On The Floor

Double Up With Autonomous Maintenance

Klaus M. Blache | September 1, 2019

Q: What is the purpose of autonomous maintenance and what benefits does it provide?

A : The purpose of autonomous maintenance is to set up a process that enables operators and trades/technicians to continually communicate regarding equipment health.

Operators and maintenance employees benefit from improved safety, better workplace organization, and an improved team environment. Operators are recognized for having valuable knowledge about the equipment, which increases their participation. Maintenance gets better information for troubleshooting and root-cause analysis on maintenance-related issues. The plant gets increased visual aids, error proofing, and problem solving, which results in greater uptime and throughput.

The focus should be on improving OEE (overall equipment effectiveness = availability x performance x quality) by minimizing or removing the six big losses:

• Availability losses
Equipment failure
Set-up and adjustments
Performance losses
Idling and minor stops
Reduced speed
Quality losses
Defects in the process
Start-up rejects.

The six big losses are an effective way to categorize equipment losses and target improvements by small teams focused on bottleneck assets. This all relates to the three goals of TPM (total productive maintenance) which are zero unplanned failures, zero defects, and zero accidents.

Most companies fail to properly apply TPM. Fully implemented, the eight pillars are:

• Autonomous Maintenance
Focused Improvement
Planned Maintenance
Quality Management
Early/equipment Management
Education and Training
Administrative & Office TPM
Safety, Health, and Environment.

The pillar that most companies struggle with is rolling out autonomous maintenance. It’s important to note that trades/technicians are not required to pick up hand tools to implement it. The operators’ main role is to detect any abnormalities. They are the first line of defense with early awareness and diagnosis of issues. My studies have shown that at least 50% of the benefit can still be attained in this way (without the operator picking up hand tools or lubricating machinery).

When it comes to setting up autonomous- maintenance teams, it should be done with trades/technicians and maintenance making the decisions together. I recommend using a core team that performs workshops, area by area, to show each team how to:

• create an effective workplace checklist
set up workplace organization
set up visual aids and error proofing
do daily checks
solve equipment problems.

This requires an investment in training and consistent leadership support. 5S (sort, set in order, shine, standardize, and sustain/self-discipline) is typically instilled first because it is foundational. If you struggle with performing standardized work and the culture of discipline (the basics of 5S), it’s best to take whatever time is needed to first instill this core methodology. Otherwise your larger process to follow (lean manufacturing, TPM, reliability) will be sub-optimal and more likely struggle.

My studies have shown that companies doing TPM also are less reactive when maintaining their equipment. Only 37% of companies were doing some level of TPM. Those companies were averaging 27% reactive maintenance versus 35% for those not doing TPM. Also, my data shows that about every 4.5% to 5.0% reduction in reactive maintenance/total maintenance equates to a 1% reduction in maintenance cost/replacement asset value. For many organizations this is equal to millions of dollars.

Very few facilities have been able to fully implement autonomous maintenance, where the operator monitors equipment health, ensures workplace organization, and assists in repairs to the extent allowed in local agreements. Greater teamwork, better organized and cleaner work areas, equipment status at a glance, and reduced emergency events all combine for a more efficient outcome. If the operator can get involved beyond just visual aids, additional savings are possible. This is where the productivity benefits can be doubled. EP

Based in Knoxville, Klaus M. Blache is director of the Reliability & Maintainability Center at the Univ. of Tennessee, and a research professor in the College of Engineering. Contact him at kblache@utk.edu.

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Klaus M. Blache

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