What Is Total Productive Maintenance?

Instructor: Beth Loy

Dr. Loy has a Ph.D. in Resource Economics; master's degrees in economics, human resources, and safety; and has taught masters and doctorate level courses in statistics, research methods, economics, and management.

In this lesson we look at the concept of total productive maintenance (TPM). We focus on the three main aspects of TPM, which are autonomous, preventative, and early equipment maintenance. During the lesson we'll review an example of TPM.

What Is Total Productive Maintenance?

Have you ever taken your car in for an oil change? Do you have your heating system cleaned before winter? When summer is headed your way, do you have your air conditioner serviced? These are all ways we take time to invest in our equipment. The goal is for this maintenance to pay off and eliminate any breakdowns during inconvenient times, like the hottest or coldest day of the season. This is a form of total productive maintenance, but we don't really have a name for it. We just typically do it, because we think it's a good investment.

Total productive maintenance (TPM) is a unique approach to equipment maintenance. It was developed in Japan in the 1960s, but has been adapted over time to center on those who operate the equipment. The goal of TPM is to maintain plants and equipment to the point where production is optimized, and employee satisfaction is maximized.

When implementing a TPM approach, a company strives for zero accidents, breakdowns, production stops, and production flaws. To reduce unforeseen downtime, the company chooses to halt production, and perform maintenance on equipment instead of waiting for something to break.

The onus is on the company's employees to be the operational experts of the equipment they use. It's the job of the operators to know what to listen or look for, so they know what needs to be fixed before it breaks. Let's look at an example of TPM to see how it works in a manufacturing environment.

TPM Example

Harley-Davidson is a proponent of TPM. At the Harley-Davidson plant in Wisconsin, powertrains are produced for its motorcycles. Machine operators are now at the center of their maintenance program. Prior to the company's switch to TPM, maintenance was outsourced to subcontractors, who focused on fixing problems after they occurred. Now, machine operators are even included in the design of new equipment.

The responsibility for early detection of problems rests solely on the operator. Machine operators do routine cleaning, greasing, tightening, replacing, and inspecting of the equipment. Maintenance staff are reserved for larger jobs and more general plant maintenance. Operators are trained to recognize issues before they become problems, and result in lost productivity. Harley-Davidson credits TPM for improving the quality of their powertrains, and the performance of their employees.

Harley-Davidson uses all three facets of TPM, including autonomous, preventative, and early equipment maintenance. Let's look at what these elements entail.

Autonomous Maintenance

Autonomous maintenance focuses on machine operators, not maintenance staff, just as Harley-Davidson does. Operators are trained to recognize problems before they occur so that maintenance breakdowns during the production process are minimal.

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