In his 1988 book Introduction to TPM, Seiichi Nakajima defined Total Productive Maintenance as “productive maintenance carried out by all employees through small group activities” and “equipment maintenance performed on a company-wide basis.” Performed properly, TPM can generate significant benefits across an organization, i.e., productivity, safety, delivery, quality, culture, and cost. The process was developed to be supportive of a lean-production system and enable the improvement of OEE (overall equipment effectiveness).
Although many operations, large and small, in all industry sectors, have documented savings with TPM, the process amounts to little more than an extended kaizen event if it’s not sustained. Most companies I visit still say they’re “working on” TPM—which has been in North America for more than 25 years.
TPM can fail or be difficult to implement for several reasons. The most frequently cited include:
- not instilling the owner/operator concept
- not focusing on people and culture first and technologies later
- not having leadership support
- not understanding the role differences between reliability (MTBF/mean time between failures) and maintainability (MTTR/mean time to repair) and how together they provide availability
- not supporting TPM as a continuous improvement program
- not basing purchasing decisions on life-cycle costs.
John Moubray’s RCM2 book contains a chart depicting three past generations of maintenance/reliability. They were:
- 1930 to 1950 (first generation), which was to “fix it when it’s broke”
- 1951 to 1980 (second generation), which started large maintenance projects, some computer usage, and systems to plan and control work
- 1981 to 2000 (third generation), which uses RCM, computerized maintenance management software (CMMS) and expert systems, multi-skilling, teams, condition monitoring, and predictive technologies.
The fourth generation (2001 to present) is what we all play a part in (and are helping define). It’s about big data, the Internet of everything, learning systems, and ongoing integration of new technologies, best practices, and processes. This generation will also be challenged with increasing complexity, higher expectations, growing competition for internal resources, and a changing understanding of reliability and maintenance. TPM can help with those challenges.
As an example of its effectiveness, Nakajima pointed to TPM moving one company from generating 36.8 suggestions/employee/year to 83.6 suggestions/employee/year. My own 2015 study found the average number in North America was 3.2, with a mode of 1.0—and many companies still struggling to get near 1.0. To be fair, it should be noted that TPM counts the numerous small improvements (and larger ones) that many plant-floor cultures aren’t able to establish. Without a robust, continuous-improvement process/culture in place, TPM quickly becomes the most difficult step in lean implementation, with minimized expected results.
In another study of 200 companies, I found RCM/FMEA (reliability centered maintenance/failure modes and effects analysis) was credited for achieving savings four times more often than TPM. Other techniques, i.e., root-cause analysis, 5 Whys, visual aids, and kaizen events, were also credited more than TPM. The same study revealed that more operator involvement resulted in better financial performance. Substantial benefit had already been achieved as a result of operators becoming involved with visual aids (versus also picking up tools).
Around 1953, 20 companies began a research group that became the Tokyo-based Japanese Institute of Plant Maintenance (JIPM). Yet, after TPM began there in the 1970s, it still took nine years for about 23% of Japan’s companies (based on 124 factories belonging to the JIPM) to reach the full phase of the process. To be successful, TPM must be planned and implemented with change management in mind, and consistently applied with a continuous-improvement focus.
For two decades following its introduction, Japanese researchers and practitioners participated in numerous global TPM-related conferences and study trips. (In the early 1990s, I hosted the JIPM on a visit to see a large-scale manufacturing reliability and maintenance implementation and discuss TPM.)
But where in the world is TPM today?
If your North American operation has fully implemented TPM—and it has worked well for more than 10 years—please contact me. MT
Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at email@example.com.