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Common Misconceptions for Aligning Total Productive Maintenance with Your Business Strategy

by Roger Shrum

The Illinois Manufacturing Excellence Center is an IMA member nonprofit economic development organization…


Recently in conversation with manufacturers I have fielded questions about Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) and what it might do for their business.  It is eye opening for me to realize many manufacturing leaders are unclear about TPM and how it serves as a strategic element of the robust Lean program many clients believe they have deployed.  Several key reasons exist for this disconnect. The following explores those reasons and offers suggestions to overcome the misconceptions.

One major disconnect is that Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) as a business strategy requires the total participation of all employees; not only maintenance personnel but line managers, manufacturing engineers, quality experts, and operators.

Second, it seeks total productivity of equipment by focusing on all of the six major losses that plague equipment: downtime, changeover time, minor stops, speed losses, scrap, and rework.

Third, it addresses the total life cycle of equipment to revise maintenance practices, activities, and improvements in relation to where equipment is in its life cycle.

Unlike traditional preventive maintenance, which relies on maintenance personnel, TPM involves operators in routine maintenance, improvement projects, and simple repairs. For example, operators perform daily activities such as lubricating, cleaning, tightening, and inspecting equipment.

As these concepts are implemented it sets the stage for business managers to wrap their brain around what is known as ‘Total Predictive Maintenance’ and how it can turn the table from being reactive to proactive, and from unplanned downtime to planned downtime.  Unplanned downtime leads to shipment delays, added overtime and dissatisfied customers.  This is often countered by building too much inventory.

There are a number of predictive maintenance tools and techniques that can be employed either by maintenance technicians or through the employment of a specialized third party who come in on a regular basis to do monitoring. The beauty of most of the predictive maintenance techniques is that they require machines to be running at normal capacity and do not interfere with your production schedules.

Some common predictive maintenance tools are:

  • Thermal Imaging to identify hot spots in motors, bearings, or electrical panels
  • Vibration Analysis to pinpoint components that are soon to fail
  • Oil Analysis to check for contamination particles
  • Emission testing of waste gasses

Consider the easy-to-implement improvements that can be made in your facility. How do these become incorporated in your overall maintenance strategy? How does that maintenance strategy roll up into your overall business strategy for continual improvement? There are many aspects of Lean so it’s imperative to have a good understanding of which of those can yield big impacts and can be easily measured in a relatively short time.


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