TPM maintenance is most difficult lean tool to implement

Larry Rubrich
Tags: lean manufacturing, total productive maintenance, maintenance and reliability

It is important to understand up front that Total Productive Maintenance is the most difficult of all the “lean tools” to implement in companies for two reasons: 

Fortunately, the payback from this implementation – in terms of on-time delivery, reduced scrap, improved productivity and improved associate morale – is probably greater than any of the other lean tools. 
Let's review both of these challenging implementation issues and consider possible solutions.

As we look at the organizational culture change required for the TPM maintenance implementation, it is important to remember and review the four components of a successful lean transformation:

To successfully implement TPM maintenance (as well as any of the other lean tools), it must be built on a foundation of a lean culture and supported by the lean policy deployment part of lean planning.

The development of a lean culture starts with the establishment of behavioral expectations. Such expectations, or codes of conduct, set the culture baseline. An excellent example from the Wiremold Company is shown below:

For TPM maintenance to be successful, two additional cultural changes must occur:  

This must change. In lean, maintenance activities are known to be the foundation of creating world-class manufacturing processes. 

While visiting Japan, we were told by a Japanese plant manager, who was watching a brand new piece of equipment being unloaded at his facility, that “this was the worst condition this piece of equipment would ever be in.” This reflected a cultural respect for how important the equipment was to their success and how the Japanese never let equipment deteriorate but always try to improve it or make it better (easier to operate, easier to maintain, etc.). 

Additionally, top management must:

Other TPM Maintenance Implementation Considerations

1) Some thoughts on supporting the maintenance department culture change:

2) Of the five potential maintenance strategies:
Breakdown – Wait until it breaks then scramble or use the “fire-fighting” strategy, also known as reactive maintenance (this is what many organization are currently doing).
Preventive (planned downtime) – Periodic or scheduled maintenance; e.g.,  oiling, greasing, filter changes, etc., to prevent premature wear and breakdowns, combined with periodic major inspections and overhauls, which prevent equipment performance deterioration.
Predictive – Repair or replace components before failure based on historical information, monitoring equipment operation or life cycles. Life cycles can be based on:

Corrective or improvement – Use of “root cause” analysis to determine why a component wore out or failed, followed by equipment modifications or upgrades to prevent recurrence.
Maintenance Prevention – Design or specification of equipment components that do not require maintenance. This can include the design or specification of equipment that is easy to clean, inspect and lubricate.
Preventive and predictive strategies can account for 75 to 90 percent of all improvement in the short term.
3) The key to an effective preventive maintenance component within the TPM initiative is the machine operators. Up to 75 percent of breakdowns can be detected and prevented by well-trained associates.
4) Component failure analysis studies indicate that from 60 to 75 percent of all equipment mechanical failures are a result of lubrication failure (contaminated, wrong type, inadequate or excessive).
5) The cost of a TPM maintenance program is optimized (between spending too much and not spending enough) when roughly 90 percent of all maintenance activities are planned and 10 percent are unplanned.
6) Often, a good place to start your TPM maintenance overall equipment effectiveness (OEE) measurement system is with equipment availability.
7) Purchase a TPM maintenance computer program only after a manual system, which meets the organization data management and analysis requirements, has been developed.
8) Equipment builders who do not support TPM efforts on their already purchased equipment should not be considered for future equipment purchases.

9) Consider using a measurement system like the one used to measure lean supplier performance:

To evaluate new equipment purchases:

About the author:
Larry Rubrich is the president of WCM Associates LLC, a company that is dedicated to helping organizations become globally competitive through the implementation of lean as a business system. For more information, visit or call 260-637-8064.