Lean manufacturing is built on process reliability, and that depends on equipment reliability. Total productive maintenance (TPM) enables equipment and process reliability, but it’s a discipline that’s often sidelined in lean transformations.
For perspectives on what TPM brings to the table, this month we interviewed TPM leaders at companies like Nike IHM, Whirlpool, and Cummins and brought together their insights into how TPM fits with lean transformation; how top leaders can support TPM; and what challenges these TPM champions face.
TPM in a lean transformation
Lan Vu, Lean Manufacturing Specialist at Nike IHM, said it bluntly: “TPM plays a critical role with our lean program. If we have downtime, people accept inventory, or that we are not going to make our deliveries.”
Nike IHM Maintenance Manager David Surgeon, agreed: “The objective is to run our equipment whenever we need to, just like when you go to start your car. You want to know it’s going to start every time you want it to. Beyond that, when we buy equipment we want it to last well beyond its depreciation, which ties directly into lean manufacturing.” Nike IHM is a wholly owned subsidiary of Nike Inc. that makes plastics for Nike and other customers.
“It’s actually the only lean principle I can think of that touches on all the metrics most companies are trying to improve—reducing cost, improving safety and quality, and helping with delivery as you free up capacity,” said Chris Abrey, Director of Operational Excellence at Accurate Perforating, one of the largest North American fabricators of perforated metal. Abrey’s background includes a long career in the automotive industry. “Once you explain to senior managers how much of the business it touches,” he said, “it seems to be a little easier to implement.”
A starting point for lean, sometimes
TPM is a jumping-off point for lean in some companies. Jim Dray, Senior TPM Engineer at Whirlpool’s Findlay division said that Findlay started TPM in the mid-late 1990s.
When the rest of the corporation decided to get on board with lean, part of what that meant was TPM. “Findlay has always known that you can’t do lean or reduce inventory unless you have reliable equipment. The other divisions are embracing that, each in their own way, as they advance with their own TPM implementations.”
With an extensive background that includes both automotive and medical device manufacturing, Alan Ferrara is in his second year of developing an Asset Management Program as Reliability Manager at Zimmer Holdings, a manufacturer of musculoskeletal healthcare and joint replacement technologies. “TPM was a macro-goal at Zimmer,” Ferrara said. “Back in the original charter it was a company goal to get TPM going in the whole organization. As part of the big picture, Zimmer put a reliability team and planners in place. Now, we’ve started tapping into regular operator TPM, getting them involved in the low-hanging maintenance tasks. The company is early on in the journey but is starting with TPM as a foundational aspect.”
Often introduced later in a lean journey
Companies usually begin to address TPM seriously, though, only when they’re well into a lean transformation. According to Cesar Gamez, Cummins’ Maintenance FE Leader, “We implemented lean manufacturing a long time ago at Cummins.
Now TPM is bringing things together and helping improve productivity on the line. We started lean first; we had a lot of different operations, but we didn’t have the flow defined. So we defined flow first, implemented lean improvements on the lines, and now TPM is helping with that.”
At Nike IHM, David Surgeon said, TPM started with small group activities. “It’s amazing to see that we’ve already had several success stories where operators and technicians have solved nagging problems they’ve had for years in certain cells. There had never been the platform or structure for them to feel comfortable presenting and implementing those ideas before. One of the main things we’ve done is to stress cross-functional activities, not just with management but with the people actually doing the work. The front line begins to see ‘Ah, now somebody’s going to listen to me; I can bring forth this idea.’ So I’m seeing many more operators and technicians solving problems on the floor using lean thinking.”
The consensus is that TPM helps drive culture change. “At the beginning, when we tried to implement a culture of empowerment,” Nike’s Vu said, “some of the upper management personnel would say, ‘Oh, we’re not ready for that.’ But as we implement TPM, they can see that we are actually doing it. People on the floor are empowered to make decisions, doing more with autonomous maintenance, and moving beyond a culture of ‘just put your head down and keep working’.”
“If we’d had TPM before…”
Given that TPM can play such an important role, why is it often put off until later in lean journeys? Nike’s Vu has seen this a lot. “Before I came back to the U.S., I was a manufacturing manager in China for Nike, a lean sensei and senior lean consultant for Nike Vietnam, and worked with over 40 factories all over Asia.
People try to be selective and do some easy things first, like reducing inventory and putting in kanban, but they barely scratch the surface with lean. They don’t go deep and get into TPM. We did some benchmarking with other companies, and I’ve heard the same thing again and again. TPM requires a lot of commitment, so I think that’s why people tend to do it at the end or in the middle of their journey.“
Cummins’ Gamez noted, “If we’d had TPM before, it may have helped us with lean. It took a really long time for the operators to understand why were making the lean changes on the line. Now that they are directly involved with TPM and improving efficiency on the machines, it’s becoming easier for them to connect the dots with lean.”
Top management support for TPM
Not surprisingly, everyone we spoke with agreed that commitment from the top is crucial to success.
As Zimmer’s Ferrara said, “It really does need to start as a business goal for the company. If you don’t have a directive and a line of accountability right from the top down, then when you start trying to reverse the management pyramid and get a culture shift, you won’t be able to sustain it. You need that governance team to get set up properly, and you need to give it the attention required to grow and prosper.”
At Whirlpool, Jim Dray said, “One of the reasons we’ve stuck with it over the years is that the highest leadership at the plant has been involved through steering committees. They meet monthly, and they go out and audit for certification each year, so there’s an accountability process.”
Top to bottom implementation
Cesar Gamez explained how it works at Cummins: “We have been deploying TPM from top to bottom, starting with our Manufacturing Leadership Council, which includes manufacturing leaders across all Cummins plants.
Next, we have manufacturing representatives for all the businesses, who are responsible with me for deploying TPM at their sites. Continuing down the chain, we hold meetings with plant managers, then plant leadership teams, and from there we define the organization for TPM at each plant. We require semi-annual management reviews, with reports back to the manufacturing representatives. If a site is not progressing, then the Manufacturing Leadership Council will take that up with the executives at each business.”
Gamez, who had been involved in difficult attempts to implement TPM from the maintenance department, sees a huge advantage when everything is driven from the top. So where does that support come from? At Cummins, Gamez said, “we have an Operational Excellence group, and an OE scorecard for maintenance in all the plants. The Manufacturing Leadership Council was concerned that maintenance was getting low scores and started discussing what needed to be done. One plant in Brazil was doing some really good things implementing TPM, and everything started from there.”
To get support, show the benefits
Therein lies a key; as Nike’s Vu put it, “At the end of the day, showing benefits is how you really convince people to get on board.”
Gamez explained, “In all organizations, we tend to think that our current system is the best. When someone comes in advocating another system, we say, ‘No, that’s not going to work for me.’ When you can show benefits achieved at other company sites, that’s when everyone starts saying, ‘Okay, we want to do this,’ and they begin asking for help implementing TPM.”
Zimmer’s Ferrara offered similar advice: “It takes more than a new guy coming in and saying, ‘This is what we should be doing.’ Nothing creates impetus for change faster than seeing fruit from initiatives. Start by understanding each value stream and its pressing needs. Understand what people on the floor need and work to pacify that quickly. Get a couple of people in each area on board and they tell their friends.” David Surgeon shared an example of how excitement is spreading at Nike IHM: “A few months ago, one of our technicians had a very good idea to address downtime issues on a cell, and it was predictive in nature. Since he implemented it we’ve seen a tremendous improvement; it was one of our top three downtime issues, and it’s been reduced to almost nothing. Senior management, especially our general manager, was so excited, saying we’ve got to do this more. We almost went into overdrive. You think you’re going to have to wait a long time but these are things that we can see very quickly.”
What can management do?
When management is committed, how can they demonstrate that and support the rest of the organization?
For starters, Zimmer’s Ferrara said, they can help by “allowing their teams to be trained, and really understanding the foundational steps and the vision. They have to clearly have what we call WIGs, Wildly Important Goals, and those have to be communicated weekly in staff meetings—how you’re doing against those WIGs, how you are supporting the TPM program, and are you celebrating? That’s a big thing too, getting some quick wins, and seeing the satisfaction.”
At Whirlpool, Jim Dray said that one of the newer plants has shown support by giving people 15 minutes for 5S and 15 minutes for TPM every day. “That’s a lot of time, and it’s great,” he said. “They’re really looking at it as an operator ownership / employee engagement process.”
Chris Abrey shared two important ways managers can support TPM: “One way is to participate in activities. When managers, especially senior managers, get involved in TPM kaizen activities, you get more leverage with rest of the employees. I know it’s sometimes difficult to get their commitment for an entire event, but that’s one of the first things I try and do.
And whenever I have a report out for TPM, I always encourage all managers to come and hear the results.” Beyond those event-driven ways, Abrey discussed ideas for daily support. “We’re still in our early stages here, but we used to do a couple of things in other companies. One is daily walk-throughs by the management team through the shop. The supervisors would report on their metrics, including how they’re doing on TPM and OEE. I also like to get managers involved in doing audits. That’s another key to trying to sustain TPM—audit it on a regular basis and involve managers.”
These TPM leaders talked about some of their present challenges, as well as ones they’ve encountered in the past.
At Cummins, Cesar Gamez said, “Our biggest challenge is to get to all the units we have. Most of the businesses that are not working with us at the moment say it is because they don’t have time. But, when it comes from the top, usually everybody makes the time. In the Mexico plant, we originally tried to implement TPM from the maintenance department exclusively, without any visible support or effort from the top. It was really difficult to try to implement TPM in that environment.”
Alan Ferrara said that at Zimmer “our biggest challenge is getting alignment around goals with the other business functions (finance, sourcing, etc.). At different phases of your journey you find yourself trying to hit different cost and delivery goals, and when you dial into your metric you find that you don’t have control over things. You may need to involve other departments, but they may not have same sense of urgency. It’s called line of sight across the organization. In a siloed company it’s very difficult to get traction without that alignment. We’re fortunate to have high-level cross-functional teams working, in this case, to develop that alignment.”
Chris Abrey describes a couple of common challenges: “One is resources. Even if you do have maintenance staff it can be a concern trying to get them involved in the process, because they’re fighting fires all the time. If top management understands, that can help. I’ve tried a couple of different things in the past. If you don’t have a full-time maintenance person, you do more with autonomous maintenance. I’ve used contractors for preventive maintenance, but that’s not the best way because you can’t really use TPM principles. You have to get someone on board full-time who understands it, or who you can train to understand it.”
“Another challenge I’ve encountered in the past,” Abrey continued, “goes back to the idea of educating managers on how TPM touches on all the metrics they’re trying to improve. You need to do some basic training with managers to start with, so that they understand where the benefits are, to the company in general and to them. You tend to train the people on the floor— operators, maintenance, supervisors, and even maintenance and operations management—but if you don’t get commitment from top management, maybe because you haven’t trained them properly, you’re going to struggle.”
Jim Dray at Whirlpool discussed the challenge of multiple and competing goals. “We always have cost objectives, quality objectives, safety objectives, which all pull different ways, and we’re trying to keep all the balls up in the air. You can’t forget about reliability, but you have only so many resources, and so we deal with the challenges of where to put our folks. As a business, you may take your eye off reliability sometimes, but when you have such low inventories you can’t look away for very long.” He advises designating critical processes and the most important pieces of equipment on which to maintain consistent focus, for example, assembly lines and your “monuments”— processes that have to run.
David Surgeon said his big challenge is Nike IHM’s unique environment. “It’s a production facility that also does development for Nike. We’re constantly moving pieces of equipment in, out, and around, trying and buying new equipment. The struggle now is bringing the TPM methodology to the onboarding of new equipment. For instance, when we get equipment in, there are new drawings and sometimes maintenance we don’t know about until the last minute. We’re working with the engineering group to develop this onboarding process.”
For Lan Vu at Nike IHM, it’s the ongoing challenge of persuasion: “I always say that the lean business is the convincing business. We’re all trying to convince people what is the right thing to do. If you don’t implement TPM you can only go so far. And if you begin to get serious about implementing TPM, the sky is your limit.”
Ask the Consultants
Q. We are thinking about starting a full-fledged TPM initiative in our facility. How can we get started understanding the big picture of what needs to be done?
A. This is a question we’ve fielded many time during the past 30 years or more. In answer, we’ve developed a simple but thorough set of questions you can use to help get your TPM initiative off on the right foot. To download, follow the link to our Ten Framing Questions for TPM Implementation.