maintenance, increase reliability by choice of equipment and spare parts
  • Training to assess, increase and maintain skills
  • Purchasing for good-versus-cheap parts

An immediate benefit is the potential for optimizing preventive maintenance (PM) activities. “Most organizations have PMs, but not many have good PMs,” says Fitzgerald. “There’s lots of activity, but we could spend our time better. What’s the failure mode I’m trying to stop? Can I? What are the consequences? Do I care? Run the PMs through that filter and you can improve their efficiency.”

Analyzing PMs will uncover cost-effective opportunities to implement predictive maintenance (PdM). “If you want to increase the reliability of the equipment, involve the operator and do some root-cause analysis. Optimize PMs based on reality,” Fitzgerald adds. “Those three tools together have given us some great improvements.”

Involving floor personnel is key. “They might be the same tasks engineers or management would devise, but involve them in determining exactly what to do. Then operators will want to do it. They buy into it,” Folts says. “Operations is your first line of defense.”

Divvy up tasks

Grabill’s specialty materials facility began its TPM initiative by doing modified reliability-centered maintenance (RCM) using OEE data and business variables such as opportunities, maintenance costs and yield. “Pareto charts help us understand failure frequencies and repair times,” he says. In studying 10 key plants, “If OEE ran 70% where 100% is perfect, about 35% of the gap would be related to equipment reliability.” The rest is process-related, such as changeovers.

They start with the problems with the highest cost, doing failure modes and effects analysis (FMEA). Once they determine what’s needed — inspections, intervals — it goes on a list with go/no-go criteria. FMEA leads to the check list, and an anomaly leads to action via a formal or informal system.

“We’re not looking for the operator to replace maintenance — maybe to make minor adjustments — but to observe anomalies,” Grabill says. “Take a chain drive on a screw conveyor. It’s simple, but when it goes down, it ripples through the entire operation. Four processes get an unstable signal that takes two shifts to stabilize.” The cross-functional teams understand how this affects operations and makes their lives miserable. “They started taking care of the chain drive, and where it was going down every two weeks, now it’s been 18 months,” he says.

When operators check items that are crucial to the equipment and process, “Operator ownership starts to go to a different level,” Grabill adds. “They understand the effect they have on the health of the equipment. They understand the whys. We drive reliability through FMEA, not just have them lube everything.”

Integrate it into the workday

Assign tasks to the person in the best position to perform them. “Follow the lean principle that says if a person has the skill, time and tools, they should perform the task,” says Folts. Design operator tasks to minimize the necessary time, tools and training — to make it as easy and natural as possible for operators to do tasks as part of their normal work routine.

For example, if checking an oil level is to be an operator task, see if the oil level can be made visible from the operator’s normal operating position, without tools and with obvious indication of “OK” and “Not OK,” for example, red and green markings on a sight glass. If cleaning is to be part of operations, have pictures of what “clean” looks like. Use references and color codes wherever possible to indicate good versus bad, normal versus abnormal. “Keep it simple and easy for operators, with signs and arrows, sight glasses close to their lines of sight, yellow dipsticks, all easy to see,” says Owens. “If it’s hard, they won’t do it. It takes a little engineering and work, but it saves a ton of time.”

Speaking from a process plant perspective, “The best implementations start from a work process perspective — tasks, frequency, limits — to create an efficient round, and use hand-helds to gather information while performing tasks,” says Chris Sterns, product manager, reliability solutions, Honeywell. “Operators need to know the data they’re collecting is being used to help safety, productivity — things they understand.”

When it makes sense, invest in skills, supply tools and make time. “Critical elements are proper training and first-line management support,” says Gina Hutto, manager, business development, services group, Timken. Hutto was hired to implement TPM in a Timken plant in 1996 and has been leading initiatives for both Timken and client facilities ever since. “Operators need to be trained not just in the specific tasks, but also in the overall philosophy of reliability, to understand the principles.”

Attitudes have a powerful influence on the effectiveness of TPM. Beware the tendencies of maintenance technicians to act superior to operators. “Many times, when maintenance is outsourced and we go in, it’s because maintenance has not been working right,” says ATS’ Owens. “We come in and say, ‘We’re here to help, to make the plant hum.’ We’re humble. We view operations as our customer. We ask them how we did and give them a rating card for feedback. It gives the plant an opportunity to start over. We’re willing to listen, to collaborate. We really value operations.”

In return, operations should view interactions with technicians as opportunities for better mutual understanding of the machine. “When maintenance is working, the operator should be watching, understanding and checking, not getting a cup of coffee,” Owens says. “It’s a relationship and a bond to mutual benefit.

Increased interaction can build bridges that help relieve shortages of technical workers. “With the reductions in indirect staff during the past year and a half, everyone is trying to work smarter with fewer resources,” says Hutto. Timken found it helpful to develop multi-skilled, cross-functional individuals, trained and certified for multiple tasks, so direct personnel can perform indirect tasks. “Operators who understand how the way they run the machine affects reliability have a much higher level of involvement. They’re right there when the technician is working, learning about failure modes and symptoms and how to run the machine better.”

Hutto says it’s also important to enlist line supervisors, as they otherwise might become obstacles. “Line supervision has to understand the reasons and allow operators the time they need to clean, inspect, lubricate and complete checklists,” she says. “Some see it as 15 minutes that they could be using to make parts, and at first, they might lose a little production. But pretty soon, it’s more than made up.”

Add TPM to the supervisors’ oversight responsibilities. “Keep a chart,” Owens says. “Have a supervisor check it once a day or once a week, and discuss deviations with the operator.”

Culture change, TPM style

Like so many management initiatives, TPM might be resisted and it might fail. Plant floor personnel have seen many activities that weren’t sustained, which leads to “This, too, shall pass” syndrome.

Our experts’ key advice for success starts with a big tent. “Build belief,” says Folts. “Early on, include the shop floor people along with leadership, maintenance and engineering.” Engage the whole structure to get buy-in and ownership, and build passionate champions.

Keep it very common-sense. Clean and lubricate properly, do PMs, and have good spares. “These are intuitively correct,” Folts says.

Display a long-term strategy map so people can see it’s not all happening right away, but it’s not going away. But, “As soon as possible — one week — demonstrate action consistent with the strategy and obtain benefits,” Folts adds. “Make a machine better right away.”

Maintain visibility with a series of activities, such as Kaizan events. “They’ll pop up and fade, but use them to generate excitement and action within the larger strategy,” Folts adds. “Clean one machine, but build a department culture.”

Like other management initiatives, many of the activities and events associated with TPM are designed to promote change by raising visibility and increasing excitement. But some visible tactics also are fundamental: restoration and cleaning.

Identify highly unreliable equipment during the initial meetings and reviews of equipment history, and resolve basic reliability matters. “There’s a basic, decent level of maintenance you have to have before you can involve operators,” says Fitzgerald. When equipment has been neglected, “The first step is restoration: cleaning, inspecting and restoring performance,” he says. “This is where we clean and paint the equipment, typically a beige color so you can see any leaks.”

During restoration, address long-term reliability problems, accessibility and serviceability. Make the changes needed to ease operator activities such as adding remote oil level sight glasses, go/no-go color codes, belt/drive/seal inspection ports, etc.

Restoration is designed to bring the machine back to a known, standard point in its lifecycle. Cleaning has a similar role, on a shift, daily or as-needed basis (see sidebar, “Frito Lay calls it ‘continuous improvement’”).

Restorations are dramatic, but collecting the payback on TPM is a long-term commitment. “References to terms like Kaizan and Kaizan blitz have people totally confused,” says Mobley. “TPM is a tortoise, not a hare. TPM is long-term, continuous improvement.” He says two things are critical:

  1. Constant, steady pressure for a minimum of 18 months, and 24 months to 36 months is better
  2. Reaching the tipping point, where 30% to 40% of employees are supporting the future

“It took 18 months to 24 months to get ownership by operators,” agrees Grabill. During that time, communications between operations and maintenance were improved to provide clarity on equipment designations and symptoms, with feedback to the operator on how work order notifications were being handled with respect to disposition, schedule, shutdown plans, etc. “So when maintenance shows up with kits and tools, equipment is ready to be worked on,” he says.

For more on how to make change that sticks, see the eight-phase model in “A TPM Webinar for All Future Gurus.”

Grabill’s facility did day-in-the-life-of (DILO) studies before and after the implementation. “Wrench time increased from around 30% to 50% and even 60%-plus. Backlog, overtime and schedule attainment KPIs improved, and we were able to let go some of our contract headcount,” he says.

At least as important, “It fosters a trust in the workforce that they can influence — even control — their own destiny,” says Mobley. “Most workforces are the most frustrated group of people you’ve ever seen,” says Mobley. “TPM gets them management’s attention, an opportunity to fix problems and make work more enjoyable, to determine their future.”