The Challenges of Implementing Total Productive Maintenance

Introduction

Total productive maintenance (TPM) is a lean maintenance methodology that looks to maximise the utilization of your available resources such as machines, processes, and procedures as well as your employees, to improve production and ensure product quality.

As we already mentioned, it is a complex method that can be divided into two parts:

  1. 5S methodology
  2. Eight pillars of TPM

The pillars represent eight types of proactive and preventive activities that an organisation has to implement to improve equipment availability and completely optimise its production process.

Let’s look at some of the major challenges organizations face when they try to implement TPM.

Resistance to Change

An organisation is often compared to a living organism and as such, it is not a stretch to say that it also has some innate resistance to change. This is actually a natural reaction, as nothing changes smoothly in seconds in our entire life.

The reason why resistance to change is such a problem when implementing TPM is twofold:

  • Depending on your current processes, TPM might demand significant changes to your workflow
  • TPM implies continuous improvement which means multiple revisions of one workflow – it is not easy to be consistent and put 100% of effort all the time

Luckily, there are always some ways around that.

The first is that the introduced changes might actually mean your employees will need to put less effort in certain activities and that, overall, TPM will make their everyday work easier and more efficient. Making sure they know that is a good way to get them motivated to do their best.

The second is to motivate your employees by offering some sort of rewards. You need a working mechanism in place that ensures your employees are happy with the new situation and those who perform best are rewarded. When they see the rewards, not necessarily financial benefits, you are on the right track.

The lack of a lean culture

TPM is touted as the most difficult lean method to implement. One of the main reasons for that are its hard to reach goals and a required lean mindset.

Trying to introduce TPM to an organization that doesn’t have an already well-developed lean culture is just adding complexity to an already challenging situation. So, if you decide to implement TPM, you first need to work to develop a lean culture and a lean mindset across all levels of your organisation.

Top management pressure

You cannot implement TPM without your managers being convinced the change is required. The top management should be the driving force behind any change and lead by example.

That being said, you need to make sure your top managers are well aware of how to implement the planned changes. You need to encourage them to plan for the change and have a strategic vision about the very implementation of these changes.

Ad-hoc approach to implementation, without a clear outline of the steps you need to take and ways to track the progress, will only serve to fuel statistics about low implementation success of TPM.

This is why it is important that the people in charge of making the plan work closely with the people that have a complete understanding of the production process. You don’t want someone to force a change in the workflow that will actually make it less efficient.

That is why managers have to think not only how a certain change will affect one single process, but also how will that change affect all the people and processes that are connected to it.

Staying on top of the implementation process

The main goal of TPM can be viewed as a completely optimised production process with zero defects.

As you can imagine, that is something that is almost impossible to reach. That is why you just can’t set that as your goal without having a detailed set of milestones you want to reach before that.

Working towards something you might never achieve can quickly become depressing and discouraging. That is why you should focus on reaching different milestones and make necessary corrections along the way. Make sure you don’t spread the milestones too far away as that could make you lose control over the whole process and cause serious setbacks.

Also, make sure your employees are aware that this is a journey of constant improvement and not just an isolated change. That way, they will be prepared and not fall into a trap of being satisfied with something working “fine” and not looking at how to make additional improvements.

Conclusion

TPM is where you can prove yourselves as successful managers or owners. You will face many challenges and obstacles but the main one is, and will always be, the resistance to change.

Hence, you need everybody on board convinced the change is required and will produce benefits for everybody. Once you have a dedicated team of employees and managers, you can implement total productive maintenance with relative ease.

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