Autonomous maintenance is the first pillar of Total Productive Maintenance (TPM). At a glance, it’s a simple concept: increase efficiency by training operators to perform maintenance tasks. But do you know how to implement autonomous maintenance or what its benefits are?

Here’s a sneak peek. Do you want to lower costs with maintenance? Stop your maintenance technicians from spending too much time on small tasks? Improve asset availability?  

If we’ve just touched a sensitive topic, bingo!, keep reading. 

Autonomous Maintenance and TPM

TPM argues that organisations are only able to achieve maximum production capacity by getting everyone involved in maintenance. It requires operators to monitor their own machines, and gain ‘ownership’ of equipment. So it’s no surprise that the first of the eight pillars of TPM is autonomous maintenance.

Autonomous maintenance means that every operator will inspect and maintain their piece of equipment. They’ll be in charge of simple tasks like measuring pressure and tension, sensor regulation, lubrication, and cleaning. Plus, technical training will prepare them to notice any changes and troubleshoot them quickly. In other words, operators are encouraged to keep assets in their best shape – or as good as new.

Benefits of Autonomous Maintenance

Perhaps, the most obvious benefit of autonomous maintenance is lowering labour costs. Because each operator takes charge of menial maintenance tasks, you relieve high-skilled technicians. These technicians will then be free for heavier tasks, which is a much better use of time and resources. 

The second thing you’ll notice is that trained operators detect issues and malfunctions before it leads to a failure. This prompts early interventions that only generate minor disruptions in daily activities. The result is less downtime, which promotes increased availability, and ultimately improves OEE

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits of autonomous maintenance:

  • lower labour costs;
  • decreased risk of breakdowns and accidents;
  • increased availability; 
  • improved safety;
  • employee participation and involvement. 

How to Implement Autonomous Maintenance in 7 steps

It’s generally accepted that there are 7 steps to implement successful autonomous maintenance practices. Yet the hardest part might be keeping it up! As meta as it may be, maintenance strategies also need their own maintenance.

So we’ll include 3 extra tips at the end to make sure all your hard work doesn’t go to waste.

Increase operator knowledge

“Knowledge is power”, “learn the ropes, know the ropes”, etcetera. It couldn’t be more true. To empower operators and shop floor workers, you need to teach them about their machines first. Each one should know the ins and outs of it.

Train them to detect abnormalities, and troubleshoot recurrent issues. Workers should be able to perform simple maintenance tasks, as well as setting, and keeping, their equipment in optimal condition. If you achieve this, we’re off to a good start.

Initial machine cleaning and inspection

Once you train operators, they’ll be able to make thorough inspections and cleanings. They’ll be looking for leaks, loose bolts, cracks, contamination, unusual sounds or smells, and heat. Cleaning duties include the removal of oil residue, dust, dirt, and waste.

These 2 steps will ensure equipment is kept in optimal conditions. If there’s a problem operators can’t solve, they should tag it, and then call a technician. You already know what we’re going to say next: teams communicate better if they rely on an Intelligent Maintenance Management Platform (IMMP).

Remove causes of contamination

Where are the oil, dust, dirt, and waste coming from? To ensure equipment doesn’t deteriorate, give operators autonomy to control sources of contamination. After all, at this point, they know their machines better than anyone. Let them recommend covers, proper sealing, and other measures to promote cleanliness. 

Standards for lubrication and inspection

The fourth step to implement autonomous maintenance is establishing standards. These standards should be tailor made for each asset with the help of operators, maintenance technicians, and engineers.

Inspection and monitoring

If the goal is increasing productivity, there’s no point in duplicating activities. Operators’ maintenance duties should be tracked and compared against the official schedule to keep everyone coordinated. Once again, you can use an IMMP to accomplish this.

Visual maintenance

Visual maintenance can go a long way. Try to come up with a system that upholds the standards you established at number 4. Label open and closed valves, identify flows, go for transparent covers, and develop a tag system. This will make visual inspections at the start of every shift quicker.

Continuous improvement

Don’t forget that another TPM pillar is continuous improvement. Accept that everything can be improved through conscious monitoring and listening to employee feedback. This is why we want to give you the next three tips – and ensure autonomous maintenance will be sustainable.

On the job training

Nothing stays the same forever. Keep both operators and technicians updated through continuous learning and on the job training. In fact, education and training are another TPM pillar, so everything will come full circle.

Analyse data and KPIs

We can never say this too many times. Data and KPIs are key to anything you try to do as a facility or maintenance manager. Without them, you cannot make data-driven decisions, which means you’ll be running on intuition alone. An Intelligent Maintenance Management Platform will get you out of the darkness. Track downtime, failures, availability, MTBF, MTTR, and see how they improve over time.

Meet with workers

Don’t underestimate daily meetings. It’s important to get everyone on the same page when they get to work. If you’re making changes, arrange a meeting to explain what’s in store, and avoid a “us/them” mindset. 

If you’re looking to improve OEE and availability, autonomous maintenance and TPM are well worth it.