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TPM (Total Productive Maintenance): everything you need to know

TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) is a maintenance strategy that aims to achieve maximum efficiency from a production system. Explore the benefits!

If you think that maintenance operations in production plants together with equipment and machinery falls under the exclusive responsibility of the facility manager, you’ve probably missed out on an important activity that was first introduced in Toyota production plants back in the late ’60s. It’s a strategic plant efficiency and quality-promoting method called Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), the holistic approach to maintenance that involves all production teams and departments aiming at total perfection in terms of efficiency and productivity, almost completely removing any risk of failure, accidents or unforeseen events.

If you are curious to know more about the subject, well, I’ve put together some interesting information for you to discover the meaning, benefits of its implemention in any production system identifying possible applications and what are the key principles on which this particular maintenance strategy is based.

Before starting, remember that you can really get the most out of your maintenance processes (whether preventive or proactive) only if you use the right tools. So don’t miss the opportunity to try a facility management software for free, a cloud based system that offers maximum flexibility and allows you to schedule, monitor and manage every activity related to asset resources and their maintenance.

What is Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)?

Total Productive Maintenance, also known as TPM, is a strategy that applies to the management of maintenance processes, based on the principle that anyone operating within a production facility must actively participate in the maintenance of plants and machinery, with the aim of helping facility managers and maintenance technicians to carry out their work even more effectively.

The TPM approach leverages the skills and competencies of all employees and operators who are part of the company workforce, and seeks to incorporate maintenance interventions and activities into the daily workflows of the facility.

The main objective of Total Productive Maintenance is to achieve almost perfect production, that is, to create a highly productive environment in which failures, accidents, downtime, slowdowns and waste are completely absent or, at least, reduced to a minimum. TPM achieves this goal through the development of some operational strategies, which include:

  • the implementation of preventive maintenance programmes;
  • continuous training of employees;
  • the constant and effective collaboration between production and maintenance personnel.

The 8 pillars of TPM (Total Productive Maintenance)

The Total Productive Maintenance philosophy was first introduced in Japan in the 1950’s and is based on 8 key principles that can be considered as the true pillars of the TPM methodology.

These key principles focus on proactive techniques that contribute to improving the reliability of the equipment, and are developed starting from a solid common base consisting of the “5S” method, a systematic procedure (which we will talk about later in the article) aimed at achieving productive excellence through targeted actions that allow to increase the order and cleanliness of the workplace.

Before delving into the meaning of the 5S, below we will analyze in detail what are the eight pillars of Total Productive Maintenance, providing for each of them a brief description that will help us understand what exactly they consist of:

  1. Autonomous maintenance: small maintenance interventions (such as cleaning, lubrication, inspections, etc.) can be carried out directly by the personnel responsible for operating a plant or machinery. This allows, on the one hand, to empower the operators themselves, who will be suitably trained to carry out these interventions, and on the other hand, to reduce the workload of the maintenance team, which can thus focus on complex problems that require specific skills for their resolution;
  2. Continuous improvement: is a company philosophy that considers the improvement of productivity as a methodical and gradual progression. It consists of allowing small groups of employees to work together proactively to achieve regular and incremental improvements in the operation of the equipment, increasing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the organization from time to time, and minimizing risks, losses and defects related to production;
  3. Scheduled maintenance: Scheduled maintenance activities are essential to reduce unplanned downtime and prevent machine deterioration. These activities are based on the evaluation of the expected and/or measured failure rates and the calculation of specific metrics (such as MTBF, MTTF and MTTR) that allow interventions to be planned according to the performance of the equipment, ensuring that these can be carried out during periods when the plants are not scheduled for production;
  4. Quality management: is a strategy aimed at improving the overall quality of the final product, which focuses on the detection and prevention of errors that may occur during the production process. This strategy uses Root Cause Analysis to identify and eliminate recurring sources of errors and defects, and involves the calculation of some efficiency monitoring metrics, such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which help reduce production waste, losses and rework;
  5. Early equipment management (EEM): is a structured process that makes use of the understanding and practical knowledge of machinery, acquired by operators over time, to improve the design of new equipment. The contribution of the operator who directly leads the plant can be very useful in the process of designing a new system because it allows to adopt solutions that increasingly improve the maintainability and operational performance, and to create machinery that is able to meet the required requirements at the start;
  6. Education and training: they aim to fill any knowledge gaps and provide the necessary skills to be able to achieve the objectives of Total Productive Maintenance. Adequate training ensures that the entire workforce (whether executives, production managers, machine operators or maintenance technicians) is adequately trained to identify emerging issues, maintain equipment in working order and regularly meet all TPM standards;
  7. Safety, health and the environment: the correct implementation of this principle contributes to the creation of a healthy, safe and sustainable work environment, in which employees can carry out their tasks without incurring situations of risk or danger to their safety. Improving health and safety standards not only helps to prevent accidents and injuries, but also helps to increase workers’ efficiency and productivity;
  8. Efficiency in administration: the management and administrative functions are essential for the success of the entire production process, for this reason it becomes important to improve more and more the organizational structure of the company, simplify and standardize the different work procedures, and progressively increase efficiency in procurement, order processing and scheduling activities.
TPM | The 8 pillars of Total Productive Maintenance

TPM | The 8 pillars of Total Productive Maintenance

What are the 5S rules of Total Productive Maintenance?

The pillars of Total Productive Maintenance are supported by the methodological approach of the “5S”, a system born within the logic of Lean Production, whose objective is to create a clean and well-organized work environment through the following five actions:

  1. Sort: Eliminate clutter and anything not really needed from the workspace.
  2. Straighten: Arrange tools and equipment in an orderly manner, making frequently used items easily accessible.
  3. Shine: periodically inspect and clean your workstation, to facilitate the identification of any problems (such as the leakage of liquid from a machine);
  4. Standardize: develop action plans and standardized procedures to optimize work processes and simplify the activities listed above;
  5. Sustain: ensure that the above standards are applied regularly, to support the production process in the long run.
TPM - The 5S-Methodology chart illustrated

TPM – Illustration of the 5S Methodology

How to implement Total Productive Maintenance

Now that we have obtained a complete knowledge of the bases and pillars on which the TPM methodology is based, let’s see what are the steps to follow to correctly implement a Total Productive Maintenance program:

  1. Identification of a pilot area: the first step is to identify a first target area on which to test the advantages of the TPM, initially choosing the plants and equipment that are easier to improve and that therefore allow immediate and positive results to be obtained;
  2. Restoring of equipment to optimal operating conditions: the next step is to return the plants and equipment to their primary operational capacity by applying the 5S rules by means of an accurate and constant organization, cleaning, inspection and maintenance of all equipment and the work area;
  3. Implementation of autonomous maintenance: the third phase consists of providing machine operators with the necessary training to be able to carry out routine maintenance independently, while maintaining open and effective communication with the maintenance team;
  4. Monitoring of the Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE): the fourth phase requires the tracking of this performance index which is used to measure the production capacity of the equipment subjected to TMP, and to identify the positive and negative trends that allow the necessary improvements to be made. Data for OEE calculation can be collected through computerized maintenance management systems (CMMS), which are able to track progress over time and help solve problems proactively;
  5. Loss reduction: once potential production losses have been identified, you’ll then need to implement a continuous improvement process by forming of a cross-functional team (composed of operators, supervisors, maintenance personnel, etc.) capable of analysing the causes behind given problems, propose effective solutions, plan scheduled maintenance periods during which to implement the agreed corrections, and observe results over time by evaluating their long-term effectiveness through the monitoring of the OEE parameter;
  6. Implementation of scheduled maintenance: the last step is to integrate proactive maintenance techniques into the TPM program, which allow you to identify the components of assets subject to wear, stress and failures with significant reduction of unplanned downtime .

Maintenance routine examples

TPM, or Total Productive Maintenance, introduces new maintenance routines into the company’s activities to which all those involved in the production cycle are required to comply with to achieve continuous process improvement. Here are some examples of these activities:

  • operators in charge of working directly with machinery assume responsibility for the routine maintenance of their equipment, through daily cleaning, lubrication, greasing, replacement of small parts, etc. The same operators are required to carry out periodic inspections in order to detect and report the first signs of deterioration of such equipment;
  • plant personnel clean their work area, removing unused tools, debris and anything that can be considered as waste;
  • technicians and maintenance managers organise the tools and components that they use during regular production shifts and carry out advanced repair or component replacement operations planning preventive actions and supporting operators in their activities;
  • company management provides the necessary training to make employees aware of potential issues so they can report them to the production line supervisor.

What are the benefits?

Companies that implement a TPM strategy can achieve significant improvements, not only in the immediate but also in the long term. When everyone within a production system participates proactively in maintenance it is possible, in fact:

  • reduce unplanned breakdowns and downtime increasing OEE;
  • reach higher workplace safety levels reducing accidents and injuries;
  • improve knowledge sharing between teams and departments;
  • keep operating costs and production costs under control;
  • increase the structure’s overall performance;
  • improve final product quality;
  • increase customer satisfaction.

Turning maintenance management into a business benefit is impossible if you don’t have the right software to help you plan, track, and manage the different tasks. If you want to start experiencing the advantages of the TPM strategy, try a plant maintenance software. A tool that allows you to keep track of the performance of your equipment, and allows you to manage and solve any maintenance problems as easily and effectively as possible.