Lean ManufacturingTips for Lean Managers

Enhancing Total Management Commitment

By Jon Miller Updated on May 22nd, 2017

In an e-mail, Junaid asked:

How we will enhance top management commitment and involvement for implementation of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)?

This is a great general question to ask for any effort to establish excellence, maintain excellence or transform excellence to yet a higher level. Specific to TPM, we would expect a high level of total commitment to be built into the education and roll out of the program since as the name suggests it is Total PM. So the place to start may be to examine how well the education phase explained the roles of management in supporting TPM.

Even assuming this education was done adequately, the learning of their roles as management in TPM to fully engage may still be intellectual, rather than kinesthetic. Seen from a distance, the message that “Everybody must now get cozy with machines” may not be one that senior leaders can to relate to easily or even accept. Of course TPM can be expanded beyond factories and machines to include office TPM, cost deployment and all aspects of the running of a business, which is another aspect of the “total”. Production operation depending on machines and equipment to add value. Non-production operations have other assets and facilities. Everyone needs to get cozy with these, regardless of industry, to practice TPM.

Understanding this, the first thing to do is to get our hands dirty. There is not a better way to enhance total management commitment than to get dirty. We must get dirty in order to get clean. That’s may sound a bit zen but in practice the cleaning, inspection, repair and restoration of equipment and processes to good operating conditions is fundamental activity of TPM. Cleaning is not the job of maintenance. It is not the job of operators. It is not the job of kaizen engineers. It is the job of anyone who understands what the T in TPM stands for. Cleaning and caring for assets creates intimacy, familiarity a sense of responsibility that is essential to continuous improvement.

“Why start first by involving managers in cleaning?” you may ask. Why not go the other direction and involve the front line workers in the manager’s job? If the goal is total involvement and the bringing together of people from various levels in the organization in working towards a common goal, wouldn’t it be easier for us all to meet in the comfortable chairs of the executive suite to look at charts, rather than in the heat, grime and noise of the floor? Wouldn’t leaders be more comfortable leading from their home turf?

In a lean transformation a significant part of the change is to empower the front line workers and team leaders to make decisions on managing and improving their own processes on a daily basis. This does require enhancing the awareness, skills and knowledge of workers and involves some work with charts, conference rooms and presentations. But Mahogany Row is not where the value is added. It is not where the problems are most visible. When leadership responsibilities are being driven to the front lines, where action can be taken based on live information, the learning and teaching is best done there also.

In order for this engagement of the front line in daily management and improvement to be job enrichment rather than job intensification, the role of leaders must also change. This involves defining the leader’s responsibility to go to the front lines in order to experience day-to-day reality so that they can support daily management efforts. The best way to enhance the level of commitment is to learn through firsthand experience what problems exist on the front lines. Many of them are easily solved once people establish common understanding of the situation. In TPM many of the problems are related to dirty machines. Enhancing total management commitment requires that their hands work to expose problems by removing some of the grime. This grime may also exit at the figurative level, hiding the signs of forced deterioration within the organization’s intangible systems and processes.

When we go to the floor and leave with clean hands, it is too easy to step back up to a computer or handle paperwork. When we leave with dirty hands, there is at least a meaningful delay while we wash our hands. The dirt is a type of evidence that front line engagement has taken place. In TPM, a useful question to test total management commitment may be “How many times did you wash your hands today?”

  1. John Santomer

    June 2, 2010 - 10:51 pm

    Dear Jon, Too many times I heard this from my elementary teachers after Physical Education Class and just before going to recess/break (our school has two recess schedules – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.) Little did I know, I was being prepared for something bigger…something better. Back in those days, I understood this to be just a hygiene issue…but now I knew that it is also a check that I had involvement with the class had my hands gone dirty and had to wash them off several times.To know that this would again re-surface at a later stage in life with such reverberating echoes of presence is really interesting. And yet, a lesson well earned…

  2. Joseph

    June 3, 2010 - 4:18 pm

    You have a great grasp on situations. I believe that the main value in getting your hands dirty is not to clean the machine or take part in an exercise but to show the people that you are asking to change. That you have changed. When the manager cleans the machine on one day it is symbolic and causes some interest. When he comes back numerous times to do it the people who count know that the change is real and important.
    It is easier to get an operations manager to do this than a supervisor or superintendent. They think that they are above such low level things. When they genuinely do the cleaning on a regular basis then you know there is hope for the changes to last.
    If the operations manager cleans the machine and the front line supervisors and superintendent do not then he is a fool and does not know the message that is being sent out by the OLD GUARD. The operator will see the meaning. When the Operations manager shuts the door of his office behind him the system will return to its original state.
    Its like putting your hand in the water and stiring it. You exist. Remove your hand and its as though you had never been there.
    It is probably the one chance for managers and supervision to show the PBI (poor bloody infantry) pardon my French. How hard that they should work by example SO THEY SHOULD NOT BLOW their opportunity by slacking.
    Japanese managers Command Respect, Western managers Demand Respect. Which one would you follow into the valley of death. And WHY. I know a good game. Lets do a 5Y+1H on it.
    By their deeds shall they be known.
    To do LEAN properly you should not just do it for the good times. It should also be done when it hurts. When you have to take a hit to do what is right. In the end LEAN done correctly will work and it has many more pluses than minuses.
    Have a nice day. Lets talk some Yamazumi

  3. S.M.Junaid

    October 3, 2011 - 11:48 pm

    “How many times did you wash your hands today?”This is the central idea of whole subject; the door of this enhancement will be unlocked when the key of loyalty and ownership will be on hand.

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