Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) Explained

Understanding Total Productive Maintenance

Total Productive Maintenance, or the acronym TPM, gets tossed around in Lean and general business circles often enough, but an understanding of the idea escapes most people. In general, TPM has a few different goals. In a quick and dirty sense, these are…

  1. To eliminate breakdowns
  2. To eliminate small stops or slow running machinery
  3. To get rid of all defects
  4. To operate without any accidents on the job

At closer look, TPM can be summarized as a proactive way of approaching machine and assembly line maintenance. TPM looks to catch problems before they occur, and use this ideology to build a more efficient and streamlined operation.

Luckily for those looking to learn how to implement TPM into their own workplaces, the system has been built around 8 “pillars.”  These pillars represent various objectives of the system as well as giving you a focal point for how to achieve those goals. In this blog post, we’re going to break TPM down into its 8 pillars and talk about using each one to achieve overall efficiency.

The 8 Pillars of Total Productive Maintenance

  1. Autonomous Maintenance

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times:  Empower your workers!  This pillar centers around the idea that the operators of machinery are capable of keeping up on the routine maintenance and cleaning of their individual stations and the machinery within them.

This not only has the obvious benefit of saving time, but it also places greater responsibility on your operators to take pride in their equipment. Furthermore, it places clear expectations about the upkeep of machinery and who should be dealing with it.

  1. Training

The educational pillar of TPM reminds us that everyone needs to be trained on what you want them to do before they can be expected to do it. For example, if you make the shift to autonomous maintenance from pillar one, you’re going to need to make sure your employees are then properly trained on how to do that maintenance themselves. Additional training should be used to cover all aspects of TPM that you want to instill in your workforce. It is also worth noting that training should extend through the ranks, as TPM is a team effort requiring cooperation and understanding at all levels.

  1. Improvement Projects

One of the best ways to keep momentum moving is to work toward TPM perfection in smaller, incremental projects. These focus projects for your workers not only help to achieve your improvement goals, but they also help to build morale and momentum. Showing that a project can work or that you can see efficiency results on a smaller scale will help to show people the potential of TPM on a larger one.

These projects are often a chance to bring together different ranks and skillsets, as a diverse team is much more likely to come up with an all-encompassing, ultimately effective solutions. The specific problem that the team focuses on may also be dictated by its members, who may have noticed something in need to maintenance or change during their daily work.

  1. Quality Maintenance

This type of maintenance is all about the ability to detect problems and defects early on. Being able to integrate error or defect detection into the production process is key to catching problems early on, before they’ve had a chance to do any real damage. Sometimes, these safeguards are techniques or observations on the part of human workers. In other cases, they might be safeguards built into the equipment itself, which don’t allow defective products through or self-regulate/shut down when something abnormal is detected.

Another part of quality maintenance is then digging down to the root cause of any unearthed problems. For example, if one of your safeguards does detect a problem, stopping the issue is great, but it’s not the same as solving it. Looking at what caused a defect or slowdown in the line in the first place is an important step. True TPM relies on these problems being discovered and then dealt with.


  1. Safety & Health

This pillar of TPM is certainly not unique to the TPM concept, but it’s just as important as any other. For one, safety is always the top priority on the job; while it’s easy to get caught up in a number of other metrics, at the end of the day your workers are human lives under your charge, and their well-being should be placed above all else, no questions asked.

In a more specific sense, though, health and safety play a definite role in TPM. Accidents, and the ensuing loss of labor, time spent investigating, etc., are obviously an obstacle to efficient operations in their own right. Keeping your mishaps to a minimum means less time spent on things that don’t move your business forward.

  1.  Planned Maintenance

While autonomous maintenance is great, you’ll still need to have schedule visits from the real professionals. Based upon things like predicted failure rates, rate of usage, average lifespan, and more, you should have machine professionals inspecting your equipment each year (or whatever is appropriate) in order to avoid major problems. This is a large part of TPM, but luckily it’s also one of the easiest to see through.

  1.   Early Equipment Management

A plan for integrating new equipment is also a large part of TPM. There will be times when you need to update or replace a machine, and are forced or choose to opt for a new version or machine altogether. It’s in these times that your early equipment management will make or break you.

Having a system for training for and learning new equipment will help to get it up and producing at optimal/expected levels as quick as possible.

  1.   TPM for Administration

TPM isn’t just for your floor workers, and improvements in efficiency can also be made in the administrative sector of your business. I put this pillar last because you probably want to get the basics of TPM nailed down where they’ll make the most direct impact first (on the work floor), but once you’ve done that there’s still ground to be gained by bringing TPM up the management ladder!

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