Tips for Lean Managers

Selling Autonomous Maintenance to the Machine Operator

By Jon Miller Published on October 18th, 2004

A client of ours has recently begun implementing TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) as the natural next step in their Lean journey. Their goals were to lengthen mean time between failures (MTBF) as well as replace time spent on reactive maintenance with improvement maintenance.
As a first step, there was a renewed focus on 5S, looking deeper into cleanliness and organization around the machines. Next came Autonomous Maintenance, or making the machine operators responsible for early detection of trouble with their machines through cleaning, daily inspections, and lubrication. This is typically where one meets resistance, and we did.
The machine operators objected at first, feeling as though they were being asked to do more work in their already busy day. “When are we going to find the time?” and “We’ve got to make our numbers, we don’t have time for this.” These concerns were heard from the kaizen team members tasked with implementing Autonomous Maintenance on the first machine.
Fortunately these concerns are easily addressed. First, the inspection and lube activity that are part of TPM are not meant to take hours each day. In fact, most Autonomous Maintenance routines are 5-minute deals where clearly marked gages and inspection locations are given a quick look only to make sure that all is normal. Weekly and monthly checks take more time, but are less frequent.
Second, the concern of “We won’t make our numbers if we take time out to clean and inspect” goes away when you demonstrate that 80% of unplanned breakdowns can be avoided by these Autonomous Maintenance actions. Machines break when time is not taken to fix things that are starting to wear, and these breakdowns happen when you are busiest and it is the most difficult to recover from them.
Even if you do not have good maintenance and downtime history to demonstrate this, most kaizen teams will have at least one team member who can remember a costly downtime situation that could have been avoided through TPM and Autonomous Maintenance.
TPM is really a Lean system in itself. TPM helps build a firm foundation for companies to become Lean and sustain these gains. It involves and empowers the machine operators, requires cross-functional involvement to succeed. Autonomous Maintenance is a critical first step, and buy in from machine operators is critical.

  1. Georges Gracieuse

    October 29, 2004 - 2:46 am

    I’m a HR Consultant in Port Louis, Mauritius. My client has a rotative printing presse for its publications. The team of operators have a problem of machine maintenance, proper organisation and good housekeeping. My client wants a Gemba Kaizen Workshop to be organised for the team of 7 operators. We have contacted the South-East African region Kaizen coordiantor, Mr Muthy for help. He has visited the Gemba since 2 months, but until now hasn’t submitted a workshop proposal. My client considers that such a workshop is an urgent matter. Thanks to advise on an appropriate course of action.

  2. Peter Kuria

    July 26, 2006 - 3:31 am

    How did AM start.What is the History behind it?

  3. Jon Miller

    July 31, 2006 - 2:03 am

    I am not an expert on the history of Autonomous Maintenance. The answer to your question is probably in any textbook on TPM.
    Maybe Mike Gardner at TPM Log has the answer for you.
    Best wishes,

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