Is TPM really just a hidden agenda to get Operators to do the Maintainer’s Job?

The whole philosophy around TPM centres on Teamwork between the Operator and the Maintenance Technician for taking shared responsibility for the health and reliability of their Equipment Assets, so we need to view and consider both roles together in order to define who does what-and hence the why, when and how?

I encourage the analogy that healthy equipment is just like a healthy body. In this scenario the Operator is the Nurse of the Asset (the patient) and the Technician is the Doctor (and occasionally the Surgeon in an emergency).

One way of describing the TPM Journey and the way in which a Maintenance Technician’s use of time and skill sets are progressively developed more productively- is to use the figure below.

TPM graph highlighting the different areas of attention

Experience shows that before adopting the TPM philosophy, a Maintainer’s time and effort is typically spent as 50% Breakdown / Reactive ,plus 30% Planned Maintenance /fixed interval, plus 10% Condition based /Predictive, and only the final 10% as Proactive / Design out.

By adopting the TPM ‘ways of working’ this use of time profile progressively develops to a more ‘value adding’ / productive role- typically over 3 years- to one of only 10% Breakdown / Reactive ,plus 15% Planned Maintenance /fixed interval, plus 50% Condition based /Predictive, and the final 25% as Proactive / Design out. The figures are relative rather than absolute -but in both cases add up to a 100%.

The biggest changes are

  • Breakdowns become a rarity, because of the ‘100 year fix’ mentality – to not only solve -but also to prevent re-occurrence of the issue by using 5 why’s,FMEA and A3 Problem solving tools
  • M’s have halved- Why? Because improved reliability means we can both extend the interval between PM’s and take out unnecessary PM routines
  • Why?- because they have shifted to a condition-based / inspection routine regime (including selective use of Thermography, Vibration monitoring and Oil debris analysis tools) –but also recognising that the Operator is the best condition monitor ever invented using their god-given senses of look, listen, feel, hear and touch via the Front Line Operator Asset Care checks (Autonomous Maintenance) that they have developed.-where the Maintenance Technician now becomes the ‘teacher’ of the way to do the checks -and the Operator the ‘pupil’. As such Maintenance Technicians train and encourage the Operators to become ‘Equipment Conscious’ to improve their understanding of the typical Front Line Operator Asset Checks(FLOAC)
  • This means that 25% of the Maintenance Technician’s time can now be devoted to designing out the equipment weaknesses as the ‘Engineer’ he was indentured for -rather than the ‘quick-fix’ person he had become, by having a ‘knee-jerk’ reaction to respond to the next ‘nasty surprise’ breakdown!

When I explain this I ask the rhetorical question –‘where would you prefer to use your skills?’- not in an arrogant way but by showing some empathy for their current daily hassle and miss-use of their capabilities
There’s a lot more detail of course –but this is the essence-and it’s worth reminding ourselves also to stress 3 factors that those Front Line Operator Checks.

a) probably don’t get done by anyone at the moment (so it’s not a hidden agenda to get the Operator to do the Maintainer’s job) and ….

b) do not involve using any spanners, screwdrivers- far less voltmeters !

c) are developed with both the Operator and the Maintenance Technician –Who also helps train the Operators to do carry them out via Single Point Lessons and Standard Work

TPM enhances -rather than dilutes- the skill sets of both the Operator and Maintainer.

Peter undertakes TPM workshops throughout the year in both the UK and Ireland with S A Partners.

S A Partners Client Receives the Shingo Silver Medallion Award

Vale in Clydach, Swansea, have been awarded the coveted Shingo Silver Medallion by The Shingo Institute. The award has been dubbed the “Nobel Prize of Manufacturing” by the North-American magazine Business Week.

Vale are the first UK Company to be awarded the prize in 25 years with just one other European company being previously recognised. Simon Grogan, S A Partners MD for Europe who’s worked closely with the company, said that “it’s a fantastic reward for the hard work Vale and S A Partners, who are official Shingo Affiliates to the Shingo Inst,  have been putting in together over the last few years”.

The Clydach Refinery is one of the largest in Europe and produces high-purity nickel and sub products for specialist areas, such as car components, batteries, nickel plates and nonferrous alloys. In operation since 1902, the factory produces around 40,000 metric tons of nickel products per year and supplies around 280 clients in over 30 countries across the world (in Europe, Asia and the US).

Since S A Partners intervention, Vale have been rewarded with a revenue increase of over 4.85 million and a reduction of finished goods inventory cost by 12 million.

group view of the Vale crewSimon Grogan said “this intervention was all about strong deployment and engagement of people through a journey that served everyone’s interest. We developed a long term vision and built robust systems that could deliver it. It was not about tools or ‘Japanese catchphrases’. Rather it focused on risk mitigation and sustainable continuous improvement.

Read the case study to find out more about the benefits Vale experienced during the improvement journey.

The name of the awards is a tribute to Dr. Shigeo Shingo, who was fundamental in the development of the Toyota Production System. The Shingo Institute recognizes excellence in organizations across the world, and its philosophy is that high-level performance in quality, cost and delivery can be reached through the application of tools for continuous improvement, and by core manufacturing techniques and business procedures.

Follow this link to read Vale’s press release in PDF format.

Based on our experience of working with Vale at Clydach in Swansea, who are the first UK organisation to win the Shingo Silver Medallion in 25 years, we are pleased to announce that we will be running Discover Excellence workshops throughout the year with the first workshop having taken place at the award winning facility of Vale.

Hear what Mike Cox, Vale’s general manager, has to say about S A Partners:

The Lean Enterprise: Designing and Managing Strategic Processes for Customer-Winning Performance

The Lean Enterprise is an in-depth study of what it is to be lean, and how to do it. In a lean enterprise, management fuses the core competencies and expertise of the company and its external partners, and focuses on a vital few “strategic processes, ” with the goal of delivering superior value to customers.

The Lean Enterprise presents this groundbreaking system through the recent and often radical experiences of Western firms facing swift and aggressive competitors in the global economy. With years of research and observation behind them in the United States, Europe, and Japan, authors Dan Dimancescu, Peter Hines, and Nick Rich offer a multidimensional view into the implementation of strategic processes. The Lean Enterprise makes a strong case for implementation of the three-tier system by companies of any size.

Backed by their research at the Cardiff Business School’s Lean Enterprise Research Center, the authors highlight several unique British firms whose implementation of the system speaks to the rapid and dynamic evolution of the Welsh and English economies.

Purchase this book.

The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process and Technology

The ability to bring new and innovative products to market rapidly is the prime critical competence for any successful consumer-driven company. All industries, especially automotive, are slashing product development lead times in the current hyper-competitive marketplace. This book is the first to thoroughly examine and analyze the truly effective product development methodology that has made Toyota the most forward-thinking company in the automotive industry.

Winner of the 2007 Shingo Prize For Excellence In Manufacturing Research.

In The Toyota Product Development System: Integrating People, Process, and Technology, James Morgan and Jeffrey Liker compare and contrast the world-class product development process of Toyota with that of a U.S. competitor. They use extensive examples from Toyota and the U.S. competitor to demonstrate value stream mapping as an extraordinarily powerful tool for continuous improvement.

Purchase this book.

S A Partners Pays Homage to the late Eiji Toyoda

S A Partners would like to pay homage to the late Eiji Toyota who died this week of heart failure at the ripe old age of 100. Eiji was a cousin of Toyota’s founder, Kiichiro Toyoda. He served as president of the company from 1967 to 1982, became chairman in 1982 and continued in an advisory position up to his death. He spent his early years on the shop floor, was one of the key pioneers of the infamous Toyota Production System and engineered Toyota’s growth to become a leading global carmaker. Eiji, for your contribution to the lean movement, we salute you.

Are we ready for reshoring?

An interesting phenomenon is taking place, which I have been following for the last few of months. With the economy improving and the banks back in profit, is now the right time to re-invest in our own manufacturing base. I’ve read many reports on the ‘forget made in China’ but I’m concerned that we, as a country are not ready for this? This is an extract from what I read recently:

Rising labour and energy costs have made manufacturing in China significantly more expensive; transportation costs have risen; companies have become increasingly aware of the risks of the theft of intellectual property when products are made in China; and in a business where time-to-market is a competitive advantage, it is easier for engineers to drive 10 minutes on the freeway to the factory than to fly for 16 hours.”

I was in a factory in Manchester the other day when the ‘boss’ said to me that they are exporting their product to China, even though they have a site over there, because the Chinese themselves would rather have the UK made product because the quality and reliability is so much better.

I took the following from another article I read regarding food production:

“Reshoring: companies bring production home from China

Leeds noodle-maker is not the only manufacturer to find off shoring to China no longer makes sense

FORGET the era of ‘Made in China’. The latest business phenomenon is ‘reshoring’, where companies in America and Britain are bringing manufacturing home.

In the UK, the weakness of sterling has made the prospect of repatriating jobs even more alluring. Food manufacturer Symington’s is reported today to be moving its noodle-making operation from Guangzhou, China, back to Leeds, Yorkshire. The company, which also makes pasta sauce Ragu and Chicken Tonight, is creating 50 jobs in the process.

Henrik Pade, business development manager at Symington’s, tells the Financial Times it now costs “roughly the same” to make Golden Wonder pot noodles in Yorkshire as it does China.

“Everybody prefers to do manufacturing on their own doorstep rather than far away, which means you need to have a financial incentive to outsource”, he said. The firm said it had once cost 30-35 per cent less to make the noodles in China, but wage inflation there and freight costs had pushed up production costs.

Symington’s is just the latest company to try ‘reshoring’. The FT notes that clothing manufacturers Top Shop and River Island have also been purchasing more materials from domestic suppliers.

The chief economist of the manufacturers’ association EEF, Lee Hopley, claims ‘off-shoring’ is now “yesterday’s model”. EEF figures show that 40 per cent of manufacturers have brought some of their capacity back to the UK, up from one in seven companies in 2009.

The phenomenon isn’t confined to the UK. BBC correspondent Mark Mardell reported on Radio 4 at the weekend how US manufacturing giant General Electric has repatriated jobs from China to its vast plant in Louisville, Kentucky.”

And then there is Google: this looks at the idea of lead time of customizing the product in response to the customer demands:

Google Taking the Lead on “Reshoring” Movement?

One of Google’s newest products—the Nexus Q—has an interesting new feature. In addition to the futuristic design, the product has one, more unique, characteristic: It was manufactured in America.

As the New York Times reports, Google is beginning to experiment with shifting some of its manufacturing to the US. Bucking the trend in Silicon Valley, where nearly all manufacturing of small electronics has long since shifted to China, Google’s products have been manufactured entirely in a California factory, and nearly all of the components are American as well—which is also a rarity. Although this is only a test run, and will only be implemented on one of Google’s many products, a successful result could inspire Google—and others in Silicon Valley—to implement a similar process on more of its products. We have discussed the nascent phenomenon known as “reshoring” before on Via Meadia; Google’s decision shows that major companies, and in this case one of the most forward-thinking companies in the world, are engaged with the idea.

So, with 40% of UK businesses bringing production back to the UK are we ready. Do we have the following in place?

  • Quick response to customer changes
  • Removal of waste for shorter lead times and response to customer demands
  • Faster product to market
  • Flexible workforce
  • Managers as Leaders
  • Systems of improvement
  • Quick changeover
  • Waste free administration processes
  • A robust practical problem solving process
  • Fully engaged people
  • Clear value streams
  • Fully cascaded and bought into strategy at all levels
  • Strong linkage with suppliers and customers
  • LEAN…………
  • GREEN…….


Well there you go, let me know any thoughts you may have. 

Are you ready for reshoring? We are happy to come and discuss this with you. We will also help you in determining your lean maturity in readiness for ‘reshoring’.

Get in touch at:

Global Trends in Manufacturing

Kronos have recently released the results of their research, carried out in conjunction with IDC Manufacturing Insights, which reveals interesting trends and strategies for manufacturers around the globe.

Global trade and foreign investments are expanding rapidly. In 2011 global imports and exports grew at twice the rate of GDP according to the 2012 WTO World Trade Report ( There are two reasons for this: first, emerging economics such as China are increasing their manufacturing sector and therefore their appetite for natural resources; second, the economic slowdown has forced developed countries to expand into new international markets. The same WTO report highlights the 21 countries selected as the top destinations for investment by multinational enterprises (MNEs). The top six, in order, are: China, US, India, Indonesia, Brazil, with Australia and the UK taking joint sixth place. As manufacturers expand globally, they must adhere to the unique labour laws and culture in each country while ensuring that their supply chain partners do the same.

The research presents findings from 11 countries (Germany, UK, Brazil, Mexico, Spain, Australia, Canada, France, China, US and India). With the exception of India, respondents from  other  countries rated manufacturing as crucial. Respondents from almost all countries rated labour productivity as the most important factor contributing to success in manufacturing. In fact, China was the only country to rank productivity second to another factor – government support. All countries rank continuous improvement as the best method to improve productivity within their organisation.

When asked about metrics to measure labour productivity, quality was ranked as most important. Interestingly, although Germany is known for its high levels of quality, it did not rank the quality metric nearly as highly as other countries. This is probably because German manufacturers build quality into their processes allowing them to maintain high levels of quality while simultaneously increasing productivity. Furthermore, Germany has been less affected by the skilled labour force shortfall than other countries. This is probably because the German economy experienced minimal disruption as a result of the global downturn.

The research shows that while the typical American believes the US manufacturing industry is dying a slow death, in fact the volume of production has risen over the past few decades. This success however is overshadowed by the steep drop in employment within the US manufacturing sector and the growth of China’s manufacturing economy.

For the UK, the Eurozone crisis casts a growing shadow over economic activity along with record unemployment levels, an ageing workforce and offshoring to the Far East and Europe.

For developed economies gaining and retaining competitive advantage through strategies for improving productivity, controlling costs and developing the workforce skill base. Automation and outsourcing to lower cost countries are options to increase productivity. However both these alternatives are problematic: outsourcing can displace workers and reduce domestic consumption and shrink the tax base; automation required large capital investment, reduces the flexibility of production while also displacing employees. A continuous improvement strategy, however, maintains employment while increasing profits.

Manufacturers can increase the value of what they produce by two methods: providing value added services at a competitive rate or increasing the complexity of what they produce to reduce their competition.

Finally manufacturers can also consider building their global brand by controlling more of their own supply to earn profits previously earned by supply chain partners.

Whatever their chosen strategy or combination of strategies, engaging their workforce is likely to be crucial to chances of success. In order to learn more about how to increase the productivity of your workforce while keeping them engaged to deliver your chosen strategy, join myself and Professor Peter Hines for the third our Lean in the 21st Century series of webinars.

We will be broadcasting the webinar three times on 15th July to accommodate as much of the globe as we can. Finally if you would like to read the full research report, visit the Kronos website (