“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller
Total Productive Maintenance (TPM) is a method to achieve maximum equipment effectiveness through employee involvement. TPM achieves efficiency by building a comprehensive maintenance system based on respect for individuals and total employee participation. It brings together people from different departments, from top managers down to work in small groups activities.
During the last couple of months I had conversations with several plant managers from different companies and the priority for almost all of them is the TPM implementation. When you look at the benefits of this system it is easy to understand why; the improved equipment productivity brings with it reduced scrap, improved on-time delivery, lowered maintenance and manufacturing costs and enhanced job satisfaction.
TPM is one of the hardest lean tools to implement if not the most difficult. To accomplish all those things mentioned before we need to change people’s attitudes. There are a lot of traditional ideas from which we have to walk away as a team.
Let’s start with the top management, if we as leaders don’t change anybody else will change. Managers must make TPM a part of their daily activities, support and encourage all TPM activities, treat it as a priority for the organization, because it is a priority! It is important to recognize that the TPM implementation is not easy and will take many years, the consistency to show support and lead by example will be critical through all those years. Managers cannot fall into the tramp of “I have too much to do” and let the implementation on the hands of somebody else, it is top management responsibility to support TPM every day.
When something happen, everybody look for their supervisors; or worst, for their managers to answer the question, what we need to do? We need to move away from this traditional behavior in which only supervisors and managers take decisions and operators receive instructions. Managers need to practice, encourage and promote certain behaviors like: go and see, ask why, respect others, try new ideas, communicate your concerns, be a team player!
The preconceived idea that the machine operators work is to operate the machine and maintenance work is to fix it is one of the hardest to change. With that idea in mind, operators stop the machine and call maintenance to tight a screw or align a sensor. They know what to do but “is not their work” causing a lot of downtime. On the other side, the maintenance crew work more as firefighters, running through the whole production floor from one emergency to the next. They never stop to analyze the faults or breakdowns to figure out their root cause to be able to design a solution to prevent it from happening again. TPM promotes small group activities, honest and respectful discussions about how to obtain the best of each equipment. Production, maintenance and quality needs to work together to investigate the reason for defects, find out the best solution, coordinate how and when to fix those problems and follow-up to adjust the plan or change the standards.
I leave this one for the end, but certainly is not less important. The idea that product quality is responsibility of the quality department is completely wrong! Quality is everybody’s responsibility, from top management down. Everything we do, affects the final quality of the product and therefore the final outcome of whether or not we accomplish our customer expectations. Managers need to redefine quality, to include not only the product quality, but the people’s relationship quality (with emphasis in respect), our daily work quality (including quality of maintenance), materials, tools and processes quality.
Like I said before, TPM implementation is not easy; but the process although overwhelming at some points is very rewarding most of the time. It is and incredible journey for everybody, but as a leader there is hardly a bigger reward to your hard work than looking at your employees taking care of their own problems with a huge satisfaction face, knowing that they are the owners of the process, that they are not followers but influencers, thinking people, treated with respect.
“The running thread through my career has been the notion that when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together in collective effort, things change for the better,” President Obama
Do you remember when you were a child and your parents ask you to clean your room? Not that you wanted to do it but if you had to do it anyway you wanted to do it your way. But you mother insisted in telling you where you have to store every action figure, every puzzle, every little thing you have. After a short but intense struggle you end up doing what she said.
When we are trying to improve a process, most of the time we feel the urgency to jump straight to the answer without even asking what happen. That same urgency push us to tell people what we think has to be done without asking for their input. Imposing ideas in the work place is never a good way to improve the process much less the work environment. It is just like the children following his mother’s instructions with reluctance, not a single intention of make it work.
A visit to the gemba is never complete without interaction with the employees. Observation of the process is critical but when the time comes to ask for why’s, do not ask yourself or other managers, ask the person(s) doing that process. Even if the answer is obvious, you need to engage the employees by asking with respect, guiding them through the root cause analysis process. Allow them the chance to express their ideas and proof them right. If they were wrong, still there is a learning process. Take the learn lessons with you and guide them through a start over.
The more people participate from this process, more and better ideas will come through and together we will change things for the better. That is the spirit of a problem solving people focused workplace.