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TPM is Only a Part of the Equation in Lean Manufacturing

If you’re just focusing on TPM, you’re missing out on the other aspects of lean production that can help you save resources, money, and time. Yes, you should absolutely prioritize fixing problematic machines, but think about this, what led to that problem in the first place? TPM is only a part of the equation.

Is TPM Part of Lean?

To illustrate what we mean, let’s consider a production line in the factory. Raw materials are loaded into a machine by a person. Then, when the product is completed, it’s unloaded by another person. Both individuals may have been doing other things in the process – conducting quality tests, writing information down about the process.

If you’re focusing on improving Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), you’re only focusing on the 10 seconds it takes to produce the finished product versus all the many parts that add to the process. If you think about all of the other things that need to happen for that product to be completed – developing the schedule, obtaining the raw materials, manpower needed – there are many steps. So, yes, if the machine goes down, it needs to be fixed, but what are all of the other things that could happen to cause the whole line not to run?

Why is Maintenance Only a Part of the Production Process?

Let’s dive further into the topic – if maintenance is needed, it should be completed in a timely manner. However, there are other factors that can contribute to the delay or stop of a manufacturing process, as we discussed above.

What if the process is blocked or starved? The materials you need to continue the upstream production process are unavailable (blocked) or the product can’t be moved to the next stage because there is no available space downstream (starved).

If you’re hyper-focused on making sure the machine is available or runs faster through maintenance, you’re not really focused on the entirety of the process. Those maintenance efforts maybe account for just 10% of the whole operation. A small percentage right?

We like to think of it as an assignment in school – if you’re only concentrating on mastering 10% of the concept, well, that’s a failing grade because you’ve failed to learn and master the other 90%. That won’t work out well down the road when you go to take a final, right?

The machine has to be available to run, that much is true, but again, there are many other factors that come into play besides just TPM.

At the end of the day, you want the operation to be lean. You want to deliver a quality product on time to your customers by reducing cycle time and waste. Maintenance is a part of that lean philosophy.

For the future, think about how you understand and schedule maintenance. It needs to be a piece of the puzzle, not the only piece, and it shouldn’t upset takt time or delay delivery to customers.

In Lean Manufacturing, TPM is Only a Part of the Equation

In order to create a lean manufacturing process, that also includes maintenance, it’s important to first establish direction. How does maintenance help us reduce any non-value-added process, inefficiencies, or variations in the production process? Remember, those three components are the main focus of lean manufacturing.

If you’ve been following our recent blog posts, you may notice a trend – quotes pulled from The Toyota Way. Authored by Jeffrey K. Liker, the book highlights the 14 management principles from Toyota, regarded as one of the world’s greatest manufacturers. Their focus on lean was and is revolutionary, yet, maintenance is only mentioned once in the book. Yes, it only serves as an example of the point we’re trying to drive home in this blog – TPM is only a part of the equation. Below is an excerpt from the book in reference to the one mention of TPM.

 “By contrast, in lean production, when an operator shuts down equipment to fix a problem other operations will soon stop producing, creating a crisis. So, there is always a sense of urgency for everyone in production to fix problems together to get the equipment up and running. If the same problem happens repeatedly, management will quickly conclude that this is a critical situation and it may be time to invest in Total Productive Maintenance (TPM), where everyone learns how to clean, inspect, and maintain equipment. A high degree of stability is needed so that the system is not constantly stopped. People are at the center of the house because only through continuous improvement can the operation ever attain this needed stability.

People must be trained to see waste and solve problems at the root cause by repeatedly asking why the problem really occurs. Problem-solving is at the actual place to see what is really going on.”

Maintenance is a small part of one thing – availability. But, if you don’t have the people, the people on the line aren’t doing the right things, the product isn’t of good quality, or the schedule is messed up – what is the benefit of having a machine available? It’s all well and good that the machine can run at all times, but if the other pieces of the puzzle aren’t working or running smoothly, then what? The examples are truly endless.

Even though maintenance is important (and don’t get us wrong, it should be!), it is only a part of the larger equation.

Pro Tip: Don’t let that deter you from using maintenance software. The goal of the software is to help you organize and conduct preventive maintenance based on the data of machines.

Consider ALL of the components of the manufacturing process when evaluating where improvements should be made – the machine or the factors that contribute to the manufacturing process.

You will also do well to remember the key point. In the production process equation, maintenance and TPM is only a part of the equation, not the primary focus. Maintenance is required, but don’t place your focus on it. There are other areas that can be improved to create a lean manufacturing operation.

Picture of Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot
Bryan Sapot is a lifelong entrepreneur, speaker, CEO, and founder of Mingo. With more than 24 years of experience in manufacturing technology, Bryan is known for his deep manufacturing industry insights. Throughout his career, he’s built products and started companies that leveraged technology to solve problems to make the lives of manufacturers easier. Follow Bryan on LinkedIn here.